11 episodes

Welcome to We are the University, a podcast which opens a window on to the people that make Cambridge University unique. Students, archivists, professors, alumni: all have a story to share.

We Are The University University of Cambridge

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0, 2 Ratings

Welcome to We are the University, a podcast which opens a window on to the people that make Cambridge University unique. Students, archivists, professors, alumni: all have a story to share.

    The social media professional who's passionate about helping his community - Ibrahim Rahman

    The social media professional who's passionate about helping his community - Ibrahim Rahman

    In this episode we talk to Ibrahim Rahman about how he’s been raising money for Cambridge City foodbank and helping Muslim families struggling with hardships during the pandemic.
    We also talk about his journey from Wimbledon to the social media team at the university, and how he’s been using his expertise to help Cambridge Central Mosque engage with the community during lockdown.

    • 25 min
    How building cars is a bit like studying the brain - Nicole Horst

    How building cars is a bit like studying the brain - Nicole Horst

    We talk to Nicole Horst about her journey from the body shop of a car manufacturing plant to a research project studying obsessive compulsive disorder, and about finding her true passion for advocacy and supporting other young researchers.
    As this is our first episode recorded remotely during the coronavirus lockdown, we also talk about her role in a volunteering project that’s supporting NHS workers with vital protective equipment.
    To find out more about donating PPE supplies, contact covid-response@cam.ac.uk.

    • 34 min
    The polar explorer using Grime to break the ice - Prem Gill

    The polar explorer using Grime to break the ice - Prem Gill

    It’s not often someone compares the voices of seals to the sounds of space set to a Grime beat. But when he’s not monitoring seals from space, PhD student Prem Gill is using ‘Seal Grime’ as one way to encourage people from a wide range of backgrounds to take up polar science.
    My PhD research, which is a joint project with the Scott Polar Research Institute, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and World Wildlife Fund, uses satellite images to study Antarctic seals. By monitoring the seals, we can gain a greater understanding of their habitat preferences and population trends. Through this analysis we can learn more about the health of the entire Antarctic ecosystem.
    This is crucial because what happens in the polar regions, effects the whole world. The Arctic and Antarctica act like a thermostat for the planet. If you can monitor what's going on in these areas, you can get an idea of what's going on globally, which has huge implications for assessing the effects of climate change.
    What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘polar scientist’? A sepia-tinted photograph of a Victorian explorer? A modern-day researcher in a brightly coloured padded jacket and sunglasses? You probably wouldn’t picture someone who looks like me. I’m first?-generation British-Indian working class.
    In the 200 years since Antarctica was first discovered, there have been huge strides in terms of women in polar science. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for people from ethnic minority backgrounds. I’m working to change that.
    I know from experience that a number of factors can stand in the way of young people like me from pursuing a career in something like polar science– this could be cultural expectations, financial pressures or quite simply not having role models that look like you. 

    • 32 min
    The Student Working to Make Education Accessible to Everyone- Shadab Ahmed

    The Student Working to Make Education Accessible to Everyone- Shadab Ahmed

    Final-year chemist Shadab Ahmed reflects on his sabbatical year as Cambridge University Student Union Access and Funding Officer, the importance of role models, and how increasing diversity within universities could be the start of seeing real change in society as a whole.
    https://www.cam.ac.uk/thiscambridgelife/shadabahmed (https://www.cam.ac.uk/thiscambridgelife/shadabahmed)
    Final-year chemist Shadab Ahmed reflects on his sabbatical year as CUSU Access and Funding Officer, the importance of role models, and how increasing diversity within universities could be the start of seeing real change in society as a whole. This year I’m returning to Cambridge to complete the final year of my degree. I’ve been at Cambridge for four years now, three as a Chemistry undergraduate and one as the Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) Access and Funding Officer.
    I’ve been involved in access work ever since I received my offer from Cambridge. Before I even started here, I took part in an open day at Christ's talking about my experiences of applying to Cambridge. As a fresher I helped with mentoring and summer schools. Later I became the student undergraduate Access Officer for Christ’s College. 
    Access work not only changes the lives of individuals for the better but also begins to address the inequalities in society as a whole. I’ve seen first-hand how people’s lives can take such different directions depending on the support and opportunities they are given.
    It’s been amazing to see school pupils from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds coming right through the summer school scheme and begin here as students. Now they’re carrying on the cycle by mentoring other young people from similar backgrounds. It’s so important for young people to see students like themselves in university or similar spaces.
    There’s lots of different mentoring schemes, which cover every aspect of the application process through to starting university as a fresher. Mentors might help with schoolwork to make sure students don’t miss out on entry grades or simply be someone who can give advice and support.
    Although I didn’t have a mentor myself, what made all the difference for me was the encouragement of my teachers. However, I know from experience that schools can be very different, and some don’t have the resources to help students with applications. 
    Nobody should miss out on university because their school’s funding has been cut. I think it's important that we can bridge the gap wherever we can to ensure that everyone who does want to make a strong application to University can get that chance to do so.
    With all the good access work going on here, it's really discouraging to see the media pushing a negative narrative. They always say that Cambridge is for the likes of the white middle-class and the elite. This type of coverage is really harmful as it dissuades people from applying.
    Having figureheads like Stormzy for our access work is great. It's been so powerful to see black students saying: “we belong and thrive here.” Hopefully, there will be a shift towards this sort of positive perception – towards thinking that Cambridge is a place for all of us. Going forward I’d like to see greater diversity of support, especially from other ethnic minority groups, such as Bangladeshi and Pakistani advocates.
    Universities have a responsibility to diversify our intake. The makeup of university populations means that certain groups of people often dominate influential spheres of work: government, media, journalism, leading companies. It’s important to make sure these professions are representative of the UK population.
    Shifting the narrative is essential. We need young people from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds to see themselves as worthy to achieve these top positions. If there is nobody like them in these r

    • 22 min
    The Neuroscientist Working To Prevent Suicide In Teenagers - Anne - Laura Van Harmelen

    The Neuroscientist Working To Prevent Suicide In Teenagers - Anne - Laura Van Harmelen

    We talk to Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen, a neuroscientist, who became fascinated by the brain as a teenager, after her dad gave her a copy of Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Today she’s investigating adversity and resilience and is part of an international collaboration working to understand, and ultimately prevent, suicidal thoughts and behaviours in teenagers.
    www.riskandresiliencegroup.uk/ (https://gate.sc/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.riskandresiliencegroup.uk%2F&token=99116c-1-1573484443072)
    twitter.com/ProjectHOPES (https://gate.sc/?url=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FProjectHOPES&token=4ba882-1-1573484443072)
    twitter.com/DrAnneLaura (https://gate.sc/?url=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FDrAnneLaura&token=4b9224-1-1573484443072)

    • 28 min
    The Doctor Using Smartphones to Save Lives in War Zones - Waheed Arian

    The Doctor Using Smartphones to Save Lives in War Zones - Waheed Arian

    Having survived the civil war in Afghanistan, Waheed Arian arrived alone in the UK aged 15. He went on to study medicine at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Today he’s using smartphones and volunteer specialists to provide life-saving medical advice to doctors working in areas of conflict.www.cam.ac.uk/thiscambridgelife/waheedarian (https://gate.sc/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cam.ac.uk%2Fthiscambridgelife%2Fwaheedarian&token=be4f66-1-1573485071751)
    My father knew we had only minutes before the bombs reached us. He grabbed me and ran to a nearby village. There he found a house and inside a bread oven in which he hid me. I remember the billowing dust, coming from every direction.
    I was five years old and we were escaping the conflict in Afghanistan. The Khyber Pass and Torkham border were closed and so we were taking the Tari Mangal route to Pakistan. We travelled in a caravan of 20 to 25 families, the donkeys and horses tied together, carrying the women and children. We had some oiled bread and a little sugar to eat throughout the whole journey.
    For safety we travelled at night, with only the moonlight to see by. As the sun rose, we would find places to hide until we could continue our journey. It took us seven days to reach the refugee camp. Over the course of that week we were attacked three times by air and tanks.
    We felt safe at the refugee camp in Peshawar Pakistan, but the conditions were very poor. Our family of ten lived in one room. We had a few cushions and a fan – but still the temperature reached highs of 45 degrees. Within a few days of arriving we contracted malaria and three months later I caught tuberculosis (TB).
    I decided I wanted to become a doctor when I was recovering from TB. The doctor who was treating me was always smiling despite the conditions of the camp. I didn’t have any toys so he gave me an old stethoscope to play with. He also gave me a well-thumbed medical text book which I treasured.
    We stayed at the camp for three years before returning to Kabul, my home town. The Soviet troops had left but the civil war continued. Each day we hid in the cellars as the rockets, shells and bombs fell. War became normal.


    Waheed as a child. Credit: Andrew Price/ View Finder Pictures
    I learnt English by tuning into the BBC World Service, after my father had finished listening to the radio, hoping for some good news. The schools were closed so I taught myself using books brought off the street from people trying to make a little extra money to pay for food. My parents, neither of whom had been to school, knew there was no future for me in Afghanistan, so at 15 years old they sent me to the UK.
    I arrived in London, alone, with $100 in my pocket. I felt daunted but also happy and excited. For the first time in my life I was safe, and ahead of me lay so many opportunities. For the first week I stayed with a family friend on Portobello Road; I then moved into a flat with other refugees.
    I was told I should stick to labour work – perhaps working in a chicken shop or becoming a taxi driver. These are hardworking jobs, and I admire people doing them, but my dream was to become a doctor. So I took a job on Edgware Road as a salesman, found some GCSE books and studied every spare moment. I even hid my books under the counter so I could read them when the shop was quiet. I persuaded a local college to allow me to take an assessment to see if I could study for A levels. I passed - just.
    I wanted to prove a point so I took five AS levels. I completed all five AS subjects achieving A grades. In my second year, I completed three A levels achieving A grades. I needed to continue working while I was studying so I had to enrol at three different colleges, taking classes during the day as well as in the evenings.
    I met someone who had just graduated from Cambridge and he suggested I should apply too. I was not convinced, b

    • 39 min

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