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Chemistry PhD student wins ‘Best Speaker’ Award at European symposium

A presentation on isolating chemical compounds in plants at a young scientists’ conference in Austria has won high profile recognition for a Surrey PhD student.

Watcharee Waratchareeyakul (the PhD student who won Best Speaker) is pictured on the far left with fellow members of the Natural Products Research Group, including Professor Dulcie Mulholland.

Watcharee Waratchareeyakul travelled to the beautiful Tyrolean Alps recently to present her paper at a symposium on new developments in natural products research, held in Obergurgl, Austria. At the end of the symposium, which was jointly organised by the Phytochemical Society of Europe and Austrian Pharmaceutical Society, Watcharee was given one of two ‘Best Speaker’ awards from about 40 presentations.

Watcharee – who is from Thailand – rose to the challenge of giving her presentation in English, and incorporated graphics and humour to engage the audience. Her paper focused on her research into isolating compounds in the Meliaceae (mahogany) family, which have a number of potential medical uses, including the treatment of malaria, elephantiasis and cancer.

Currently half-way through her PhD in natural products research at the University, Watcharee attributes her recent success to the encouragement of her supervisor Professor Dulcie Mulholland (Head of Surrey’s Department of Chemistry). “Professor Mulholland told me about the conference and inspired me to apply to speak there. I am learning so much from working with her,” she says.

Watcharee is being sponsored by the Thai government to study in the UK and plans to return to Thailand on completion of her course, to take up the post of Lecturer at the Rambhai Barni Rajabhat University in Chantaburi. “I look forward to passing my knowledge on to my own students when I return home,” she says. “I also hope that through my research I am able to help make important medicines more widely available in Thailand.”

Prior to coming to Surrey, Watcharee studied for a BSc in Chemistry and MSc in Organic Chemistry at Thailand’s Prince of Songkla University.

Her supervisor, Dulcie Mulholland, commented on the importance of giving PhD students the opportunity to present their work at international conferences so they can discuss their research and meet both leaders and other students in their fields.

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