Senior Orators: Tanayott Thaweethai

Friday, May 24, 2013
This article is part of the series Commencement Magazine 2013

Tanayott Thaweethai ’13 arrived at Brown hoping to explore the perspectives of students from all over the world and embrace the freedom offered by the New Curriculum.

One way Thaweethai said he has gained a “global perspective” is through the New Scientist Program, which aims to increase diversity in the sciences through a student mentoring initiative. A student coordinator for the past two years and a mentor before that, Thaweethai said the program “has defined (his) experience at Brown,” presenting an opportunity to meet people from “different walks of life and from all over the world.”

The program focuses on a concept of diversity that includes not only race and ethnicity but also socioeconomic status and gender, he said.

An applied mathematics-biology concentrator, Thaweethai completed an honors thesis on the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Thaweethai said his decision to concentrate in applied math-biology was informed by a course he took with Assistant Professor of Biology David Weinreich called BIOL0380: “Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease.”

He said the class, which uses math to model biological concepts, “showed me that I could, rather than picking one of my interests, combine them in a productive and interesting way.”

Thaweethai’s commencement speech, entitled “Doors,” is based on the premise of choosing from a wide variety of options “while staying true to what you believe,” he said. “Brown gives us a lot of opportunities. It opens a lot of doors for us. How do we decide which one to go through?”

Thaweethai said his devotion to speech and debate during high school in his hometown Union City, Calif., helped him gain confidence and find his voice, and now he has come “full circle” by being selected to give a Commencement speech.

Outside of his academic pursuits, Thaweethai said he enjoys baking, long-distance running and playing the piano.

After graduation, Thaweethai will work for a health care research company in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he will apply statistical analyses of Medicare and Medicaid data to test if medications are as safe and effective as manufacturers claim.