My Journey to Oxford Uni

By Asia Hoile

@bioblogicalphd <- blog about being a first generation DPhil Student at Oxford!

If you don't get into Oxford this year for undergrad, let this post show you, your dream doesn't have to stop there!

Although I’d known for a while that I wanted to pursue a PhD, I never imagined myself at Oxford! Having applied to Oxford for undergraduate and being rejected I was reluctant to apply again.

From a young age I’ve been fascinated with the natural world and loved animals. Following my GCSE results my school encouraged me to look into courses such as medicine and veterinary science. I found these options interesting but felt that something was missing. I had great difficulty whilst trying to choose a degree subject that would encapsulate the breadth of my scientific interests. During the summer between year 12 and 13 I was offered the opportunity to complete a Nuffield research placement at Cardiff University. During this period I investigated the effects of earthquakes on landslide causation in China. Working with the team allowed me to meet like-minded peers and resulted in me presenting my work at the final of UK young scientist of the year. I knew from this moment that I wanted to pursue a career in scientific research.

I applied for a mix of biology and geology undergraduate courses as I was still unsure which field I wanted to study. One of my options was biological sciences at Oxford. Although I was invited to interview, I did not receive an offer. I was disappointed but decided it wasn’t meant to be and instead firmed a geology course at Birmingham. Despite this, on results day I released myself into clearing and switched courses to study MSci biology and marine biology at the University of Southampton. The moment I started my course I knew it was the right choice for me. Studying a joint-honours allowed me to pursue a variety of fields and helped me to narrow my interests.

During my third year I decided to apply to Oxford’s UNIQ+ graduate access scheme and was offered a place. I was inspired by the stories of professors about their respective journeys to Oxford and started to believe that this may be the University for me. After listening to presentations from current students I applied to the Oxford BBSRC Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership. This course is a 4-year DPhil which involves a semester of taught modules such as maths, programming, and statistics, followed by two 12-week lab rotations. During the DPhil project there is also a requirement to pursue a 12-week placement to gain experience in a professional environment such as in industry or science communication. I felt that the variety and training involved in this course was perfect for my interests and decided to apply.

In January 2021 I was invited to interview for the programme and was offered a place with a full scholarship from the BBSRC a few days later. I couldn’t believe it. As a first-generation student I never believed I’d be offered to study a DPhil at Oxford but here I am! My advice would be that it’s always worth applying as you’ll never know if you don’t try!