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CCEE graduate student awarded fellowship from EERI/FEMA

Jessi Thangjitham

CCEE Ph.D. candidate Jessi Thangjitham was one of two graduate students awarded the 2022-2023 Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Graduate Fellowship. The one-year award, supported by funds from FEMA, is “designed to foster the participation of capable individuals in working toward goals and activities of the NEHRP,” according to EERI. The fellowship provides a stipend that can be used for tuition, fees, research expenses, and attendance and participation at the 2023 EERI Meeting.

“I felt honored and humbled to receive the award, Thangjitham said. “My involvement with EERI has been one of the most rewarding experiences as a graduate student. EERI has given me a platform to mentor undergrads, enhance my leadership skills, and collaborate with other earthquake engineers.”  

Thangjitham, who is studying structural engineering and is advised by Dr. Mervyn Kowalsky, is working on research that seeks to quantify the behavior of high-strength reinforcing steel through large-scale testing and modeling of reinforced concrete structures under earthquake loading. Specifically, her research aims to provide design recommendations for the California Department of Transportation. The goal is to implement high-strength rebar in bridges state-wide to reduce material cost, construction time, and congestion.

For the past three years, Thangjitham has been a member of the EERI Student Leadership Council and has served as the NC State EERI student chapter president. In addition, she has been involved in the School Earthquake Safety Initiative and uses that knowledge to increase engineering outreach in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area.

“Jessi is such a fountain of enthusiasm and determination, and I am fortunate to be her advisor,” Kowalsky said. “Her combination of technical ability, intellectual curiosity, leadership, communication, ownership, service to the earthquake engineering community and care for others is everything that you want in a Ph.D. student, and I believe this made her a strong candidate for this award. It is my opinion that the EERI/FEMA NEHRP fellow award is the highest honor that a graduate student studying in this area can receive worldwide. It’s something to take great pride in!”