Student Researcher Stories: 3Qs with Prim Rattanathumawat, SMArchS ’23
MITOS's students researchers develop meaningful work to advance a sustainable campus at MIT and to build their professional experience in institutional transformation. Read Prim's insightful answers to 3Qs about her experience.
Prim is an architect and urban designer, currently pursuing a Master's degree in Architecture Studies with a concentration in Urbanism. She joined the MIT Office of Sustainability in Fall 2021 as a Climate Resiliency Fellow to better support flood mapping, resiliency planning, and preparedness for the MIT campus. Her interest lies in the global issues of sustainability, the integration of sustainable development, and climate change adaptation in cities.
What was your favorite project/story/assignment/ event that you worked (or working on now) on in your time as a Student Fellow? Why?
During my time at MITOS, I helped support the development of the MIT Campus Urban Climate Resiliency Lab in building a Climate Resilient MIT by accelerating the campus resilience and adaptation planning for future flood risk. The aim of the lab is to leverage the campus as a test bed for research and modeling flood impact to the campus and the surrounding area of Cambridge. We team up with key partners such as the Urban Risk Lab and MIT Department of Facilities, therefore, this provides me the opportunities to engage with various stakeholders such as the facilities planners, and building and utility engineers, who can provide invaluable exposure to the kinds of questions that the basement flood risk model can help answer.
This project has a special place in my heart because the work we do is important and meaningful. Apart from enabling the MIT community to understand the potential risk, this study also seeks to help inform operational and strategic guidance for future campus planning and management. I am excited to see how these pieces start to come together this semester and how they would create an impact on MIT’s policy and practices in the future.
In what ways has your experience as a MITOS Student Fellow influenced your career at MIT and/or beyond?
It is a pleasure to work for MITOS– it is interesting, challenging, and rewarding. I received an incredible amount of support from my supervisors at MITOS, Brian, and Ken, as well as my academic advisor Miho Mazereeuw who is the director of the Urban Risk Lab. I am very lucky to be surrounded by people who share the same interests and are willing to support my professional growth and development within the field.
Being involved in this research position helps me form a solid foundation to build an opinion. I gain more confidence and credibility to use the latest knowledge to build ideas or talk confidently about a subject related to flood hazards and vulnerabilities. For example, I gained the trust of my team members during the MIT Water Hackathon to lead the proposal as I have experience working on urban flooding with MITOS and we ended up winning first place in the event mainly due to the information I learned while working on MITOS’s project.
As I am working toward my thesis topic next year, my research at MITOS helps in narrowing it down to the most important and unique points that I wanted to explore. I'm currently exploring future methods of flood protection for existing buildings that can be applied universally. Using MIT campus and the Boston area as a testbed but hopefully, the solution can be applied elsewhere in the world. The type of research we did goes beyond data collection and consists of sharing real stories that create awareness.
What advice would you give to other students to make the most out of the MITOS Student Fellowships?
Don't be afraid to fail. The point of using the campus as a testbed is to enhance your knowledge, it is an urban living laboratory where not everything will be correct, but the whole process of research would open new doors to learning and growth. Even if you are an expert in your field, there is always more to uncover. Therefore, being open to other ideas can open you up to trying new things.
Sustainability challenges are complex and require a lot of creativity and collaborative effort to overcome them. That is why some of our best and most impactful creative work will come from reframing problems as opportunities.