Graciela Vazquez was born and raised in Torreon in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila where she graduated as a mechanical engineer from Laguna Tech University. After university, she began her professional career as a mechanical components engineer at General Electric’s Advanced Engineering Centre. While working there, she successfully applied for and completed a global development programme.
Given that Graciela worked with many colleagues who had completed graduate studies abroad, she decided to pursue a master’s degree overseas. Graciela’s main area of interest was materials science, a field in which the UK offers advanced expertise. This is because the UK was the world’s first country to industrialise and subsequently design and employ materials in new and innovative applications.
In 2018, Graciela applied for a Chevening Scholarship having receiving acceptance letters from six different universities in the UK. She prepared in advance for her Chevening interview by researching how materials science was core to the Mexican government’s national development plan.
During her interview, Graciela explained how she would return to Mexico after studying in the UK and directly contribute to the economic and social development of her country. She also made a strong case for including more women in Mexico’s engineering sector.
Graciela was honoured and excited to be selected for a Chevening Scholarship to study materials science at Sheffield University in northern England. This was an opportunity for her to access state of the art training, new technologies and world-class facilities.
Graciela describes her experience at Sheffield University as extraordinary. She met brilliant fellow students from all over the world and loved her dissertation project. For that, she worked with Dr Katerina Christofidou on super alloys and additive manufacturing. She successfully completed her university studies in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic. Graciela shares that:
Chevening brought out the very best of me, both personally and academically. It was overwhelming to achieve my dream. Learning from incredibly brilliant people was a remarkable experience, and I feel forever grateful.
Upon her return to Mexico, Graciela joined Solar Turbines, a company that manufactures power generation turbines. She was one of the first four researchers to launch and work in the company’s new engineering centre. Graciela is using her knowledge in materials science to develop new technologies protected by intellectual property rights in Mexico. This is important because, in the past, such scientific developments were scarce in Mexico.
Today, Graciela proudly shares her academic and professional experiences in webinars and events that promote women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). For instance, last year she shared her story during the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with staff members and their daughters at the Discovery Channel. She has also been a keynote speaker for engineering students at Sheffield University and the Autonomous University of Chihuahua, inspiring other young women to pursue a career in science.