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Grad student splits time between group, research

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Grad student splits time between group, research

Three men and one woman pose for a group photo.

Civil engineering graduate student Ploisongsaeng Intaratip wears traditional Thai clothing at this year’s Grand Songkran Festival. The event was hosted by the MU Thai Student Association, for which Intaratip serves as president. Civil engineering faculty members, from left, Praveen Edara, Carlos Sun and Charlie Nemmers, stopped by the festival in April. Sun is Intaratip’s graduate research adviser.

Ploisongsaeng Intaratip could talk for hours about food. The Thai native shared samples of her home country’s cuisine with members of the University of Missouri community during this year’s Grand Songkran festival in April. She’s lived in the U.S. since 1999 and has visited Thailand every year since then. There was no question that she would join MU’s Thai Student Association.

“My friend, who is an alumnus here, introduced me to the organization,” she said. “I joined as an undergraduate and worked on various committees. Last year, I was vice president, and this year, I am president.”

Intaratip is a graduate student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 2010 and will present her master’s thesis this summer.

In Bangkok, she didn’t know about engineering. An only child, the family-oriented Intaratip was close to her grandparents and cousins on her mother’s side, but didn’t know her relatives on her father’s side, some of who had moved to the states.

“My mom and dad decided I could get a good education here,” she said.

In spite of her initial protest, her family moved to St. Louis when she was 13 —8,700 miles away from the only family she knew. The family’s U.S. anchor, who helped Intaratip and her parents get settled and obtain the necessary documents to relocate to the U.S., was her father’s brother — a civil engineer.

Intaratip said she was interested in construction from a young age and had “a million Legos. ” As she got to know her uncle, she also learned more about his profession, encouraging her to also become an engineer.

“My uncle had a business in St. Louis. He taught me what civil engineers do and more about the discipline,” she said.

Intaratip had friends from St. Louis who studied engineering at MU, so she was familiar with the school and College of Engineering. The proximity to her family was an added bonus, as well as the opportunity for research. For her senior design project with faculty adviser, C.W. LaPierre Associate Professor Hani Salim, Intaratip outlined a plan including design, construction and cost of an additional facility for CARFAX, Inc.’s Columbia office.

Her graduate research with Associate Professor Carlos Sun looked at plans for transitioning cities to be more compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Using Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Statistical Analysis System (SAS) to analyze data, her work also includes examining the methods, costs and benefits to upgrade large cities to ADA compliancy.

“My research is more than just plugging in data,” Intaratip said. “Now, there’s law and economics to consider, and I have to look into ADA policy.”

As president of the Thai Student Association, one of Intaratip’s biggest tasks was overseeing this year’s Grand Songkran festival. Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year, which is celebrated in April. Members of the community were invited to join in the Songkran events on campus. Intaratip also joined the Missouri International Student Council and works as a technical assistant at Ellis Library.

After graduation, Intaratip said she plans to find a job and earn her professional engineers license. After gaining some experience working in industry, she hopes to eventually return to Thailand. In retrospect, she’s glad her parents moved to the U.S. for her education.

“I think they were right,” she said.

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