Aryana Has Earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Activities at UVA: Graduate Student Board - International Liaison

Q: Looking back to the time when you applied to UVA Engineering, why did you choose this school? 

A: UVA was recommended to me by my master's adviser as he knew some of the faculty members in the MAE and MSE departments. Hence, UVA was the first school I applied for.

After your time here, how are you different now – how have you grown as a person?

Apart from the scientific accomplishments, I feel like, in the past four years, graduate school has prepared me for my professional career in the future. I used to have a hard time balancing multiple tasks in life from studying and exercising to spending time with friends and family. Certainly, one of the biggest outcomes of my Ph.D. life was time management, which I am confident will help me even more in the future.

What was your favorite or most memorable educational experience at UVA Engineering, and why? Was there someone who helped you along your journey?

The most effective educational experiences usually stem from running into the hardest problems, which are not few during graduate school. Perhaps, setting up the laser-heating experiment was one of the more challenging ones that I faced, mostly because it was my first year, and had never worked with optical tables before. Fortunately, other than my advisor Patrick (Hopkins), there were a lot of other senior lab members like Jeff, Hans, Gaskins, and Tomko who helped me a lot with this experiment.

What’s next for you? 

Postdoc for sure! I have applied for a few positions from national labs to universities and I am waiting to hear back from them. I am currently doing a short postdoc with my Ph.D. advisor and finishing up a couple of incomplete projects. Now that I have completed my Ph.D., I would like to take my time before making decisions about my future career.

What positive impact do you hope to make in the future? Is there a big societal challenge you’d like to help solve?

This is a great question. At the beginning of my Ph.D., I wasn't sure what kind of impact I would be able to make, but I knew I wanted to contribute to the development of a product that someone somewhere finds useful, whatever it might be. I had very little experience doing hands-on projects as an engineering student or even as a master's student. All the knowledge that was taught to us from coding, modeling and simulation was useless if it did not lead to the development or the improvement of an actual product. For my Ph.D., I knew I wanted to work in a lab that did a lot of experimental research. Luckily for me, once I joined the ExSiTE lab, I was assigned to a collaboration with Western Digital Co., which gave me the opportunity to apply my research directly to industry problems.

How has UVA Engineering prepared you for your future, for following your dreams or personal mission? 

UVA Engineering, especially the ExSiTE lab, has helped me immensely in following my dreams. I am applying for positions that I could not even dream of four years back such as NASA, Harvard, and MIT. 

What advice would you give to engineering students who are just starting out?

My advice, as someone who has been in academia for nearly 11 years, is to figure out how to balance your life and manage your time between priorities. Although this may sound cliché, I think if I had implemented this earlier in my life, I would have had fewer problems and enjoyed my life more. Don't stress yourself out by trying to reach your goal by a certain age, and don't let things get too relaxed either. Remember this, if you constantly follow your dreams, you will certainly get there.

Class of 2022: Kiumars Aryana

Kiumars Aryana has earned a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering.