Michigan Tech alumnus Parinya “Prince” Chakartnarodom is a professor at Kasetsart University in his native Thailand. He has maintained a connection with his University and his alma mater through summer internships. This summer a pair of materials engineering undergraduate students are the latest Thai interns to spend summer months at Michigan Tech.
Suphitsara Yingyuen came to Michigan Technological University from Thailand at the beginning of June, leaving behind hot temperatures in hopes of the chillier temperatures that Houghton is known for. “I love snow” Yingyuen says. “It’s hot in Bangkok, and I like the colder weather. I am happy with it here.”
When shown pictures of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day snowstorm, she was surprised at exactly how much snow the harsh Keweenaw winters can bring and said she wishes she could have experienced the snow here herself.
Yingyuen, whose nickname is Mae, and Sorawit “Pum” Limtasiri are materials engineering undergrad students from Kasetsart University in Bangkok who are at Michigan Tech for a two- month summer internship.
Both students say they accepted the internship to gain new experiences by coming to Houghton. Yingyuen says she wanted to learn about work in the US and how it differs from Asia. “The time difference causes me to manage my time better,” she says.
This is the third set of interns from Kasetsart University to spend summers at Michigan Tech. The tie between the two universities is a relationship initiated by Parinya “Prince” Chakartnarodom, a Michigan Tech alumnus now teaching at the Bangkok university.
"I love snow. It's hot in Bangkok, and I like the colder weather. I am happy with it here."Mae Yingyuen
The internships started after Jennifer Donovan, Tech’s director of news and media relations, traveled to Thailand as a Fulbright communications specialist at Kasetsart University. During her month-long stay, Donovan worked with Chakartnarodom, who helped put her in touch with the right people at Kasetsart Univeristy.
Upon returning to Houghton, Donovan knew she wanted to help make exchanges between the two universities possible. She discussed her idea with S. Komar Kawatra, chair of Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and the internships were born.
Asked why he wanted to help create a tie between the two universities, Chakartnarodom says, “(Tech) is a great school, great professors, lots of cutting edge scientific instruments, safe environment and a friendly neighborhood. If I was this year’s intern’s parents, these would be enough reason for sending my kids to Tech for doing the internship.”
This year’s interns learned about the program through Chakartnarodom, who says they were chosen due to their “English language skill, their enthusiasm, laboratory skill, and also their GPA.” He says Yingyuen and Limtasiri were the perfect fit and met the program’s requirements.
The interns’ advisor, Timothy Eisele, assistant professor of chemical engineering says, “Overall, I am very happy with both of them. They are conscientious workers who want to have a good understanding of what they are doing, and they work well with my other students.”
The students are working on separate projects but there are some similarities. Limtasiri’s project is removing phosphorus from iron ore by countercurrent alkaline leaching and recovering the phosphorus by precipitating it with lime.
“The goal of the project is to simultaneously produce a low-phosphorus ore for steelmaking and a separate calcium phosphate product that can be used as fertilizer,” says Eisele.
Yingyuen’s project is dissolving iron from steelmaking waste sludge and then removing impurities through a process known as electrowinning, directly as high-purity metallic iron. “The reason for this is that the waste sludges are not suitable for recycling to a conventional blast furnace. This electrowinning process will allow iron to be recovered that would otherwise need to be disposed of,” Eisele explains.
Both students are learning these processes and have not performed them before at their university. Yingyuen is working with a fourth-year student who is teaching her the process, and she is learning not only from the laboratory setting, but also from the students she works with. “It made me like metal,” Yingyuen remarks.
When Yingyuen and Limtasiri aren’t busy in the lab, they enjoy spending time doing activities with new Thai friends they met on campus. Limtasiri plays ping pong at St. Albert the Great Church while Yingyuen likes to play volleyball and badminton. She also plays the piano in her residence hall.
Houghton was not the city the interns originally envisioned. Limtasiri expected Houghton to be a large city and was surprised at the lack of public transportation. “There isn’t any way to get to places,” he says.
Even though Houghton wasn’t what they expected, they are still enjoying their time here. Both agreed they are impressed with the nature and fresh air the Upper Peninsula has to offer. “I like looking at the mountain and the river while doing my work,” says Limtasiri.
Yingyuen adds how beautiful the water is and how impressed she was to see the Fourth of July fireworks above the lake at Copper Harbor.
The food here did not surprise them, but they do miss Thai cooking. “I enjoy the food at Dominos and Subway,” Yingyuen says. Bangkok has those restaurants too, and “I liked it at home, but now I eat it every day. Also, we have a spicy ingredient in Thailand that they don’t have here.”
When they are done with their studies at Kasetsart University, both have big plans. Limtasiri will be working towards an MBA in materials processing, which ties into his current project at Tech. Yingyuen plans to work in biomedical engineering for two years, then pursue a PhD.
They would like to come back to visit the Keweenaw and would recommend the internship program to their fellow students in Thailand. Limtasiri says, “thumbs up” while Yingyuen says “if you have the chance, come.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.