Gaurav Jha

Doctor of Philosophy:  Plant and Environmental Science

Class of 2019

Gaurav Jha


Why did you choose NMSU Graduate School? 

As a kid, when I used to see the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge, and beaches in Miami in movies, The United States became my favorite country. But it became a strong aspiration to come to the US when I learned about the advanced research facilities and exposure to be treated as an employee for your grad school. I realized America is more than what I saw on TV. While pursuing my M.S. in Soil Science in the arid areas of Northern India, I was looking for schools in the Southwest U.S. that could provide me similar research opportunities. NMSU was one of the three schools I was accepted with a full assistantship and therefore I accepted the offer to work towards adding a “Dr” before my name in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at NMSU with Dr. April Ulery. Some of the key things that also influenced my decisions were googling out its existential geography next to the beautiful Organ Mountains (almost went for drives and hikes every other day!!) and White Sands. I really feel honored that my Ph.D. journey was at NMSU as I have really enjoyed working with the stakeholders and Navajo Nation's indigenous community during my Ph.D. research. I am very sure not every grad student who comes to the United States could experience the same outreach and impactful research as I did while working in the four corners area with the tribes impacted after a disastrous Gold King Mine Spill of 2015. Always a “proud” Aggie.


What is your current position? 

I am currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar hosted by California Energy Commission in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at University of California, Davis (Still an Aggie!). My research focuses on food-water-energy nexus and climate-smart irrigation practices to develop innovative techniques of water and energy use under increasing drought and salinity problems of California.


What is your biggest accomplishment? 

My biggest accomplishment during my time at NMSU was getting an offer letter for an industry job in Santa Fe as an Environmental Scientist/Agronomist even before I planned to graduate and then also getting an offer for postdoc from my dream school “UC Davis” right before my defense. Nothing would have been possible without my advisor Dr. Ulery who always gave me the freedom to do everything I wanted to do for our research.  

I also consider myself blessed to get an opportunity to travel to Mexico with the Graduate Dean Dr. Cifuentes to work on building a Water Curriculum related to water sharing between US-Mexico near the border areas.


How did NMSU prepare you for your field? 

My advisor always told me that Ph.D. is a journey where the research committee would make sure before I passed that I am ready to think independently and be part of them, ready to land the scientific community outside the Aggie land. I felt my journey at NMSU not only prepared me academically to publish papers and write grants but it also helped me to communicate, network, and help the community in every possible way I can. At UC Davis, I am engaged to write my own grants, secure funds, lead projects and manuscripts collaborate with peers in different universities, hire students for my project, work with government agents and growers all across California. I think I could never do any of these things if my mentors at NMSU did not prepare me for all of these. Teaching academy and especially workshop by Dr. Graciela Unguez from the Department of Biology “A Ph.D. is not enough” made me realize that I was ready for the job market and should start aiming for all big things I dream and deserve. I think every grad student should attend as many workshops at the Teaching Academy to bring out the best that they do not recognize and it lies inside them.


What did you enjoy most about NMSU? 

There are endless things I can list the things I have enjoyed at NMSU. I am thankful for all the friendships that I have made with the diverse international community on and off-campus. I enjoyed my time with my friendship families Wes and Lori, and Luis and Rosa who introduced me to the New Mexico culture and helped me in an easy transition during my first year. Another, important and fun part of my time at NMSU was getting elected for some important leadership opportunities as Vice-President of Graduate Student Council and as Grad Senator of ASNMSU. I learned a lot while working on the graduate student issues and had so much fun meeting people from all over the campus. Apart from all this…I miss the amazing veggie burritos with green chile from Aggie grill with my friends Deblina and Vanaja and cry about the failed experiments for hours.

Gaurav Jha