DEVISED IN THAILAND

Thailand 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Suchatvee Suwansawat, President of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology (KMITL), on the institute's reputation, Thai accomplishments, and cultivating expertise.

 Suchatvee Suwansawat
BIOGRAPHY
Suchatvee Suwansawat is President of King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology (KMITL). He holds a B.E. in construction engineering from KMITL and a M.S. in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He completed his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering and his M.S. in technology and policy at MIT, where he received a Royal Thai Government fellowship to pursue his graduate study and was a Microsoft scholar while studying at MIT. After graduation, Dr. Suwansawat served as Assistant President for academic affairs at KMITL and has been a faculty member in the department of civil engineering.

KMITL was recently called upon to do a feasibility study for the city hall promenade. Can you tell us more about this project?

The idea of the project was to provide a useful space in a prime location that can be enjoyed by everyone. I was inspired by the idea of a promenade many years ago, while studying in MIT. The local authorities there had created a promenade park along the riverbank where people could enjoy the space for walking, picnicking, and other activities. No matter who you are or where you're from, the city's prime locations are accessible to you. Here in Bangkok, there is a growing sentiment that the city's riverbanks are simply overpriced for the average Thai to enjoy—with its luxury condominiums, hotels, restaurants, and so on. As such, the government proposed the idea to the city hall to create a promenade and we have been appointed to conduct the feasibility study. Our research dominates the fields of engineering and flood control given that, above all, we are also the largest engineering school in the country. We have a reputation as the most reputable architecture school in the country. This combination of know-how and expertise sets us apart. Our people are experts in their field, and the big projects can change the future of our country, which is why we want to be involved.

What have been the most significant achievements and projects that the institute has been involved in over its 50-year history?

Our engineering school originated from a Japanese school in the 1950s, when it served primarily as a telecommunications training center for young engineers. Over the next half century the university evolved and now we have almost 2,000 students and 250 faculties. The turning point was over three decades ago when our beloved king, an admirer of engineering himself, visited us here at KMITL. Since then, the authorities in Thailand have been encouraged by our expertise in telecommunications and engineering specifically, and therefore willing to engage in a number of projects. For example, we had the first satellite installation in Thailand devised here. The Thai people could access all types of trend-setting technologies at this university, such as our first female astronaut, who graduated from this school.

What are your expectations for the year ahead in 2016?

We are proud of our leadership and are looking ahead toward the future. Right now we are looking at a partnership that will help us to compete with top-ranked universities in the world. We want to be the top research and education center in Southeast Asia. We have a good location and good people, and we need good advisors. We are working toward making Thailand a knowledge-based economy that will enjoy the benefits of an educated society in a booming region. From there we want to strive to be the best internationally in our particular domains, to help build a diverse, yet specialized economy. We are expanding our programs to include a medical school, as there is an obvious need for doctors here in Thailand. We have some of the best facilities, which is why we need to identify and help build the most dedicated doctors and medical staff. That is our vision for the future, and we have partners to implement this plan.