Emma, a proud New College graduate, tells us how she has spent her time since her undergraduate days.
Why did you choose biology at Oxford?
At the time I knew that I wanted to study biology, because I was enthusiastic about the natural world, so wanted to do a course that was purely biology rather than natural sciences. I liked that the Oxford course started broad then became more specialised as this allowed flexibility to discover which areas I really enjoyed. Oxford was somewhere I had dreamed of going throughout my schooling career. It seemed to have a friendly, collegiate atmosphere and chances to meet like minded individuals passionate about learning and their subjects. I applied for Oxford because it was a top university that I hoped would give me opportunities in later life. I also really enjoyed the Oxford interview process because of the thought provoking questions discussed.
What did you enjoy most about your degree?
Getting to know my biology cohort was great! Unlike other courses which may not have as many opportunities to get to know the full year group, the field trip to Pembrokeshire in the first year was a great chance to meet people from other colleges. I also really enjoyed the Tenerife field trip in second year. The course provided lots of opportunities to study biology out in the field rather than just in the lab which was brilliant.
What was your final project on?
My final year project was a field project based in Guildford studying brood parasitism in solitary digger wasps. We looked at whether mother wasps noticed if their nest had been parasitised by another female using the same burrow and replacing the egg - similar to how cuckoo birds do but within the same species. It was a great opportunity to study my favourite area of biology (social evolution and animal behaviour). I received an award for the best field studies project and learned that not all wasps sting you!
What skill sets did you gain during your degree that have equipped you for where you are today?
Very few undergraduate science courses focus on the importance of communicating your science. We were taught that even if we were a brilliant researcher without the ability to communicate our ideas effectively we wouldn’t make very good scientists! (Be that inside or outside the lab). From the very beginning we wrote essays about biology, learned how to form arguments based on evidence and evaluate theories. We made presentations to our peers and debated in tutorials. All of this put me in a good position to pursue a career in Science Communication.
What did you do after Oxford?
After taking a year to travel (and work in retail) I did a masters in Science Communication at Imperial College London which was a fantastic experience that gave me lots of practical skills.
What do you currently do, and what do you enjoy most about it?
Currently, I am a TV researcher for documentary programmes. I enjoy endeavouring to inspire a wider range of people about science and the natural world through creative visual ways.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply for biology at Oxford?
Make sure that you’re applying to Oxford for the right reasons - because you want to study a subject you’re genuinely passionate about, because you’re prepared to work hard (and play hard!) and because you want to gain practical experiences outside of the lecture hall. Don’t be put off by Oxford’s ‘reputation’ if you’re coming from a state school - you’ll meet whole variety of people who aren’t just you’re ‘typical’ Oxford student. If you do decide that studying biology at Oxford is right for you I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time! Take every opportunity you can!
Remember that your personal tutors will be there to support you and to try and have a work life balance - the experiences you have outside of the course will be just as important (and from my own personal experience the biology course seemed to have a much more reasonable work load than other sciences). If you’re enthusiastic about Biology and are always asking ‘why?’ things in the natural are how they are then this is the right place for you! Good luck!
Get in touch with Emma: @EJParkin1