Promising Young Scientist: From Bangkok to Seattle, Nuttada Panpradist is a Profile in Courage

‘Hard work and perseverance can allow you to reach your goals’


Nuttada and Barry Drs. Nuttada Panpradist and Barry Lutz: 'Promote health equity through transnational multi-disciplinary collaborations and local capacity building.'

Dr. Nuttada Panpradist’s curriculum vitae includes authorships on 27 published papers, and 40 abstracts and presentations. She has been interviewed nearly 30 times for news stories and UW publications. Currently, she holds a post-doctoral associate position in the UW Department of Global Health, as well as teaching and research roles at institutions in Kenya and her home county, Thailand.

However, one phrase in her CV defines Panpradist’s life purpose: “Promote health equity through transnational multi-disciplinary collaborations and local capacity building.”

She learned the concept of equity, or rather, inequity, at age 12 by taking a road less traveled – literally and figuratively.

“My family and I often drove to visit my grandmother, who lived two hours from our home in a suburb of Bangkok,” said Panpradist, 38. “We went from paved roads to uneven dirt roads. Our car was always shaking, and I wondered when it would break down. The experience raised the question for me: ‘Why are things so unequal here, especially when people in other parts of the country live luxurious lifestyles?’ I learned the poor were treated differently.”

A few years later, she learned it was not just the poor who were treated differently.

Panpradist completed her undergraduate degree in engineering in 2007 at Silpakorn, a leading university in Thailand. She graduated 4th in her class of 154 students and, as one might expect, looked forward to a range of career opportunities. However, those expectations were quickly dashed.

Why? Advertisements for entry-level engineering jobs included the requirement that applicants be “male, age not over 35.”

“It did not feel right and it certainly was not fair,” Panpradist said. “But you stick to it, you persevere. I knew I needed other health-related skills, such as bioengineering. At that time, there was no graduate program in bioengineering in the entire country. So, I decided to tutor for a year, save money, and then come to the U.S. to study for a quarter at a community college.”

In 2009, she arrived in Seattle and chose to enroll in the Pima Medical Institute, despite facing resistance from her Thai host family. They urged her to conform to traditional Thai values, emphasizing work, marriage, and children. Panpradist said she respected their opinions, however, she stood firm in her personal and professional convictions. remained determined to pursue her career. her own path. She stayed with the family 18 months.

She completed a pharmacy technician certification, graduating first in her class at Pima. Next, it was on to North Seattle College for two years to complete a certificate in nanotechnology. In 2015, Panpradist arrived on the UW campus to begin yet another certificate program in the Department of Global Health, while simultaneously launching into a Ph.D. in bioengineering.

In the Department of Bioengineering, a significant turning point occurred when she encountered a professor who became an influential academic mentor: BBI’s Dr. Barry Lutz, an associate professor.

“Nuttada is an example that hard work and perseverance can allow you to reach your goals,” said Lutz. “She fought tenaciously, worked very hard, and made smart decisions to reach those goals step-by-step. Through all of this, she maintained her compassion and motivation to help others, and grew her passion to mentor and support those around her.”

It is evident listening to Panpradist that one of those smart decisions was accepting Lutz’s offers of a three-month internship in his lab, which seeks “to apply scientific understanding to develop technology for improving human health.”

“I worked my butt off,” she said. “Those three months turned into one year, which, in turn, grew into five years and, with several scholarships and grants, I was able to fund my Ph.D.”

Between 2015 and 2021, under Lutz’s supervision, she received $72,000 in funding to support her research. She also helped raise research grants, including two National Institutes of Health R01 grants for $10 million to study HIV and related drug resistance testing.

In 2021, Panpradist completed her doctorate and now, as a post-doctoral associate, Panpradist has shifted her focus toward advancing technology development and fostering closer engagement with underserved communities.

But she maintains her collaboration with Lutz on multiple projects; in 2022 she independently secured more than $300,000 to support new research in which she served as PI and mentored others. Her lengthy CV includes nearly two pages of mentees’ names; she continues to mentor 16 undergrad and graduate students in the U.S. and Thailand.

“Nuttada is an exceptional, award-winning mentor, an advocate, and a role model for women in STEM fields,” said Lutz. “She is a leader who inspires and mobilizes her colleagues and mentees through her excitement, quality of work, clarity of direction, and rewards them faithfully for their contributions.”