Scholars tell their stories

  • May 24, 2012
Scholars tell their stories

Four scholars will talk about their lives outside academe at an event in May.

A trip in a dugout canoe to investigate the impact of fishing on a Pacific ecosystem, crossing country and subject borders, riding the rails with a “hobo” and volunteering at the Olympics all form part of an evening of Gates Cambridge Scholars Stories.

The Scholar Stories session takes place at 7pm on 16th May in the Gates Room.

Those taking part include Alex Vail [2010], who is doing a PhD in Zoology. His talk is entitled ‘Being a Sea Gypsy: three mates, a dugout canoe, and not enough fish in the sea.’
It tells the tail of his trip to the Togean Islands in a dugout canoe where he and two friends planned to live like the Bajo or Sea Gypsies of the coral triangle in South East Asia, who have lived nomadic subsistence lifestyles on coral reefs for centuries. It didn’t all go to plan. They nearly sank on their first day and crocodile-inhabited mangroves more often surrounded the islands than beaches. Most disturbingly, says Alex, the locals had eaten all the big fish.

Alexandra Kamins [2009], who is doing a PhD in Veterinary Science, will talk about how her work on pathogens that don’t follow the normal host-specificity boundaries that centuries of “diseases of civilisation” like measles had taught us to expect corresponds to her own life experience. She says: “My world views have been largely shaped by jumping country and cultural boundaries, my spirituality by bridging the boundaries between science and religion/philosophy. As I tried to break out from the boundaries I had accumulated around me, I ended up feeling incredibly lost, almost as if I were dissipating – I was undefined without boundaries.”

She says the Gates community has helped her realise that the boundaries are only “a convenient way to help us organise the world” and have freed her up to create her own boundaries that work for her.

Orian Welling [2009], who is doing a PhD in Engineering, will talk about “Meat Pan”, a “hobo” [homeless man]who was his closest friend when he was growing up and about one summer which he spent riding the rails with him.

Julia Fan Li [2008], who is also doing a PhD in Engineering, will talk about her third stint at the Olympics. Describing herself as a sports fanatic, she has volunteered in the Beijing Games, in Vancouver/Whistler 2010 where she worked in press operations and her upcoming stint with the anti-doping team in London 2012.

Picture credit: Salvatore Vuono and www.freedigitalphotos.net

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