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Profile: Rebecca Colquhoun

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Rebecca Colquhoun (2020, DPhil in Earth Sciences), WCR Disability and Accessibility Officer

Rebecca is in their second year doing a DPhil in Earth Sciences at Univ. They are also WCR Disability and Accessibility Officer. This year, they were highly commended in student champion category in the Vice Chancellor’s Diversity Awards. 

Why did you choose to do a DPhil at Univ? What is the current direction of your research?
Ever since I found out what Earth Sciences was, I’ve been fascinated by earthquakes, so when it came to deciding what to do after I finished my undergrad I really wanted to continue to explore that. I decided to stay at Oxford because the NERC DTP lets you design your own project which meant that I could follow my research interests exactly. In my DPhil, I’m studying the physics of the start of earthquakes – I want to know whether big and small earthquakes start the same. This is interesting scientifically but I’m also motivated from a societal standpoint as it could be useful in earthquake early warning systems.

Univ is great as an Earth Scientist as there are just so many of us! This means that there is a great sense of community amongst the graduate students and between undergraduates, graduates and faculty. I am also an Oxford-Radcliffe scholar at Univ, which alongside funding from NERC means I am fortunate to be fully funded, and I’m really grateful for the anonymous donors who fund the scholarships.

A person with a scientific posterHow do you think you have changed since walking through Univ’s doors for the first time?
I think I’ve got better at setting boundaries, whether that be with people or between life and work. Part of that has naturally come from not living in college accommodation for the first time, and the return to working in the office. I’ve been loving the separation that gives.

What do you do outside of your studies? 
I’d characterise the activities I do outside of my DPhil as trying to make the university and science a better place. I’m involved in lots of committees within the university and my department, representing graduate students and doing EEDI work. For instance I co-ran an anti-racism group in my department, which aimed to help members of the department educate themselves on what it means to be anti-racist and to identify actions the department could take. I was delighted to have this, and my EEDI work recognised a few weeks ago, when I was highly commended in the student champion section of the VC Diversity Awards.A person with two friends at Christmas formal in hall, standing in front of a Christmas tree

I’m also part of the WCR committee here at Univ, as the Disabled Students rep. This role is a really nice follow on from my involvement in the Oxford SU Disabled Students Campaign as an undergraduate. I’m trying to build some community amongst disabled students in the college, and to provide advice and signposting where necessary.

Do you have any advice for current or prospective students?
Do things you love! That’s why I’m doing a DPhil because I love research and finding out more about how earthquakes work. It’s also why I’m constantly striving to keep a balance with my activism, because I love doing that too, and I’m really passionate about the difference I can make.

A person smiling wearing a red jacket in front of snow-covered Radcliffe CameraWhat does Pride Month mean to you?
To me, pride is all about celebrating authenticity and the massive diversity in identity and expression of gender and sexuality. It’s also about commemorating the past and making sure we know our queer history. As Martha P. Johnson said, “You never completely have your rights, one person, until you all have your rights.” and I think it’s really important that we keep fighting for a more equitable future and against the erosion of our rights and to make sure that along the way we fight for everyone’s rights, especially those with less privilege than ourselves.

This year, I’ve really been enjoying seeking LGBTQIA+ community in a variety of ways, including through my department’s LGBTQIA+ affinity group which I helped set up earlier in the year. The group crosses a lot of the boundaries that the hierarchical structures of academia can often impose, and I’ve been loving it!

Describe Univ in three words.
Open-minded, Collaborative, Community,

Published: 20 June 2022

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