Talking science: find out what excites our students and fellows about science at Wadham

Ben Balmford (2013, Biology)

"From a young age I was determined to complete a biology degree at university – it is, and has always been, my passion.

Biology is a subject which I feel is of huge significance in understanding the environment around us, what led to the world being like it is now, and how, in the future, we will still be able to provide for the population without catastrophic loss of biodiversity.”

Andrew D Farmery, Fellow and Tutor in Medicine and Physiology.

"For more than 400 years, Oxford has been at the centre of scientific scholarship.  This rich tradition of enquiry has continued to the present day.  What sets Wadham out as a particularly special place is its provision of a wider education in science, rather than a mere training in it.  Students are taught predominantly how to think, to challenge orthodoxy and to ask the right questions, in much the same way as were their venerable forbears. Physiology is about understanding the functional engineering of living systems, and is key to the study of Medicine.

Oxford is one of the few remaining medical schools in the UK which still focuses on and prizes scholarship in the fundamental sciences underpinning Medicine.  Wadham is unique in that all of its Medical Tutors and Lecturers, as well as being researchers, are also practising clinicians, so they are well placed to communicate the relevance of what they teach. My research blends basic science and clinical practice and is 'translational' in that it aims to take work from the bench to the bedside.  I work on developing and implementing novel implantable sensors, and mathematical models to aid diagnosis and to direct therapy in critically ill patients. 

Undergraduate and graduate students who join my lab for short or longer projects appreciate the directness and relevance of what they do to benefit patients and society."

Lia Orlando (2012, Medicine)

“I chose medicine first and foremost because I find the subject fascinating: I always loved studying the human body at school and couldn't really imagine myself doing anything else. I chose Oxford predominantly because of the course structure; first we are taught to become great scientists, and then we are given the opportunity to apply this knowledge in a hospital setting.

Every term there is at least one Wadham Medical Society event to get to know tutors and people from other years on a personal level. On top of vast intelligence, it's humbling to have such a tight-knit, friendly medical community at our college. Another perk of studying medicine at Wadham is that the faculty building is only a five minute walk from college!”

Martin Bureau, Tutorial Fellow in Physics, University Lecturer in Astrophysics

"The excitement of studying science comes from the possibility to understand the world around us from basic principles. The breadth of subjects present across Oxford and Wadham, coupled with the high quality of the people and facilities, implies that one is involved in pushing the boundaries of knowledge on a daily basis. Astrophysics tackles the biggest questions, both figuratively and literally.

Where do we come from? How did planets, stars and galaxies assemble? Answering these questions not only allows us to understand our place in the universe, but it pushes our innate need to explore beyond the confines of our own planet. Understanding galaxies may appear pointless, but the skills and tools developed do have multiple down-to-earth applications.

And astronomy is uniquely placed to attract and inspire the next generation of scientists, so important for our continued material well being."

Benjamin Aucott (2010, Chemistry)

"The Part II year in Oxford Chemistry is a unique opportunity to pursue research full-time for the entire final year of the course.


Having spent the first three years of the degree building up enough knowledge to enter research, we are rewarded with the opportunity to apply this knowledge to problems at the cutting edge of science. My project is concerned with the study of biological catalysts known as hydrogenases. Hydrogenases are found in bacteria, where they split hydrogen into protons and electrons. This reaction is extremely useful and has a variety of applications in technology - hydrogenases use cheap metals like nickel and iron in their structures, whilst the best catalysts mankind has come up with use extremely expensive platinum.

My project looks to test the currently suggested theories as why some hydrogenases are able to work in the presence of oxygen whilst others are not. If we can understand this, we may be able to make our own catalysts inspired by hydrogenases that work better in air, and this could play an important part in a future hydrogen economy. Being the first person ever to carry out a new experiment, interpret the results, and understand something at the forefront of your field is incredibly rewarding. This year has inspired me to stay in research after my MChem."

Mark Thompson, Lecturer in Orthopaedic Biomechanics, Tutor in Engineering

"The importance of Hooke's law (originally published in 1678 as ceiiinosssttuv, an anagram of Ut tensio, sic vis - "As the extension, so the force") as a foundation for engineering and innovation cannot be overstated.

Engineers now at Wadham are proud to be following in Hooke's footsteps, applying mechanical analysis to improve the diagnosis and treatment of painful, disabling and sometimes fatal diseases."

Chris Ricketts (2013, Physics)

"The Physics course at Wadham is always challenging but is equally extremely rewarding. I chose to apply here partly for the excellent teaching and facilities, but also to be surrounded by others who have a similar passion for physics as I do.

One of the best things about being at Wadham in my experience is having that smaller group of eight or so physicists in my year that I can always turn to for help to tackle a tricky problem."

Giulia Zanderighi, Fellow and Tutor in Physics

“It makes such a difference in one's life to spend your days working on what you really like. For me this is trying to understand what we observe in nature, facing small challenges every day, enjoying the little satisfaction of having had a smart idea, of having understood what you couldn't explain yesterday.

Not everybody likes mathematics, physics or sciences. But an education in sciences can open the door to do what you really want."

Sean Jamshidi (2012, Mathematics)

"After 2 years studying maths here, I can safely say there is no better place in the country to do it.


There are such a wide range of modules on offer, from fluid dynamics to topology to the history of maths, all taught in the brand new Wiles building, less than 10 minute walk from Wadham. The maths tutors here are all very friendly and supportive, and have been invaluable in helping me through the harder parts of the course.

The focus on problem solving and adapting ideas has taught me how to work efficiently and make the best use of the knowledge available, and has encouraged me to take a real interest in why things work, rather than just parrot-fashion memorising of theorems and proofs. This fosters a deeper understanding of how the world works, especially on the applied side of the subject, and will hopefully continue to develop into areas of maths which are used in all walks of life today, and form a vital part of our world. "

Cedric Tan, Lecturer in Biology

"Wadham is a very progressive college that has enabled me to utilize innovative methods of teaching and outreach. From games in the classroom to arts as a platform for dissemination of science, this College provides numerous opportunities for creativity and fun in education. Of course, not to mention its scenic gardens and conducive environment for study and the endless social events for making friends and enjoying the journey of studying in Oxford.

My specific areas of study are conservation biology, educational methods and science outreach. Given the rapid growth of the human population and increased usage of natural resources, my studies contribute towards creating awareness of conservation issues, with the broader objective of mitigating human-wildlife conflict."

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