At our ORACLE speaker event yesterday, students were treated to a trio of impressive speakers, each one a leader in their respective, ground-breaking fields.
First up was James Bradley, founder of digital media and marketing company We Love Social, which works with large brands and corporations such as Carluccio’s, Bookatable and Huel, raising their online profiles through guerrilla-style video campaigning on platforms such as Facebook Live and Youtube. James shared that his success was down to “being aware of the opportunity, and seeing the time to create an opportunity”. In the Q&A session, students offered their perspective as members of that magic younger generation whose every wish and whim companies like James’ are eager to track – for example, one student pointed James towards a newer site, Twitch, where 45 million people gather every month to watch videos and game online.
Skipper and ocean advocate Emily Penn had students transfixed by tales of her adventures, which started when she was an Architecture undergraduate intent on visiting the Shanghai eco-city by low-emission transport. This took her across land and sea by train, camel, horse and boat. She decided that this was the way to travel, slowly, taking in the subtle transitions of climate, culture, and terrain. When she landed her first job in Australia after graduation, she was looking at quite a trek. So, of course, she applied for a temporary job on Earthrace, a multi-purpose vessel built to assist countries with marine conservation and research, planning to work her way across the world this way. Emily spent the next 923 days on Earthrace, forgetting Australia and Architecture, travelling from land to land educating people about sustainability and ocean conservation. Since then, Emily has founded two organisations, Pangaea Exploration, which conducts at-sea research into plastic pollution and its effects, and EXXpedition, which leads women-only voyages to investigate the relationship between plastic pollution and women’s health. She closed her speech with the reminder to students that the problems at sea begin and need to end on land, with people making real changes in their behaviour.
To round off the event, Kyle Grant, a PhD student in Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford, spoke about his research. In collaboration with NASA, Kyle’s work concentrates on growing edible plants in ‘strange’ and ‘difficult’ environments – namely, the surface of Mars. Joking that Ridley Scott’s science-fiction drama, ‘The Martian’, in which Matt Damon’s character, stranded alone on Mars, sets about using his botany skills to grow food, is based on him, Kyle informed us that potatoes are currently the main focus of his efforts, as their properties have been identified as most suitable for adaptation to Martian soil. Food for thought indeed.