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Navigating Waters and Boundaries: A Journey from Master’s to Ph.D. in Water Engineering and Management at AIT

26 Dec 2023
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By Dr. Pragya Pradhan

Dr. Pragya Pradhan, a recent Ph.D. graduate of the Water Engineering and Management (WEM) program at AIT School of Engineering and Technology, shares her journey at AIT. Here is her story:

In 2017, I embarked on a journey to AIT to pursue my Master’s Degree in Water Engineering and Management (WEM). Initially driven by the goal of securing a decent job in my home country, my life took an unexpected turn upon joining AIT as a graduate student. Little did I know that my time at AIT would redefine my life and perspectives. Under the guidance of my advisor, Prof. Sangam Shrestha, and through the WEM program, I delved into the world of research. I discovered its profound impact on our environment and communities.

During my master’s degree, my academic growth was complemented by active involvement in manuscript writing and USAID-funded projects focused on hydrological modeling and extremes. This exposure expanded my knowledge of transboundary hydrological issues and allowed me to contribute to capacity-building programs and knowledge transfer.

One of my academic journey highlights was successfully publishing my master’s research, titled Evaluation of Soil and Water Assessment Tool and Artificial Neural Network models for hydrologic simulation in different climatic regions of Asia,” in an international peer-reviewed journal. Beyond academia, I cherished the vibrant student life at AIT—ranging from bustling classes and assignments to leisurely coffee breaks, potluck parties, and making momo (a popular Nepali dish) with friends. I enjoyed the food fair organized by the student union (SU) each semester, and every time, momo was the first food item to be sold out. At AIT, momo enjoys an unexpectedly massive fanbase, bringing together international friends over a shared love for Nepali cuisine.

Master’s Graduation

My advisor recognized my passion for research and gave me the golden opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. in WEM at AIT. My dissertation, Managing Hydrological Extremes using Nature-Based Solutions in a Snow-fed River Basin of Nepal, marked the culmination of an enriching academic journey. Even during the challenging times of the 2020 COVID pandemic, AIT provided a haven for continued study and work, allowing me to sustain my Ph.D. research activities, including data collection and participation in research-oriented training sessions.

Throughout my Ph.D. journey, the guidance and encouragement from my advisor and committee members played a pivotal role in refining my research work. Beyond my research activities, I contributed to various projects as a research assistant funded by organizations like the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asia-Pacific Network (APN), and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). These experiences exposed me to multidisciplinary topics, including groundwater governance, climate change adaptation, and capacity development. In addition to my research contributions, I co-organized capacity-building workshops for early-career professionals from Southeast Asia. These workshops also engaged local and regional stakeholders from Northeastern Thailand, fostering collaborative learning and knowledge exchange.

My academic endeavors also facilitated international exposure, with opportunities to present my research at conferences and receive awards such as the Berkner Travel Grant 2021 from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Student for Student Summer School Grant 2022 from the University of Innsbruck, Austria. These experiences enabled me to traverse various European countries, immersing myself in their cultures, admiring beautiful architecture, and relishing moments of serenity. The journey was marked by unexpected occurrences, from navigating the streets of Innsbruck at 1 am to hurriedly maneuvering between train platforms with suitcases.

Beyond academia, AIT allowed me to embark on a journey as a traveler. Situated in Southeast Asia, I explored various countries for work and leisure, creating cherished memories. From the simplicity of Myanmar to the stunning beauty of Koh Mak, where scuba diving revealed the marvels of marine life, these experiences emphasized our small existence in the vastness of nature.

Reflecting on my entire AIT journey—from a graduate student to a post-doctorate—I’ve encountered both successes and setbacks, contributing to my continuous personal growth. The quote by Robin Morgan, “Sisterhood is powerful,” resonates deeply with me as AIT introduced me to wonderful soul sisters who motivated and inspired me to exceed my limits.

Throughout this time, I forged friendships with individuals from different countries and engaged with people on academic grounds. AIT wasn’t just a place to study; it became my second home, guiding me towards my goals. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to AIT for providing me with the platform and exposure to evolve as an emerging researcher and compassionate individual. The roller coaster ride at AIT has been a blessing in disguise, shaping my academic and professional endeavors and my perspective on life.

PhD Graduation