Ohio University civil engineering chair lends advice in Thailand
By Joe Barbaree and Colleen Carow
ATHENS, Ohio (June 4, 2012) – Leading engineers in Thailand heard from an expert all the way from Appalachian Ohio during the 17th National Convention on Civil Engineering in May.
Neil D. Thomas Professor Gayle Mitchell, chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at Ohio University’s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, visited the Southeast Asian country as a distinguished guest during the annual convention in Udon Thani.
Conference participants included more than 600 engineers from Thailand and other countries in the region, such as Laos, Vietnam and Australia.
“The visit was a unique opportunity to participate in discussions with faculty from another part of the world, gain a perspective and appreciation of the country’s research, education and culture -- and renew acquaintance with alumni and learn of their professional success and continued interest in Ohio University,” Mitchell said.
Vice President of Kasetsart University Pongsak Suriyavanagul – a 1998 Russ College doctoral graduate – invited Mitchell to present as keynote speaker at the national convention in the northeastern province. Suriyavanagul provides administrative leadership on two campuses: Bangchen, in Bangkok, and Chalermphrakiat.
Mitchell, also the director of the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment (ORITE), spoke about the use of vegetated biofilters and exfiltration trenches for removal of pollutants from highway runoff.
According to Mitchell, the practices are being studied as part of ongoing research conducted by ORITE for implementation in storm water treatment. The work is sponsored by the Federal Highway Association and Ohio Department of Transportation.
During the trip, officials from Kasetsart University also showed Mitchell waste water treatment processes native to Thailand, such as the environmental research and development project in Phetchaburi province.
Thailand researchers were particularly interested in the results from Mitchell’s work on vegetated biofilters, because their treatment processes and research focus on ways to employ natural or “green” methodologies, recycle and reuse products, and provide job opportunities to local communities.
One of the processes currently being employed and researched in Thailand is the use of native grasses to treat waste water.
At the Chalermphrakiat Sakon Nakhon Province campus, located in Northeastern Thailand, ponds and gardens of lotus and water lilies, referred to as Nong Han Noi, are being studied for water treatment, biodiversity, and development and commercialization of products from the plants.
Mitchell says plans are underway to collaborate with Kasetsart University faculty and students on pavement and environmental research.
“Dr. Suriyavanagul or other officials discussed visiting Ohio University in the future to establish further collaborative relationships,” Mitchell noted. “Visits are also planned by faculty in civil and electrical engineering – and we are already receiving recommendations from KU faculty on top students to pursue graduate education at Ohio University,” she said.
Mitchell also attended a dinner hosted by Vice President of Kasetsart University Pongsak Suriyavanagul for Ohio University alumni at the Miracle Grand Convention Hotel in Bangkok. These included alumni of the Russ College as well as other Ohio University colleges.
“One engineering alumnus has three sons he hopes to send to Ohio University,” Mitchell noted.