Social Impact Winner Interview - Dr. Weerapong Prasongchean
Developing and promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education has become a key academic initiative across the world, as societies look to prepare themselves for the challenges of the 21st century, and Thailand is one of the countries that has started to actively develop its STEM curriculum. Dr. Weerapong Prasongchean, winner of the UK Alumni Awards on Social Impact, combines knowledge gained from the laboratory during his time in the UK with a passion for spreading understanding of science, together with marketing techniques influenced by the Big Issue – a renowned social enterprise in the UK – to introduce ‘STEM kits’ to Thailand.
Dr. Weerapong is determined to create a huge social impact through his academic initiative, making knowledge transferable as well as inspiring people to become STEM Ambassadors.
Dr. Weerapong: One advantage of studying in the UK is getting a chance to work with globally recognised professors, and moreover, the UK’s excellent education system and advanced innovations also foster your analytical thinking skills – this is another benefit I gained during my time there. I believe that the open-minded environment and diversity of both lecturers and students bring out your true potential and help you to learn more about accepting differences.
Shaping your Career
Dr. Weerapong: When you study for a Master’s or Doctoral degree in the UK, not only do you work in a laboratory and consult your advisor but you get to participate in a number of activities which inspire you without you noticing it. This includes the business model of social enterprises such as the Big Issue or the Royal Society. Their contributions to society have inspired me to come back and do something good for my home country.
Seize your Opportunity
My attitude started to change when I was a PhD candidate. I wanted to be successful, be able to create social impact, and secure a place in a competitive market. In order to achieve this goal, good marketing and creativity are essential. The Big Issue is a good example of the marriage between good marketing and existing resources. Moreover, nowadays we have advanced technology which also makes knowledge-sharing from the UK to Thailand practical and easy.
I started thinking about me STEM kits when I was a PhD student, creating science curricula by passing science-related images to science teachers. I also combined skills from outside the laboratory: transferable skills, graphic design, communication techniques and social media marketing. Together, these make STEM kits work. I would say I have gained strong social and cultural awareness as well as analytic thinking skills from studying in the UK. It is an abstract value which you could feel and adsorb from the UK environment.
My life completely changed when I decided to study in the UK. I not only gained knowledge, but friends, networks and role models. I was exposed to new cultures, education systems, and social creativity that ultimately lead to new innovation, which is something you couldn’t find from learning in a classroom. In addition, I was able to understand the concept of how things work and combine this with academic theories and creativity to create new things. There’s always a stage for your new ideas in the UK.