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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Q&A: Geography

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Dr Michael Herzog

What is your role at Murray Edwards College and what are your research interests?

I am Fellow at Murray Edwards College and Reader in Atmospheric Sciences in the Department of Geography. I have been Director of Studies at Murray Edwards since 2020 and look after undergraduate Geographers jointly with Dr Anna Barford. Together we cover a wide range of topics in physical and human geography. In my research I am interested in atmospheric processes that drive meteorological clouds but also volcanic plumes that I study through numerical models. My aim is a deeper understanding of natural hazards and atmospheric circulation systems. My undergraduate teaching reflects my interests in atmosphere and climate including man-made climate change.



Dr Anna Barford 

What is your role at Murray Edwards College and what are your research interests?

Hi, I am Anna Barford. I am one of the Geographers in College. I have been teaching and supporting Murray Edwards Geographers since 2015, and this is definitely one of the highlights of my career to date. My research interests focus on the intersection of social, economic, and environmental challenges, and includes studies of young people’s working lives in lower income countries and the impact of climate change on work, the impact of ten years of austerity in the UK, the potential to scale up living wage commitments, and how we can shift economies to be increasingly circular in order to reduce our environmental impacts while ensuring positive social outcomes. Many of these themes are reflected within the lectures on the undergraduate Geography degree.


What's special about your subject at Cambridge?

Every Geography degree is different, and the content of the course depends a lot upon the specialisms of the people teaching it. In Cambridge, we have a broad range of specialisms, including Glaciology, Volcanology, Biogeography, Atmosphere, Urban studies, Conservation, Feminism, Development, Austerity, Work, Demography, Hazards, Geopolitics, and Polar Studies. This is to name but a few! Do check our website to learn more about what work is done in our department, as the specialisms of the staff very often translate into options for you to study for your degree. Polar Studies is particularly special due to the Scott Polar Research Institute, with its own museum, forming part of the Department. Geography also has links to the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, housed in the nearby David Attenborough Building.


How does Murray Edwards College support its students in your subject?

Murray Edwards is a wonderful College for Geographers. With year groups of 3-6 students, the College Geography community is small enough to remain friendly and close-knit, yet big enough to attract an exciting mix of Geographical interests, personalities, and backgrounds. For example, recent dissertations include a study of the impact of austerity on bus services, research into the gaseous emissions from an Italian volcano, a study of the international trade in waste plastics traced from London to Malaysia, an investigation of air quality at the time of the 2019 Australian bush fires, and a study of the cultural, and an historical Geography of Singapore's China Town.

Like all Colleges, we seek to support our students as well as possible - this includes regular meetings with the Director of Studies (your academic mentor) and the provision of high quality small group teaching. Given the specialisms of the College Geography Fellows, we are able to teach and support students across a broad range of Geographical sub disciplines. We provide Geography books in the College library, and are well located for the vast range of libraries you can access as a University student (including the Geography and University Libraries).

We offer close support for student dissertations, from discussing initial ideas to offering feedback in our Dissertation Conference when third years present their research to the College Geography community. We hold a Geography Dinner each year, which is relaxed and lots of fun. At the end of the year, we usually celebrate with a dinner at a local restaurant. In addition, students organise even more, for example meeting once a week across year groups or sharing advice when needed. Students work collaboratively, supporting one another to enjoy learning and to achieve within their chosen specialisms.


What do you enjoy most about working at Murray Edwards College? 

Our College is distinctive in the best way. Murray Edwards offers fresh perspectives and dynamic projects, hosts fascinating lectures, and proactively promotes women within the university and beyond. The impressive architecture is situated within the most welcoming gardens in Cambridge, where students and staff are actively encouraged to walk on the grass (not the norm for Cambridge) and invited to pick spinach and herbs from the vegetable beds. Murray Edwards College is filled with warmth, kindness, fun, intellectual curiosity, political engagement, and environmental concern - this is Cambridge at its best.