Shirin Ermis

shirin profile

St Cross Scholarship for a DPhil in Environmental Research

Joining us from: Imperial College London

DPhil Environmental Research (NERC DTP) (2022)

I am a Physicist by training. Both my bachelor’s degree as well as my masters were in Physics. I completed those in Heidelberg (Germany) and at Imperial College respectively. Often, when I tell people I studied Physics they react with a bored face, and in many aspects, I would probably do the same. I have however always had a deep fascination for extreme weather events like heat waves and storms which happen to include a lot of really cool Physics.  

Part of my fascination for climate science and predictability questions probably comes from the film “The Day after Tomorrow” which is a very dramatic (and not very accurate) representation of the repercussions after a Gulf Stream shutdown. As a teenager, I found it very impactful to see the climate scientist give actionable advice to people in a dangerous situation. Arguably, I could have chosen a better film to be inspired by though!

My project will analyse how extreme events like mid-latitude storms change with climate change. Researchers are already pretty good at estimating how much more likely events like heatwaves are becoming with climate change. Sentences like “this heatwave has become three times more likely” are now frequently featured on the news. It is however much more difficult to investigate the atmospheric dynamics of these events and analyse how they have changed compared to a pre-industrial world.

Coming to Oxford for my DPhil means a lot to me. I am the first in my family to go to university, I grew up in the German countryside and I am a woman in STEM. A lot of my success is owed to my parents who have always supported my academic endeavours wherever they could. They have always been incredible.

Apart from the academic side, I love cross-country running, hiking, and gardening. I basically take any excuse to go outside! I have been doing cross-country for two years now and love being involved in races across the UK. Despite being far from being the fastest runner in the club, cross-country is a great hobby for me to get away from the desk and clear my head. 

Apart from that, I am active as an Outreach Director for the Oxford Climate Society where I try to increase the participation of DPhils, academics, and alumni with the society. In the past, I have also enjoyed participating in science communication by writing for Imperial’s student newspaper Felix or for the Oxford Climate Review Anthroposphere. I also have some experience in showcasing science for the public at events and I am always happy for new opportunities.

I am only at the start of my DPhil journey, but short term, I hope I can give back some of the support I received when applying to Oxford and spread some of the enthusiasm for extreme events. Longer term, I hope to put my research into good use by being involved in climate policy in the government or in corporations. Extreme events pose an existential risk both to livelihoods and to the economy and I am passionate about making society adapt more efficiently to them. The community around climate research in all departments that exists in Oxford is truly outstanding. It ranges from atmospheric physics to geography, policy and governance, business, all the way to journalism. I believe this creates opportunities for me that I would not be able to get anywhere else.

I chose St Cross during my application. Being in a graduate college was important for me to meet likeminded people. I also really enjoy the balance between tradition and innovation at St Cross. College has already become my natural retreat and I have met so many lovely and deeply interesting people by just coming to the Common Room. I am really grateful for the openness of people at the college. 

Receiving the scholarship from St Cross is an incredible honour to me. Most of my education was funded by various scholarships and to continue that during my DPhil is an opportunity that I am grateful for. I look forward to meeting people at St Cross and in the wider Oxford society.