Andrew OrkneyUndergraduate alumnus, St Edmund Hall 2013 and Postgraduate, St Hugh's 2017
What made you choose Earth Sciences?
I chose to apply to read Earth Sciences at University because I enjoyed a broad range of the physical sciences and was concerned about choosing a degree path that was too narrow to appeal to my interests. Before I came to University I took a gap year studying for a foundation diploma in Art and design and found that I enjoyed the geology club, run by my former A-level physics teacher, much more than the foundation course.
Why did you choose Oxford?
I applied to Oxford because of its prestigious reputation and tutorial system, which provides the opportunity to interrogate scientific claims, in small groups, with relevant experts.
What’s been the highlight of your time here so far?
The highlight of my degree thus far has been the opportunity to teach a class on palaeontological illustration at the Oxford Museum of Natural History, on behalf of the Oxford Geology Group.
What’s been the most unexpected aspect of life in Oxford/the course?
I was surprised that I cultivated an interest in the life sciences, especially palaeontology and biological evolution, because my interests before hand had been focused on the physical sciences. Even a cursory study of the fossil record will leave you with an impression of the exotic and alien character of the history of life on Earth.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to study here?
I think that it is important to keep up with developments in science and to exercise scepticism about bold claims or received wisdoms, rather than learn and repeat them by rote, because interviewers will be looking for candidates who demonstrate an aptitude for independent thought and reason. Such qualities will stand you in good stead in a scientific degree, no matter where you study and will be invaluable if you progress on to postgraduate study and scientific research.
What do you know now, that you wish you’d known earlier?
I wish that I had read more landmark scientific literature before commencing my studies, because technical scientific language can be tricky to understand at first, so it is advisable to get a head start.
What are your plans for the future?
My ambition is to produce published work in my fourth year project and to progress on to postgraduate study in view of becoming a researcher. I also hope to develop a sufficient grounding in palaeontology so that I can produce compelling reconstructed images of fossils as Gregory S Paul, Todd Marshall and John Gurche do.
2017 Update: Andrew is now studying for a DPhil with Dr Heather Bouman.