Meet Closing the Gap Guest Speaker, Ommidala Pattawong!

The Mid-Valley STEM-CTE Hub is very proud to be able to feature another educator from our home school, Linn-Benton Community College, on Closing the Gap. Ommidala Pattawong (she/her), Chemistry Instructor, joins us on this episode to discuss pursuing a STEM educational path in Thailand and now having a career in the United States teaching chemistry.

Q: Please describe your educational/training background

I received a B.S. from Chiangmai University, Thailand, and came to the U.S. in 2009 to join the Ph.D. program at Oregon State University (OSU). My Ph.D. research projects focused on investigating mechanisms and selectivity of organic reactions using computation. I also was a TA for several chemistry classes. The TA assignments/experience sparked my desire to pursue a chemistry teaching career. During the last year of my Ph.D., the chemistry department offered me a great opportunity to be an instructor, teaching 100 level general chemistry in the 2014-2015 academic year. I received a Ph.D. in chemistry in 2015.

The substantial research training and teaching experiences received from the OSU chemistry department helped me secure a full-time teaching position at Willamette University (WU) as soon as I graduated. I worked at WU from 2015 – 2018, but their budget cuts forced me to look for a new position elsewhere. Soon after I was offered a permanent teaching position at Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC) and have been teaching here since Fall 2018.

Q: Please describe where you work & your occupation.

I’m a chemistry faculty member at LBCC. I teach college chemistry courses and develop lecture and lab curriculum. I enjoy working with students and teaching them that they are capable of doing and mastering chemistry. It’s very rewarding to see when students change their dread of chemistry into appreciation and feel empowered to do science.

Q: Career-wise, what have been your proudest moments/highlights/accomplishments so far?

• Developed new lab activities at Willamette University (WU) and LBCC.

• Redesigned the CH 12X courses at LBCC to improve the passing rate and overall student success.

• Aligned the list of topics covered and content order for CH 12X courses to match with OSU to reduce problems for students transferring to/from OSU.

• Reduced financial barriers from course material expenses for CH 12X by creating custom-made OER textbooks and low-cost lecture manuals.

• Received Faculty Fellowship to do research on a support system called study session that provides student access to the instructor in a new way outside the classroom.

Q: What are some of your future goals or things you would like to accomplish?

• Reduce financial barriers from course materials further by creating a free online homework platform for students. I would like to do it for all my courses.

• Create custom-made OER textbooks for chemistry for health occupations course.

• Incorporate case studies and real-world applications of chemistry relevant for health occupations.

Q: What have been some of your biggest career challenges?

1. Language barrier. As English is not my primary language, it takes me longer to complete some tasks such as reading, academic writing, creating lectures & lab materials, providing feedback, etc., than it might for native English speakers. I think about what I want to communicate and how to communicate it effectively in the way I want it to come out, resulting in more work hours.

2. Cultural barrier. I was not born and raised in the U.S. Examples/analogies associated with American culture don’t come to me easily when I want to use them in my lessons.

3. Balancing academic life and being a parent. As I work full-time during the day, I also have to take care of my 10-month-old child at night. I get about 5 hours of sleep a day. This sleep deprivation affects my work efficiency.

Q: Many young women might not be aware of the career available in STEM fields. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in these fields?

1. Academic advising. Advisors can inform young women about career options based on their interests and provide a guideline for them to achieve their career goals.

2. Outreach programs. Outreach activities such as Mid-Valley STEM-CTE HUB, OSU discovery day, science day, etc. can provide a wonderful opportunity for young women to learn more about STEM fields and spark their interest in sciences.

Q: Do you have any advice for women who are looking to follow in a similar career path?

Go for it! It is a new age and women have more support than ever to follow their dreams.

Q: What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?

Although I don’t have much spare time lately, when I do, I like to spend time with my family by going for a walk/hike, fishing, crabbing, clam digging, and mushroom picking.


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