(03/08/23) BATON ROUGE, La. — For more than a quarter of a century, LSU AgCenter food scientist Witoon Prinyawiwatkul has regularly returned to his native Thailand to help grow two universities and develop dozens of students who wish to follow his path.
At the AgCenter, Prinyawiwatkul — the Horace J. Davis Endowed Professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences — researches ways to reduce sodium in food and develops the uses of insects for human consumption.
In visits to Thailand each year, he has shared his knowledge by teaching more than 120 short courses and workshops, consulting with food science programs and advising students.
“I want to give back to my country,” he said.
To thank him for his volunteer work, Prinyawiwatkul received an honorary doctorate in agro-industrial product development from Chiang Mai University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in January. His alma mater, Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand, honored him with a similar degree in 2016.
After earning a bachelor’s degree at Kasetsart in 1989, Prinyawiwatkul received a scholarship from the U.S. Agency for International Development to study at the University of Georgia. He completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in food science and technology there and accepted a research and teaching position with the LSU AgCenter and College of Agriculture in 1996.
As a teacher he has guided dozens of graduate students through their educational careers. He also helped found the AgCenter Sensory Services Lab, where students develop real-world skills helping companies hone the flavors, textures and appearance of food and nonfood products.
Prinyawiwatkul’s own research focuses on using insects as alternative food sources and reducing sodium in foods. While many Americans have long consumed more sodium than doctors recommend, the issue is spreading across the world, he said.
“That’s a global issue. It’s everywhere,” Prinyawiwatkul said.
Beginning in 1997, Prinyawiwatkul has worked with Kasetsart University to share the knowledge and skills he developed in the U.S. He also has worked with 44 other universities in 18 countries, which benefits Prinyawiwatkul as well as the students and faculty he assists.
“You get to work with other scientists and build ideas,” he said.
Since 2007, Prinyawiwatkul has helped Chiang Mai University revise its food science graduate program, serving as a member of committees that developed the CMU Doctor of Philosophy program in agro-industrial product development and its international master’s degree program in food science and technology. Prinyawiwatkul also assisted the faculty in creating an undergraduate curriculum in food science that is accredited by the Institute of Food Technologists.
He delivered guest lectures and gave advice and consultations when needed as CMU developed its leading sensory research center. Prinyawiwatkul also collaborated with faculty to develop lower sodium vienna sausages.
Assisting universities in other nations helps create qualified agricultural workers who can ensure a sustainable and safe food supply, Prinyawiwatkul said.
“As a food scientist, we all have a role in ensuring that our global food system is safe, nutritious and sustainable,” he said.
Witoon Prinyawiwatkul received an honorary doctorate in agro-industrial product development from Chiang Mai University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in January. His alma mater, Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand, honored him with a similar degree in 2016. Photo provided by Chiang Mai University