Graduate Student Spotlight: Jessi Thangjitham

Jessi Thangjitham

Jessi Thangjitham is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate with a concentration in structural and earthquake engineering. She grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, and is advised by Dr. Mervyn Kowalsky. Thangjitham serves in committee leadership roles in the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and American Concrete Institute national chapters.


What influenced you to go into engineering?

THANGJITHAM: My dad is an engineering professor and influenced me to follow my passion for math and science. My interest in structural engineering started while I was an undergrad and worked as an intern for a state Department of Transportation. I saw all aspects of bridge construction from start to finish, and I appreciated the variety of work required to create a new structure. I knew I wanted to continue learning more about the field.

What problem(s) are you trying to solve? Why was NC State / CCEE a good fit for you?

THANGJITHAM: I want to help bridge designers implement high-strength reinforcing steel in bridges by developing design equations for bridge codes. CCEE has a great lab for large-scale testing and many projects related to earthquake engineering. My ultimate goal is to go into academia, and I was drawn to the professoriate program at NC State, which helps graduate students who are on the academic track and gives them experience teaching a class.

Where did your passion for this particular focus come from?

THANGJITHAM: My passion for earthquake engineering started in my undergrad and graduate programs, where I first learned about the complexities of seismic loads. I wanted to understand more about how to design and improve structures to resist the effects of earthquakes. My master’s research focused on structural modeling for seismic loads, but I became more interested in the field when I worked in the industry as a building designer. After using the building codes, I wanted to study the other side of research to help improve the way we design for these complex loads.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

THANGJITHAM: I want to become a professor so I can continue research in structural and earthquake engineering and prepare students for successful careers in structural design.


This story was originally published in the Spring 2022 CCEE Newsletter.