Sierra Sparks

Nationality: CAN Height: 173cm Age: 25
Course DPhil in Engineering Science
College Keble College
University Oxford
Status Postgraduate
Role Rower

About Sierra:

Why did you choose DPhil in Engineering Science?

My DPhil is in biomedical engineering, and my research focuses on investigating how people’s eyes (specifically their pupils) respond to light, and using these responses, along with a combination of lifestyle, genetic, and physiological data, to develop a classification algorithm to assess and predict a person’s risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I really enjoy my course, because I get to work with an interdisciplinary team – the researchers in our lab have backgrounds in physics, physiology, mechanical and electrical engineering, and we also get to work with radiographers and clinical staff to use medical imaging equipment. It’s great to work with people with so many different academic and professional backgrounds, because we all bring soemthing different to the table and come up with unique ideas for our research projects. In general, biomedical engineering is a broad discipline and there is a lot of flexibility in the work – I love it because I get to use my electrical engineering background in hardware and software development, with my interest for medicine and health, all while working with volunteer subjects to conduct trials and collect data with the aim of improving diagnostic outcomes for an important set of diseases. It’s exciting getting to do something new every day, working closely with a research team, and having the potential to impact the lives of real people.

Why did you first try rowing?

When I started at Oxford, I heard that rowing was a big part of the culture, and so I wanted to try it out, expecting to do maybe 1-2 sessions a week. I went to an introductory taster session and BBQ in fresher’s week with my college’s boat club, and after my first session on the water I was hooked!

Who introduced you to the sport of rowing?

Piotr Golawski at Keble College Boat Club

Where else have you rowed?

I did the Oxford University Women’s Boat Club Development Programme in 2022 and 2023.

What are your proudest rowing achievements?

Being women’s captain of the Keble College Boat Club, and entering the most women’s boats in our ‘bumps’ racing in Keble’s history.

What would winning The Boat Race mean to you?

Winning The Boat Race would mean the world to me. Since coming to Oxford, I’ve always admired the athletes who compete in The Boat Race, and could only have dreamed of competing in and winning The Boat Race with Oxford. It would be an honour to start a new winning streak with Oxford’s Women’s squad, which would be a testament to the consistency and dedication of the sqaud, and the hard work that the entire team has put in throughout the season. It would be a highlight of both my university and athletic careers being able to win such a prestigious race, alongside my Oxford University teammates.

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