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Spotlight On IFS Alumni, In Their Own Words

Published: 2017-07-24

As a recurring feature of our IFS blog, we will regularly turn the spotlight on one of our alumni. When IFS staff members travel, they are meeting and interviewing our former grantees to discover more about the impact they are having in their countries. Our first Alumni Spotlight is on Associate Professor Kornkanok Ingkaninan, interviewed by Nathalie Persson in March 2017. She says, “Based on my IFS results, people started to know me as a scientist working in the field of medicinal plants and especially with a potential drug for Alzheimer’s disease. This paved the way for more collaboration with others in the field of natural products and medicinal plants.” We hope you enjoy this new feature of our website.

Associate Professor Kornkanok Ingkaninan Nighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

What are your current work, research and position? I am an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science at Naresuan University in Northern Thailand, where I focus on natural products research with an interest in degenerative diseases. In my laboratory, there are ten MSc and PhD students, three of whom are from Bhutan, Ethiopia and Indonesia.These students mainly do their research with Thai scholarships and grants, but I have also secured other funds for them.I spend about half my time teaching and the other half doing research. I have published more than 100 articles in international scientific journals.

What have you been doing since completing your research project as an IFS grantee?

I continued to do research in medicinal plants using the results from my IFS project which I completed in 2004, with funding from different Thai research bodies such as the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT). I am now on a team with Associate Prof Neti Waranuch and Associate Prof Jarupa Viyoch and we are doing translational research with applications for commercial use. Apart from research grants, we have won awards such as the Silver Medal at the Geneva Innovation Exhibition in 2014, a best research project award from the NRCT, and a Japan Intellectual Property Association (JIPA) award. We also successfully transferred technology to a cosmetics company from our research on the Thai orchid chang kra.

What role did the IFS grant play in your professional life?

Thanks to my IFS grant, I bought chemicals and small equipment to start my lab and experiments, the first step in my career. Actually, the IFS application evaluation already gave me an opportunity to broaden my network from the beginning. I applied for grants before with other funding agencies, but I really liked the way IFS does it. They shared with me useful comments from the scientific reviewers, and they also informed me of who was doing what in my research field. More importantly, they indicated a few senior scientists whom I could approach to discuss my project.

Based on my IFS results, people started to know me as a scientist working in the field of medicinal plants and especially with a potential drug for Alzheimer’s disease. This paved the way for more collaboration with others in the field of natural products and medicinal plants. With the four-year NRCT funding, I could do research in collaboration with other scientists in different institutions. NRCT encouraged us to carry out research and development in Thai medicinal plants, supplementary food drugs and technology transfer. I did the award-winning research on Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi) and developed a food supplement for memory improvement for elderly people. We standardized the extract from the plant, tested it and proved that it has an effect on memory in animals and humans at the right dose. At the end of this project, we transferred the technology to the Governmental Pharmaceutical Organisation. As a result, I gained even more credibility in the field of degenerative diseases research, and our institution also became more visible for its translational research, innovation and applications for commercial use.

I would gratefully like to acknowledge the role of the IFS grant in helping me to boost my confidence and in believing that I am capable to do serious scientific research. It has enriched my network, and helped me to gain visibility and further trust by peers within my area of expertise.

What continuing involvement with IFS have you had since completing your project?

After my IFS project was completed, I was awarded an IFS travel grant in 2005 to attend a conference in Florence, Italy, to present the results of my IFS project at an Annual Meeting of the Society for Medicinal Plant Research. I was invited by IFS in 2008 to share my research experience with other scientists at a meeting in Botswana. I was also invited by Prof Vichai Reutrakul from Mahidol University to attend another scientific meeting in Chiang Mai that was co-organized by IFS. This year I attended the Fifth IFS / NRCT / Mahidol University workshop as a resource person. IFS keeps showing their trust in my professional expertise, as I am also reviewing projects for IFS from time to time.

From your perspective, what are some of the most pressing issues in science and research, and what is the role of science for development in your country?

We need more applied research in Thailand that we can use to develop products as this will be favorable to economic growth with an impact on society. However, the role of basic science is not to be overlooked; before we move to application, we still base it in fundamental research results before we can translate it. Science plays many roles in the development of human resources, agriculture, economics, public health, environmental and natural resource management, and national security. People’s quality of life can be improved with science and education.

What advice do you have for early-career scientists like you once were?

They will certainly face challenges but I say: “Do not give up on your research.” With the facilities that are available to you, do whatever you can. I heard many people say that they were not the best students in their class, but they became good scientists. They did not give up; they adapted to the facilities they had from the beginning. Applying for research grants is one important thing, as are collaboration, networking, and having good mentors.

What have been some of the most exciting or rewarding experiences in your professional and / or personal life?

 Career-wise, there are two main aims. One is to be a good scientist with a useful impact on society, and the second is to be a good teacher. The achievement to translate my research into the development of the Brahmi tablet as a supplement for memory improvement gave me a strong feeling of satisfaction. However, it is not only my personal merit that made me happy but also the collaborative efforts that led to this technology transfer. Many people contributed to the happy end, including my university management who encouraged us to pursue our research efforts, my colleagues who collaborated with me, the students involved in the research project, and also those who believed that it was worth funding our project. As a teacher, it was rewarding when a student called me in the middle of the night to share his happiness as he finally set his experiment up and succeeded with the assay. His satisfaction was mine.

Associate Prof Kornkanok INGKANINAN with some of her PhD and M.Sc students 

Associate Prof Kornkanok INGKANINAN with some of her PhD and M.Sc students

Nighisty Ghezae, IFS DirectorThank you, Hope you enjoyed this feature and keep an eye on our next  spotlight  of our alumni.   

                                                                                                                                     Dr. Nighisty Ghezae, IFS Director


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