PhD student, Sustainability Management

Why did you choose to pursue graduate studies at the University of Waterloo?

I decided to join UW primarily due to my, now, supervisor Prof. Prateep Nayak, who is an exceptional scholar of social-ecological systems. I was quite fascinated by the interdisciplinary programs and research at the Faculty of Environment which motivated me to join for a research-based master's in 2019 under the guidance of Prof. Nayak. The program is diverse in terms of disciplines and integrating sustainability concepts into research.

Navya V. NairDescribe your research and what makes you passionate about it:

My research centers on the vulnerability and viability of small-scale fisheries through water quality analysis. As a Civil-Environmental Engineer, I have received exposure to several design and analysis innovative technologies focused on water quality. My drive to integrate and examine the humanistic side of engineering introduced me to social-ecological systems, resilience, and well-being. The background of interdisciplinary studies fosters a love of learning and ignites a spark of enthusiasm in me.

Tell us about where you are from:

I’m an international graduate student from Kerala (entitled as God’s Own Country), India. I also hold a Master of Technology in Environmental Engineering and a Bachelor of Technology in Civil Engineering. I have over one year of research experience in air quality monitoring and wastewater treatment projects. I worked as a Senior Research Fellow at ICAR-Indian Institute of Water Management and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) for microbiological filter development and air pollution repository establishment.

What is the best part about being a grad student?

I’m so grateful to understand that the work that I do has an impact, and that's something I can be proud of at the end of each day. I also feel that grad school is about more than just getting a few letters after your name and a fancy piece of paper; it's about growing professionally so you're ready to enter the workforce. Moreover, as an international grad student, I feel lucky to have numerous opportunities to improve myself both academically and professionally.

What activities, groups, events are you involved in?

I was fortunate to be part of many campus initiatives and a few of them are Campus Housing, Graduate Student Association, Library, Water Institute, Sustainability Office, and International Peer Community of Student Success Office.

What campus services have you accessed?

Library, Sustainability Office, Student Success Office, The Centre, Centre for Career Action, Writing and Communication Centre, Campus Housing, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs

How has grad school helped you develop your teaching skills?

The experience as a TA contributes a lot to my professional development, especially in presentation and communication skills; management skills (e.g., managing a group of students and classroom activities, time-management), and interpersonal skills (e.g., through working with students, other TAs, TA instructor)

How do you spend your free time?

I always engage myself in various activities. I love to spend time on meditation and exercises, dancing, and discussing life philosophies with friends.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

I recommend that you try to widen your networking circle whenever possible because the relationships you make will help you realize what motivates, inspires, and fulfills you in your academic and personal life. Move forward one step at a time, day by day, and try to leave enough time to explore the world around you - maintaining a balanced social life while in graduate school is critical. Make an effort to strike a balance between your academic and personal life. Finally, do not rush your degree path by always looking ahead to the next stage; instead, be attentive to the process and enjoy even modest accomplishments.

Do you have any highlights or successes to share about your teaching activities/roles?

Yes, I have developed student support skills (e.g., assistance with course/program selection, sharing career advice, referring to campus resources) and evaluation and feedback skills (e.g., providing feedback on students’ assignments, evaluating and reflecting on their academic works)

What are your plans once you finish your education?

I would like to work in areas of my research interests or somewhere I can be close to international grad students so that I give back to the community using what I have learned.

What are some of the challenging aspects of being a graduate student and how do you address these challenges?

As an international graduate student, I have struggled in finding a job, writing assignments, and coping with academic writing initially. The cultural transition was another shock as well. I have utilized the majority of our campus resources such as the writing center, career action center, and library to improve my skills.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share that is interesting about yourself?

I’m a great fan of sustainability practices and water-related research. Also, I like working for international student concerns and issues as well. I know the struggles that I have gone through during my initial phases. So, I would be more than happy to help anyone. If anyone would like to connect with me, please feel free to send an email or message on Teams. You can email me here: or find me on my LinkedIn.

Country of origin: India

Domestic or International: International

Academic stream: Research

Full-time or part-time: Full-time

Research supervisorBruce FraynePrateep Nayak

Graduate student awards held: Dean’s Doctoral Initiative (DDI)

TA/RA or GRS held: TA/RA

University of Waterloo