by Liliana Baltra

Prof. Rawlins, a distinguished neuroscientist from the University of Oxford, visited Oxford alumni in Mexico in 2017 and 2018. The first time he met us he gave a lecture at the Ambassador's residence on the functioning and mysteries of the brain that neuroscience has unveiled for us.

Prof. Rawlins has spent years researching the  hippocampus, a brain structure embedded deep in the temporal lobe of each cerebral cortex, which is especially vulnerable to damage at early stages of Alzheimer's disease. On that occasion, Prof. Rawlins’ lecture centered on the brain damage associated with the disease.

He later paid us a visit as Pro-Vice Chancellor of Development and External Affairs and we organized a social gathering with drinks for him at Piso 51 at Torre Mayor, so that he could enjoy the wonderful view of the city at twilight from up high. I personally had a chance to talk to him and was delighted to learn that my best English friend’s only son had been his student at Oxford!

Prof. Rawlins is now based in Hong Kong, totally entranced with learning Chinese culture. He is the Master of Morningside College, part of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). From there he sends us the following message:

‘Loneliness, stress, anxiety and depression help to cause shrinkage in the hippocampus. Happiness and exercise, on the other hand, help keep it plump. The secrets of the brain are beginning to be unravelled little by little, which will keep neuroscientists fascinated for a long time to come.’
Photo: Newsweek
By Liliana Baltra

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was born in 1832 and died in 1898. Having studied at Christ Church College, Oxford, later he became a mathematics lecturer at Oxford. He was also a minister of the Anglican Church and is very famous for his books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking- Glass (1872) that we all have probably read.
What is less known is that he had a mentor: George MacDonald.

MacDonald studied at the University of Aberdeen and then moved to London to study at Highbury College.

He was a writer and a pastor of a Congregational Church in Arundel and then in Manchester. He used to write fairy tales for his children. Lewis Carroll who was also a well- known photographer took some pictures of MacDonald’s children. Knowing that he was a writer of stories for children, Carroll, who was a bit shy, decided to show him his Alice’s Adventures. MacDonald read the story to his own children who were fascinated with Alice and all the wonderful characters in the story. As a result of that, MacDonald encouraged him to publish it.

George MacDonald also inspired other authors of fantastic stories like C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien.

Our 'Featured Alumni' section aims to showcase Oxford Alumni based in Mexico. By doing so, we promote a more dynamic alumni community, socially and professionally.

College: St. Peters College

Matriculation Year: 2018

Degree: MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management

Favorite restaurant in Oxford: This is a hard one! I guess it depended on the mood I was in. For example, if I wanted something casual and cozy, I would go to the White Rabbit. Their pizza is great, that's why it's always crowded! If I was in the mood of something spicy then I would go to Old Tom (St Aldates Street) or Sasi Thai at the Covered Market. Their Thai food is really good and not too pricey! If I wanted something fresh and flavourful I would go to Branca or Alpha Bar at the Covered Market. I lived in the Jericho area, where my favorite pubs are: The Victoria and The Jericho Tavern. It can't go wrong with pub food and a pint of beer!

Favourite college: Also a hard one. Each college has its own vibe and personality. I enjoyed every College I had the opportunity to visit, but if I would have to choose one I would go with the one I know the most and was part of: St. Peters. Their parties are by far the best ones!

What was your favorite elective and why?
I only had two electives, and if I would go immediately with the subject I'm most passionate about, I would say Marine Ecosystems, their Conservation, and Management, but actually, I think my favorite one was the one that challenged me the most, Environmental Governance. One of the reasons why I chose Oxford and the School of Geography and the Environment was that I wanted to learn how to incorporate social sciences into biodiversity conservation and management, and the Environmental Governance elective was exactly about that. I felt totally out of my comfort zone but I still enjoyed it and had the chance to look at the natural world through a different lens. I'm very grateful for that.

What surprised you the most about the "Oxford Experience"?
What surprised me the most was the access we had as students to a vast amount of information and knowledge. We could go to any conference we wanted and hear the latest research by top scientists in the world. I also felt proud of being part of a University that persisted and thrived in uncertain and difficult situations. Oxford is one of the oldest Universities in the world and its buildings reflect that. Every time I went to the Taylorian, the Radcliffe Camera or any of the old buildings, I felt like I was part of something bigger, and that's something you don't experience very often.

How do you plan to use your degree to make the world a better place? I plan to continue working and learning from others who are as passionate about conservation as I am. I have to say, working in this field is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding. One of my end goals is to make my home country (Mexico) a place where biodiversity and conservation are prioritized, and where people, irrespective of their backgrounds, value nature as much as I do.

What advice would you give to prospective Oxford students?

I have five tips to make the most out of the "Oxford Experience":

  1. Enjoy and try not to stress too much! Studying at Oxford means feeling constantly under pressure and rushed. Remember that you are lucky to be sitting where you are and that you need to make the most of your time there. My time at Oxford went by so fast that I wish I had made the time to enjoy it more. 
  2. Don't be shy! I consider myself a little bit of an introvert, so it was hard for me to meet new people all the time. There were times I felt exhausted just by speaking. If English is not your native language, the first weeks are hard, but don't worry, it gets better. If you are like me, try to open yourself to meeting new people and make the most out of the social life in Oxford.
  3. Make good friends. Being at Oxford means being away from home, family, and friends, but that doesn't mean you can't make new, long-lasting friends. Make sure to have a good support system while you're in Oxford, friends will make everything much sweeter and smoother! 
  4. Build your network. Oxford is a great place to build your professional network. Get involved in all the activities that might help you meet people who work in your field. Most importantly, keep the momentum going! Don't stop building your network once you finish your program. Keep in touch with your contacts and let them know you are still around.
  5. Last but not least, work hard. It might sound like an obvious thing to do, but sometimes we take this for granted. We are very privileged to be able to study and do what we love, even more so to study at Oxford. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many people. One of the ways we can give something in return is to work hard. 
By Liliana Baltra 

Sir Raymond Carr (1919- 2015), Warden of St. Antony’s College from 1968 to 1987, was a remarkable man many of us Antonians met. He was well known as a historian of Spain. He was honored with the Gran Cross of the order of Alfonso X El Sabio, and the order of Infante Don Henrique.

Educated at Christ Church, Oxford, went on to lecture at University College of London in 1945. He was a Fellow of All Souls an of New College before becoming Director of the Latin American Centre at St. Antony’s.

An excellent biography of this distinguished professor and historian was written by Mª. Jesús González Hernández, Raymond Carr: La curiosidad del Zorro.

The book is about Sir Raymond, but it is an excellent portrait of intellectual life in Oxford, especially in the years after World War II. The book is only available in Spanish (Galaxia Gutenberg, Círculo de Lectores, Barcelona, 2015).

Photo: The Guardian

By Liliana Baltra 

Professor Diego Sánchez- Ancochea, St. Antony’s College, then Associate Professor in the Political Economy of Latin America and now Professor of the Political Economy of Development visited us three years ago.

Diego was here to encourage Mexican students to attend the Latin American Centre and the University of Oxford more generally. We had drinks and a great gathering at Piso 51 with him and Professor Timothy Power.

He was then Director of the Latin American Centre at St Antony’s College, a position he held until 2018. Professor Diego Sánchez-Ancochea was nominated Head of the Oxford Department of International Development after spending a leave of absence at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana working on a new book on the lessons that Latin America can provide to the rest of the world.

Photo: Kellog Institute 
By Liliana Baltra 

Carfax Tower is the only remnant of the earliest parish City Church. Its antiquity is confirmed by the discovery of some Anglo Saxon coins beneath the church nave.

The coins, now at the Ashmolean Museum, belong to the period of Edward the Elder and Athelstan and can be dated from very few years after the first historic mention of Oxford.

After the demolition of the church the Tower and the clock were carefully repaired and restored. The two quaint figures, which originally struck the quarters of the hour in the old church bells, were replaced by exact replicas in 1937.