Degrees of success

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 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 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 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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