Iíll be back!
Many of us could picture how difficult and inconvenient we may encounter when applying for a U.S. visa and also at the port of entry. Myself, I did have some similar experience, going to the U.S. as a visitor.
Definitely not this time!
With a title of Fulbright Scholar, things just flowed as smoothly as silk. It seemed like everyone had known me before! I sure felt very welcome as the 36-hour-flights did not really make me feel like being so away from home.
Reaching the University of Oklahoma in early fall was something beyond my expectations. Oklahoma that I heard of was a flat, dry state, a vast land covered with grass and crops. In fact, the University is flourished with stylish buildings and beautiful landscape. Trees and plants are well-arranged and kept tidy. I was really impressed by a peaceful park and gardens within the University, and so I spent most of the time in the first few days walking around the campus
Prof. Daniel E. Resasco, my host, kindly arranged hotel accommodation for me during the first two nights before I moved to Kreattli apartment where cooking facilities were provided for long-term-stay guests. Actually I love cooking but I donít cook much here, as the kitchen is located within the living room. It could surely make the whole apartment smell when I cooked Thai Food! No big deal not to cook, though! I also enjoyed most of the American food, particularly steak and salad.
The research of Prof. Resasco group matched perfectly with my interest. The objective of the project was generally to upgrade the biofuel using various chemical reactions and to seek for application of related biofuel products. I was involved in group meetings with professors, researchers and students every Friday afternoon. We discussed extensively and commented on the work conducted during the week. I prepared a catalyst, CsNaX, and proposed it for the reactions currently investigated in the group.
Several projects were tested to determine its activity toward the decarbonylation, hydrogenation, hydrogenation and condensation of various oxygenates. I also demonstrated that the proposed catalyst, CsNaX, was readily active for the decarbonylation of methyl ester to form hydrocarbons. This work is currently being prepared for publication.
In addition to my research, Prof. Resasco asked me to advice some of his Ph.D. students on the project relating to a partial oxidation of ketone for initating a cleavage of polynuclear aromatic compounds. We discussed and planned to carry out some of these projects in Thailand in collaboration with Prof. Resasco, with my students going to the U.S. to work with the group.
On a cultural side, I have a chance to visit several places in the U.S. during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. These included a trip to Los Angeles, San Franscisco, Napa Valley, Yosemite National Parks, Disney World, Kennedy Space Centre, Florida Keys and Everglade National Park. I really enjoyed all the trips, particularly the Yosemite National Park. I was amazed by the force of nature that created such beautiful landscape like this on earth. I promised myself then to return to Yosemite and spend more time there (some of pictures during the trips are at http://www.tawan.in.th/) During the weekend, I had a chance to demonstrate and teach Thai dancing to the local people. It was wonderful to be at the Thai Temple on special occasions for the Buddhists, and Thai community around Norman. I learned more about the lives of the Thai immigrants and how they have enjoyed living in Oklahoma.
At the end of the grant, I was appointed by the University of Oklahoma to come back for two months every year. I shall send my student to work with Prof. Resasco and carry on collaborative projects in Thailand.
I am very certain that what I have earned during the Fulbright grant was not just having a chance to work with one of the most esteemed scientists in my career and broadening my scientific views, but also getting inspired to carry on the present research studies and collaboration initiated during my visit. My experiences are definitely valuable to my students, colleagues and University too.
My great appreciation goes to Fulbright for providing me this precious time. I am hopeful that an opportunity like this is continually provided to other Thais.
Finally, I have learned that the 2-year rule for J1 does not make my return impossible. If you are here in the U.S. less than 6 months, you can re-enter with the same J1.
So surely, Iíll be back!
By Tawan Sooknoi (07 Fulbrighter, Thai Visiting Scholar Program)