Chris first came to the department to study the MSc in Child Development and Education and wanted to extend her knowledge of secondary school teaching with knowledge of the development of children aged 0-11. Her dissertation on physical activity and learning behaviour in primary schools led her to apply for the DPhil.

Christina Heemskerk, Doctoral student

What has your degree taught you most?

Perseverance, analytical thinking, and to work around any obstacles that may crop up unexpectedly.

Why do you think it’s important to study education?

I believe education – and getting education right for each child or person – can help to improve quality of life throughout the individual’s lifespan. So much is still unknown about how to make sure each person gets the best out of the education system, so research into all the various aspects of education is essential.

What do you most value about the teaching at the department?

The personal aspect of the department; the staff know each person and they will try to make the lectures applicable to our individual research interests and needs.

How do you get involved in other research activities within the department and what are they?

There are lots of different seminars and focus group meetings happening every week throughout term time. Just go and attend them when you can to be part of it all, and ask the person who is convening if you would like to become more involved with a certain research group.

What’s your favourite thing about studying at the department?

Definitely the people! It is impossible to be at the department and not have a smile on your face as you bump into and chat to all the lovely staff and fellow students. The support is great, my supervisors have been amazing at motivating me through the hard parts of the research process. At the same time, there is always somebody around to challenge your thinking and help you move forward.

What advice would you give to new postgraduate students on how they can get involved in the department community?

The weekly coffee morning is a great way to meet people, as are the seminars and socials that take place throughout the term.

What further opportunities have you gained so far through your degree?

I have made connections with other researchers at universities throughout the UK as well as abroad.

What’s the community like at the department?

Everyone in the department is keen to help each other – both staff and students amongst each other. The Education Library is a great place, with amazingly helpful staff. And this friendly and helpful attitude is not limited to just work-related support. Some of my best friends are students in other years who have the same supervisor as myself, and through the department I have acquired a super running buddy who has helped me to improve my half marathon time.

Did you enjoy the College experience?

College is amazing and certainly adds to the experience. It provides a community of students from various departments, and a support network of academics who know what you are going through, but who can remain objective as they are not at your department. My college gave me the opportunity to present my work to a mixed audience – a great way to learn to relate to people outside of your own field! Also, the formal dinners, social events, and sports make a huge difference to the overall experience of studying at Oxford.  I am a member of my college rowing club, and racing in the annual bumps is the most fun I have ever had doing sports.