Meet Victoria Granja
Victoria Granja is a third year Ph.D. student in the Mechanical Engineering Department. Victoria is originally from Ecuador where she earned her B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Escuela Politecnica Nacional de Ecuador. At Rice, Victoria has been involved with many student organizations on campus such as the Society of Tribology and Lubrication Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Association for Women in Science.
Victoria’s research focuses on the study of friction, lubrication, and wear and how to prevent energy loss caused by such factors. “Almost a third of the world’s energy is lost because of friction, so I wanted to study this problem [because] although it was a very important challenge, it also poses very important ideas and opportunities for research.” Her work centers on the development of novel additives to enhance the tribological performance of lubricants and on the prediction of the wear behavior of materials using artificial intelligence.
Fun fact about Victoria: she was the lead guitarist in her high school band!
Why Get a PhD?
Victoria’s decision to pursue her PhD was driven by her passions in life. “My true passions in life are learning, teaching, and helping others.” However, transitioning to a PhD program was still a big challenge. “[Getting your PhD] is qualitatively different from previous levels of education. You are no longer part of a group of students going through the same identical education experience as you. Instead, it is like you are crafting your own experience. You are the one who has to decide what skills you want to develop, what your ambitions are…You are learning to learn [by yourself].”
“Coming here, it was a completely different experience. It was exciting and scary at the same time. But you know what they say, if it excites you and scares you at the same time then you should probably do it. Stepping out of your comfort zone is where you really grow as a person and develop as a professional.”
After completing her degree, Victoria aims to remain in academia. “My dream has always been to become a professor and try to inspire my students to be the best engineers they can be, especially young girls. I really want to become that person where they can look at you and say, ‘I can also do that.’”
Victoria chose Rice for the great research opportunities and welcoming community. “I was captivated by Rice because I found my dream lab. Then I met with my advisor and felt we were a great match. I really saw myself working with him [...] I wanted to work with the best, to work with big thinkers in my field and be inspired by them because I knew [that would keep me] motivated throughout this process.”
Victoria was also drawn to the community at Rice. “I also perceived [Rice] was a very welcoming and warm community. Because Rice is a small university, I like the personal touch I was given.”
Life in Houston
“I really love Houston! I have met people from all around the world, I have tried food from all around the world. I’ve been able to visit a lot of cool places and people have been really nice.” Victoria has a lot of recommendations for enjoying your time in Houston. First, be prepared for the heat! When moving to Houston, “really consider the weather—it can get really hot! Be prepared to enjoy the sun all year round.” Next, try all the food you can! Houston has an impressive and diverse food scene, and Victoria encourages new grad students to try as many kinds of cuisine as they can. One of her favorite Houston spots? Tarka for amazing Indian food!
One of Victoria’s favorite Houston spots is the Japanese Garden in Hermann Park, which offers a peaceful escape from the stresses of grad school life.
“Explore as much as you can. Don’t just focus on research and work; try to meet as many people as you can.” At the same time, “Don’t lose contact with your loved ones back at home because they will help you through difficult situations.” As an international student, being far from home can be challenging, but Victoria knows her friends and family at home are an important part of her support system at Rice even if they are countries away.
If you’re moving to Houston, Victoria recommends picking your new home carefully. “Look for a place close by campus, close to a bus route, [or within] biking distance because if you don't have a car transportation can be challenging.”
Advice for Prospective Students
“Don’t rush.” Victoria advises prospective PhD students to take their time when deciding which schools to apply to. “Do the work and explore different options. Be sure that the university [you pick] is the best fit for you and that you’re the best fit for the university. Try to talk to your potential advisor, and try to talk to [other students] already attending the school.” For Victoria, connecting with her now-advisor and lab while she was a prospective student played a major role in her ultimate decision to come to Rice.
“Think about your motivations and why you want to attend grad school because your motivation is what will help you get through difficult times. [Also,] having [your motivations] clear will not only help you write your Statement of Purpose, which is a very important part of your application, but it will also help you to realize what you really want.”
Admitted into a PhD program and getting ready to start year one? “Stay calm and stay focused, [but] you don’t have to stress. Try to relax. Take this time for yourself. Share this time with your friends and family. You will have time to study and work [when grad school begins]!”