Philippa's pathway

Philippa's pathway to Graduate Student

Philippa Hammond photographed in Gorongosa National Park during the field season of 2019, downloading collared baboon GPS tracking data using antenna

I grew up in Zimbabwe and would have been very surprised to know that one day I’d be studying baboons because I always viewed them as a disruptive pest more than anything else! I studied Maths, Biology, and English Literature for my A Levels, providing me with a great combination of scientific and analytical skills which have proved useful in studying human and primate evolution. At undergraduate level, I pursued studies in Comparative Literature, Philosophy, and Psychology at St Andrews University, Scotland, and it was only in my last year there that I got really interested in evolutionary and comparative psychology, and my first glimpse into the field of primatology. Having graduated with an MA in Psychology, I knew that ultimately I wanted to continue learning about how humans came to think and behave the way we do, but I took a year out of academia and worked as a projects assistant in a financial services company in Zimbabwe. During this time I applied for the MSc in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford, through which I learned that my interest in human cognition and behaviour was just one aspect of a fascinating field of research on primate cognition, behaviour, and evolution. My first experience of primatological fieldwork was through the Paleo Primate Project Field School, which is now an annual event in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, attended by students from Oxford and several Mozambican universities. One of my favourite things about being a DPhil student is the variety it brings. I have spent several months working in the field to collect data on baboon behaviour in Gorongosa (they are so much more than pests!) and have acquired many new skills, from animal tracking to data management and analysis, teaching, and event organisation - all whilst constantly learning from the incredible researchers around me. Sharing knowledge is what academia is built on, and through this pathways initiative we’d like to share the experience we’ve gained on our way into academia, so please get in touch - whether you are considering pursuing research or are just curious about primatology and human evolution: