Alex in Paris!

Long-time Graduate Ambassador Alex Paulin-Booth is currently working on her History DPhil from Paris and will be sending us termly updates! Here is her update for Michaelmas term:

Alexandra Paulin-Booth

As a DPhil student in the History Faculty, I am required to undertake a significant amount of primary research in libraries and archives, examining newspapers, pamphlets, letters, and diaries and searching for information or ideas relevant to my thesis. For me, this means spending a year in Paris, as my work focuses on late nineteenth and early twentieth century France (intellectual and political history in particular). Having moved here in late August, I am still in the relatively early stages of my research, most of September having been taken up with flat hunting and other bits and pieces of organisation attendant to moving countries (French bureaucracy can be very complicated!). Thus far I have been working primarily in the (relatively) recently built Bibliothèque nationale de la France, a striking construction in the thirteenth arrondissement of the city, complete with four imposing towers to house books, and a ‘forest-garden’ evocative of Jurassic Park enclosed within the courtyard of the library.

photo from Pauline

This year I am lucky enough to benefit from a Charterhouse European Bursary and an Erasmus grant in addition to my AHRC Scholarship. These awards have been enormously helpful to me, particularly when it came to finding an apartment: accommodation in Paris is notoriously expensive and the search can be very competitive, with upwards of fifty prospective tenants viewing each apartment, so having these grants to supplement my ordinary scholarship was essential for finding a nice flat. After a slightly hair-raising search (I was offered several studios of just nine or 10m2, and another in which the bathroom and the kitchen were ‘in the same room’…eeewww!) I managed to find somewhere I was happy with.

Sebastian’s BP Internship

Sebastian Hirsz was fortunate enough to undertake an internship with BP while studying at Oxford and has offered to share his experiences with us here. Thanks Sebastian!
Sebastian Hirsz

• What did you study at University and did you enjoy it?
I studied Chemistry (MChem) and found it to be a very intellectually challenging course. It was great tackling difficult subjects like quantum mechanics. I pursued chemistry for my studies and career because I have always found it an exciting and fascinating subject that underpins technology… and technology affects everyone!

• What, in brief, did you do on your internship?
During the summer of 2011, I was a Chemistry Intern in the marine lubricants development team and my project was to investigate reducing friction losses in marine engines. Reducing friction results in greater engine efficiency and, considering the size of these engines and the duration they run for, even a tiny reduction in friction can result in a material benefit to the customer. I formulated, blended, and tested oils to investigate different variables that may reduce friction and then presented my findings to the marine team and wrote a report. The project was very interesting and even though I was only there for 11 weeks, I felt like a valuable member of the marine team.

• Did you receive any funding/were you paid by BP? If yes, what difference did this make?
I was paid £25,000 per annum pro rata which made a massive difference as it meant I could live close to work and save money for my final year at university – the student loan itself is nowhere near enough!

• How did you come to work at BP? Was it a direct result of your internship?
As my line manager was pleased with my performance over the internship, he recommended me to HR for a place at the graduate assessment centre to be considered for a permanent role. Having been successful at the assessment centre, I was offered a graduate position at BP for the following September (2012). Subsequent to this, a unique opportunity was offered to graduates starting on the BP Graduate programme in September 2012 to go on a 3 month secondment to LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games), prior to commencing the BP Graduate Scheme. This was an opportunity I seized right away and I was placed into the role of team leader which provided me with invaluable management experience that I can apply during my career.

• What do you do in your job now and do the skills you learned on your internship help you in your job?
Now I am a graduate technologist in fuels and lubricants development at BP. The graduate scheme here requires graduates to complete 3 x 9 month placements in different teams in the business area. I have completed my first placement in the engine testing facility where I was responsible for the test submission, development and data processing of various machines. I am now based in the energy and ancillaries lubricants team where I am working on the development of hydraulic and compressor oils and I also assist the mining technical services team. I am also responsible for a development programme for the motorsport team. The knowledge and skills I gained during my internship have really allowed me to hit the ground running here at BP as I have already gained some of the basic skills required from both a technical and project management point of view. The project management skills I gained over my internship even helped me in my final year of my degree when I managed my own surface chemistry research project.

Student Ambassador attends Santander event

The University of Oxford and Santander have a close partnership and Santander funds scholarships, travel awards and a whole host of other hugely beneficial causes at Oxford. Oxford is delighted to be extending its relationship with Santander for a further three years and last week held a ‘contract signing’ ceremony at LMH to celebrate our continued relationship, involving a lecture from the UK Head of Banking at Santander, followed by a delicious buffet lunch. The event was heavily attended by students and Student Ambassadors were invited to attend to represent the Development Office. Graduate Ambassador Ana Nacvalovaite came along and writes about it here…

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Ana Nacvalovaite and Steve Pateman

The Santander contract signing ceremony included a lecture and Q&A session from Steve Pateman, Head of UK Banking at Santander. Mr Pateman’s lecture on ‘creating a sustainable economic recovery’ offered an honest, experienced, first hand insight into the current issues facing the finance world today and the direct impact on decision making and daily lives of businesses in the UK.

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The contract signing

Mr. Pateman has worked with Santander since June 2008 and was appointed as a Member of the Santander UK Board in June 2011, becoming Executive Director, Head of UK Banking in March 2012.

Mr. Patemen, throughout his long career in the finance industry, has specialized in commercial banking, overseeing restructurings, financings, capital market and equity issues. His lecture offered an honest, experienced, first hand insight in to the current issues facing the finance world today and the direct impact on decision making in to the daily lives of businesses in the UK.

Having started his career at the age of sixteen, Steve Pateman shared his impressive and unique view of the banking industry and asked important questions on how the banking industry could aid the UK’s economic recovery. Discussing pressures of constantly changing financial regulations, political agendas and public perspective in banking, Mr Pateman focused on the importance of small and medium sized enterprises which he praised, and congratulated entrepreneurs for continuing to set up businesses and creating workplaces. Steve strongly believes in supporting and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit in the UK and stressed how important it is for banks to give people with determination and experience more chances and opportunities to finance and support their new ventures event if they had failed previously. This highlighted the differences between the popular positive approach to entrepreneurship in America and pessimistic views to ‘once a failure, always a failure’ in the UK. “At Santander we have recognized the need to change now and have decided to lead our own revolution.” Steve rightly pointed out that there is not enough shared information available about the costs behind supporting branches, financing businesses and maintaining the basics of relationship banking in the UK. He left with a clear message – a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, customers and financial service providers are dependent on each other, and only through an honest, respectful and responsible approach to banking can relationships be built, supported and remain sustainable for generations for come.

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The Vice-Chancellor celebrates with his new brolly!

From the US Navy to an Archaeology DPhil at Oxford…

Leee Overmann is in her first term as an Archaeology DPhil candidate and Clarendon Scholar at Keble College. Leee joins us from the United States after a 30 year career in the US Navy and Department of Defense. Here is her story:

Leee Overmann

“My decision to apply to Oxford was motivated by the quality of the education it represented, as well as the opportunity to study abroad. My field – cognitive archaeology, the interdisciplinary application of insights from the cognitive sciences to the archaeological record and the interaction of mind and material – is relatively new and still fairly small, but some of its most visionary thinkers are currently teaching at Oxford. Beyond access to some of the field’s foremost thinkers, Oxford offered an environment where interdisciplinary studies flourish because of the way in which lectures, talks, books, expertise, and other resources are made available. Oxford’s support of the social sciences, the broad category into which cognitive archaeology falls, is significant because it creates an optimal learning environment and ensures that educational resourcing is both available and accessible. Of course, the opportunity to live and travel in England was also very exciting and not to be missed!

As a Clarendon Scholar, I believe that receiving the Scholarship confers not just the opportunity for a first-class education, but an obligation as well. That obligation is more than striving to uphold the standards of academic performance that were an undoubted factor in selection; it is also an occasion to support, in a meaningful fashion, the program that made my selection possible. My academic career is my second: I served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years in the communications-electronics branch, and I worked for the U.S. Department of Defense for another four years, first as a contractor and then as a civil servant. I am especially grateful for the programmatic vision and commitment implied in selecting non-traditional students like me into a scholarship program; the chance to help support and perhaps even expand the programs that provide such funding is extremely gratifying.

Upon graduation from Oxford – though it seems a long way off from the perspective of the third week in the first term of a three year program! – I plan to continue my research, writing, and teaching. I have been fortunate, in my brief academic career, to have published or have in press 15 journal articles and book chapters, most in top-tier publications, and I have been hired as a lecturer at a small university in the United States; I anticipate that Oxford will broaden, deepen, and hone my abilities. With the expansion of insight and improvement of skills I expect to realize through the demands of my program, I expect to make substantial contributions to the theoretical development of cognitive archaeology, as well as its endeavor to understand how humanity became the cognitive species that it is.”