The Shorthorn: Paul Zoeller
Puangrat Kajitvichyanukul came to America to learn waste water
management in an effort to help her homeland control contamination. Her husband Narong is
here for moral support, she said.
Thai native wants doctorate to help homeland control pollution
by Sally Claunch
Special to The Shorthorn
Puangrat Kajitvichyanukul said she is tired of spelling her last name. She is a Thai
student working on her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering here. Because she
registered late, she had to spell her last name for every professor. "In one class,
the professor asked me to tell my last name and I started to spell,
'K-A-J-I-T-V-I-C-H-Y-A-N-U-K-U-L'," she said. "After class [my professor] asked
me to see him, and I saw my name was only K-A-J. That's all he wrote down. And every time
when someone asked me my name, I start getting tired." Kajitvichyanukul's Ph.D.
adviser is Engineering Professor Syed Qasim. Dr. Qasim said, because Kajitvichyanukul's
last name is so difficult, he gave her a nickname. "We call her 'Wun'," he said.
"We gave it to her. I don't know if she wants it or not." Kahitvichyanukul is
pursuing her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering in order to help her people control water
pollution and contamination when she returns to Thailand. She is studying how to design
facilities for treatment of waste water. According to The Johns Hopkins School of Public
Health, water pollution in Thailand is pervasive. Many rivers contain 30 to 100 times more
poisons and pathogens from agriculture and industry than government standards allow.
Kajitvichyanukul says she just wants to help her fellow countrymen. "Nowadays, my
country has pollution problems and there are few experts in environmental fields to solve
them," she said. "I need to be one to figure them out." While she was
working on her master's degree and teaching at Kingk Mongkut's University of Technology,
Kajitvichyanukul used a textbook, Wastewater Engineering, written by Qasim. That inspired
her to come to the university so she could study with him. "You know how lucky I am?
He gave me a chance to be his advisee, and I can do my research with him," she said.
Katjitvichyanukul said her scholarship was one of the last three her government has given
to Thai students who wish to study abroad. "Due to an economic crisis in Thailand,
many scholarships are frozen for two or three years Ñ my scholarship supports me for four
years while I study here. There are no more scholarships now." She said she has only
been here for eight months and is looking forward to finally getting her Ph.D. and
enjoying life in Arlington. "The most I like is the people I meet at UTA," she
said. "They are so kind, friendly and nice Ñ even if I don't know them, they are
willingly talk to me and help me." Qasim is getting ready to put Kajitvichyanukul's
Ph.D. package together and get her ready for diagnostic exams she must take before she
begins work on her dissertation. "She is an excellent student, all straight
A's," he said. "We think she will contribute much to the program Ñ I hope she
will teach some lower-level classes while she's here." She told her students back in
Thailand that she would go to the United States and bring back the information she
gathered. "I promised my students to bring more knowledge to teach them," she
said. "When I'm exhausted and tired, I remember the promise I made, and it helps me
through it." Kajitvichyanukul is from the town of Chiang Mei, the second largest city
in Thailand. She grew up in the suburbs with her parents and brother. She said she misses
her family greatly, but unlike many Thai students, she is able to visit them from time to
time. "My family still lives in Thailand, and I will go back to see them this
summer," she said. Another plus of going home, she said, is that when she is home,
she never has to spell your name.
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