Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol of Thailand visited Fort Collins for a second time in less than a year to discuss ongoing cancer research at Colorado State University.
The princess and several Thai scientists spent three hours at CSU on Jan.14 learning how Robert Williams, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, and his colleagues are harvesting natural products from marine organisms to develop new cancer-treating drugs.
The Office of International Programs and LSC Event Planning Services helped coordinate the private presentations, which also were attended by several CSU scientists along with Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda and Chancellor Michael Martin.
Princess Chulabhorn, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry, first visited last March when she toured CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital to learn about animal cancer research being conducted there and how it helps humans.
“It was a big honor to host Her Royal Highness,” Williams said. “She is a fellow organic chemist with a strong interest in cancer research.”
Months in the making
Williams was contacted by scientists at the Chulabhorn Research Institute last summer about presenting his research to the princess. They were particularly interested in hearing about natural products that could be reaped from resources in Thailand.
Much of Williams’ current work focuses on developing cancer-fighting drugs from a small organism that is indigenous to the waters of the Florida Keys. He said similar organisms exist throughout the world – including off the coast of Thailand.
“They are interested in finding how to exploit their natural environments to discover new drugs for treating cancer,” Williams said.
The princess, who also completed post-doctoral work in toxicology, established the Chulabhorn Research Institute in 1987 to utilize science and technology to improve quality of life. She also is a professor of chemistry at Mahidol University.
The youngest daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit of Thailand, Princess Chulabhorn was awarded UNESCO’s Einstein Medal for promoting scientific collaboration in Asia. She has a particular interest in expanding cancer research and treatment for people and animals in her home country.
Williams hopes the visit sparks new collaborations and that he and his colleagues can reciprocate by visiting Thailand and the Chulabhorn Research Institute to learn about cancer research there.
In the meantime, he is honored Princess Chulabhorn wanted to learn about his research.
“It was very exciting,” Williams said. “It was the first time someone at that high level has come here to learn about my research.”