Home » Podcast » Victoria Pham, undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge in Biological anthropology

Victoria Pham, undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge in Biological anthropology



In this week’s episode, Geoff is talking to Victoria Pham who was a Finalist in the 2019 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards for NSW/ACT.

Victoria was nominated in the Academic Achievement Award and is now undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge in Biological anthropology, specifically studying the evolution of signalling and communication in the hopes we can have a better understanding of our connection to nature, and how to build alongside nature in a way that is more sustainable. Aside from this, I am continuing with my arts and music practice which has led to exhibitions, commissions and premieres of my work across Australia, USA, UK and Europe, as well as hosting and producing my own podcast DECLASSIFY. I was a semi-finalist in the arts and culture category in 2018 and a finalist in the academic/science achievement category in 2019, and so my interdisciplinary career reflects both those nominations.


In this episode:

  • We hear how Victoria has a a strong passion for both arts and music and how some her exhibitions have featured across multiple countries – many as a virtual exhibition
  • We got to hear a bit about her podcast called DECLASSIFY which is about the classical music industry


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00:00:04] Annette

Welcome to the Inspirational Australians podcast, where we chat to people making  a difference in their communities and in the lives of others. And here is your  host  for today, Geoff Griffin.

[00:00:21] Geoff

Welcome to the Inspirational Australians podcast stories of inspiring achievements  and community contribution. Every week we will celebrate an award program category  winner will find most we hope you’ll be inspired and encouraged to know that  Australia is in good hands. Together with our corporate partners, and not for profit partners, Awards, Australia,  showcase ordinary people from run across Australia. Doing extraordinary things. If you enjoy hearing the stories of our Inspirational Australians,  please subscribe. Write us and reviews. We really appreciate our Inspirational  Australian podcast guest today epitomises the world’s extraordinary and high achiever. She’s an anthropologist. She’s an artist and  a composer and has already travelled around many parts of the world with her work  and study. Victoria Pham is talking with us all the way from Cambridge Victoria. Welcome to the podcast.

[00:01:26] Victoria

Thank you so much, Geoff. It’s such  a pleasure to be on.

[00:01:29] Geoff

I’m super excited to be talking with you because I think you  really pushed the limits of what one human can achieve in such  a short period of time. My mind will’s in awe and what you’ve already achieved,  and it’s quite hard to know where to start, really. But we’ll have a crack. You’re currently undertaking a Ph.D.  at the University of Cambridge in biological anthropology. I’m struggling to say that,  let alone imagine the complexity of what you’re studying. How did studying at Cambridge come about start with,  and can you tell us some of the exciting stuff you’re doing in the state?

[00:02:08] Victoria

Sure, so leading up to coming to Cambridge,  I was doing my undergraduate study in Sydney at the University of Sydney where I  was specializing in archaeology. And I was particularly interested in thinking about how people lived in the past,  but specifically how they interacted with sound. And they,  how they use sound to develop different practices like how we’re speaking now,  how they develop language for music. And that was kind of the pathway I was taking.  And then when I realised I was interested in furthering that research,  Cambridge came up as an option because my supervisor in Sydney,  professor Roland Fletcher happened to study here in Cambridge. So he suggested that  I meet some people, some of his own colleagues, because they had a different approach to studying,  slightly more experimental and obscure things that I was interested in. So I  eventually came over here in twenty eighteen. I met some of the professors and  looked at some of the facilities, some of the Labs, and realized that this would be  a really cool place to pursue my studies. And so I applied to see if it was  possible, and I’m very, very grateful that they, they let me in and they gave me  a scholarship. So that’s how I eventually came to Cambridge.  And the reason why the  title is so long and complicated biological anthropology was because,  because of the pathway of what I wanted to do and how odd it was,  and it didn’t fully fit into the scope of what was traditionally categorized as  archaeology or anthropology. It was beginning to move more into evolutionary  studies. So over here they call that particular branch of study where you’re  looking at evolution and primates and very slow development of different human  behaviors. They happen to call it biological anthropology. So

[00:03:50] Geoff

it’s Fascinating because normally we would think about artifacts. The pharaohs you know, finding tombs, Tomb Raider, you know,  that’s famous stuff. Why are you delving into is quite different. What made you down that particular path?

[00:04:08] Victoria

Because when, well actually this is the point, A long story about thinking about it. When I was seven,  I told my mom that I wanted to be  a musician because I had been taking piano lessons. And that was something my  parents wanted me to do. And I happened to fall in love with it. But at the same time,  I found the National Geographic in my primary school library and got obsessed with  reading about exactly what you were describing,  tombs and traveling and fieldwork. And that happened to be the world of archaeology.  So I dreamed of being able to somehow do both them at once.  And the University  was very welcoming, and they allowed me to do  a double degree that let me study classical music at their conservatorium,  while at the same time pursuing archaeological studies at their main campus. So I  started to try and assimilate the two and that led me to looking at actual acoustics,  which is looking at the sound practices and musical evolution through the realm of  archaeology, which then led me to where I am now, which is furthering that study and looking at  a very deeper understanding of communication systems in the natural world and in early human behavior.

[00:05:14] Geoff

You can imagine that sounds forms the essence of communication. So it all makes sense not something that the  average person would have thought about as we said, but certainly makes  a lot of sense. I can understand how you’ve connected you two passions Together. So  that’s terrific to know. You talked a little bit about course the evolution of signaling communication in terms of what  you’re studying. But is there something that really excited you that you found that  you’ve read or part of your studies that says to you,  This is the real deal. This is the area that  I want to typically focus on in yourstate.

[00:06:01] Victoria

Yeah, it’s funny doing a day. I end up being led down. But I didn’t imagine where possible. I Suppose  that’s the joy of being able to dedicate three news purely to research. When I first started,  I wanted to basically only look at human behavior and look at that kind of  signaling and look at how, how different instruments,  very ancient instruments were developed to how the brain was mapping and developing  to allow us to speak in such complex and nuanced ways or express ourselves in  a Sonic way. And then the more more reading I did, I realized, well,  this could be expanded easily into other spheres of our natural world. So I started  looking at chimpanzee behavior, seeing as they’re our closest cousin,  and seeing how they do particular behaviors, like throwing rocks against trees,  to signal to, to one another that they’re in  a certain location or they’re going to move to the next location. They do bizarre  things like drumming on the side of  a large buttress tree roots in order to signal to each other a long distance,  which is something that I actually didn’t realize that animals had realized that that was  a possibility for their signaling processes. And then to further this kind of  rabbit hole I dug for myself. I started looking at plant life and thinking about  how trees communicate to each other and how things that perhaps we feel were less  connected to because they don’t have a mammal form. Speak to another,  so I ended up looking at mushroom signaling, which was not at all my plan,  but I realized that they actually vibrate and they do various forms of chemical  signaling to also coordinate their movement as a community, which is quite Fascinating. And so the whole Ph.D.  coming out of this obscure occupy acoustic realm,  has turned into me thinking about how can we look at research as  a way to listen more deeply to one another for the sleep,  but also more deeply to the natural environment. And if it Gives us  a better understanding how the natural environment is connected to one another through signaling processes and through sound,  perhaps we could think of ways to grow alongside nature, to build alongside nature in  a way that’s more harmonious rather than destructive. And

[00:08:08] Geoff

again, something else we don’t often think about is how nature communicates with nature  how a species communicates trees, mushrooms, whatever it might be. You know,  I guess we’re a little bit obsessed with ourselves, that we as a writer, as humans,  and maybe even obnoxiously consider that we’re the only creatures that really  communicate properly. So it’s quite Fascinating and I imagine that would take a lot of research,  a lot of work to get to the points that you’re at. And of course reading and  liaising with others in terms of what I’ve found as well. I wonder for those that  are listening who may be considering the big move to London or to the U.K..  What are your thoughts and recommendations would be, what do you think about the U.K.  and is it something that people should consider doing this a little bit off track?

[00:09:09] Victoria

Well, I would immediately say yes to anyone who’s thinking of moving anywhere,  actually because it would be how I phrase is probably for me, it was a very,  very different experience. Just moving anywhere and living anywhere. And I’ve learnt something every single step of the way,  like how to navigate basic things like buying your groceries in  a different environment, going to the bank and setting up  a bank account. Those very kind of seemingly boring things. But I thought that that  challenge actually helped me grow and learn how to be  a little bit more independent and to how to operate with more agency. So I would  encourage anyone if they’re thinking of moving anywhere, even if it’s as far away as the U.K. or Europe to,  to definitely jump at that chance if you have the chance and the means to do so.  One thing I would warn anyone,  especially an Aussie who’s thinking of coming over to the UK is that it rains  a lot here. I know that’s a stereotype about the UK,  but it really does constantly drizzle. So if that’s something you’re not  particularly keen on, just keep that in mind when you’re in the UK,  it really is great most of the time. And that took me  a while to to adjust to as well. And it also took me  a while to adjust to the fact that in winter you don’t really have that much  sunlight. So the sun will come up around 9:00 in the morning and disappear around  3:30, which was a bit of a challenge when that goes on for about three years.

[00:10:32] Geoff

You hear quite a lot of people say that it can be  a little depressing because you don’t get the sound that we are used to in Australia.

[00:10:40] Victoria

Yes, there’s something called seasonal affective disorder, which comes around during the winter, which I think  a lot of Europeans and people who live here normally who have grown up here also  affected by it. So there are ways around it. So taking your vitamin D tablets and there are special lights,  you can buy in the UK that emulate natural light in the morning.  So they help keep  your body in that rhythm and that natural.

[00:11:05] Geoff

So how is covid currently affecting the social and economic environment in the UK?

[00:11:11] Victoria

Currently, it’s the UK has taken quite a, I Suppose, liberal approach to covid in that if you for example,  test positive. Now you don’t know, you No longer need to isolate. So they’ve taken quite  a drastic approach in comparison to  a lot of the neighbouring countries from this area. But during the actual last two  years where it was particularly noticeable,  I Suppose covid’s effect on the UK is not dissimilar to many other countries in that it exposed  a lot of the pre-existing inequalities that exist here in terms of health Care,  education and access. So that I think that was a very sobering thing to,  to witness, especially because when covid was at its height in the UK,  it happened to coincide with brexit. So you could see all these interesting  political tensions are rising within the country itself,  as well as within the country and its departure from the EU. So it was  a very bizarre time to be living here and witness people experiencing all of that at once.

[00:12:14] Geoff

Yeah. How did you cope, you know, being away from your family during lockdowns and so on?  How did you go in the early stages?

[00:12:22] Victoria

It wasn’t too bad. I was very lucky because I already had  a lot of technology available to me. So in terms of contacting my mother for  example, who still lives in Sydney,  we just made sure we stayed in contact every day action and I continued. So that’s  been the primary way that I’ve stayed in touch with my family. I do miss them  dearly because it’s, it’s completely different to not physically see them,  which I hope to do at some point this year.  But I’m very thankful that technology  was there because had this happened five years ago or it was 10 years ago. Just the  contact wouldn’t have been a possibility. Now we have things like WhatsApp and apps that allow us to bring  people internationally for free. Yeah,

[00:13:04] Geoff

I guess you are delving into your studies as well.

[00:13:08] Victoria

Well, at the same time,

[00:13:09] Geoff

with that time Yeah.  You’ve got  a strong passion for the arts and music as well as you mentioned earlier. And that’s led to exhibitions commissions,  premieres whereabouts have they been and what have been some of the highlights sofar?

[00:13:29] Victoria

Well, I Suppose I would think I feel like I’ve surpassed it as  a passion. I think it would count as just being an artist,  which is kind of bizarre for me because I view them and you being  a scientist and being an honest kind of a similar package,  it’s all in me and I don’t really see the distinction between them. They are in  many ways I’m asking the same questions when I approach both and just going about  them in completely different ways.  So for me,  the biggest highlight was the first time I was able to combine my research  techniques in archaeology, with artistic expression and music expression,  which was back in 2020 actually. Which is unfortunate because it was the year that  covid took off. But I was very fortunate that myself and my close collaborator,  James Newton, who is another Australian artist. We got selected to present  a research and artistic program as part of blurbed festival, which was run by arts house, Melbourne,  and the campbelltown arts centre. And that project entitled resounding was this  kind of big spectacle where we wrote new music for an ancient Vietnamese drum. We  sampled the drum and created this kind of archive,  almost scientific archive of sounds that actually members of the public now can go  and access and download all these sounds and create their own music from it. And it  was the perfect balance of research driven work where two of us were both  academically trained. Could research this single object, which was  a three thousand year old Vietnamese drum and create art out of it at an  international level where we invited artists from Indonesia and Vietnam and of  course Australia to work with us and write music for this object. So that was  a big highlight because it allowed me to combine the two in  a way that was cohesive and for the public to access. But it was always also  a highlight because working with those two galleries, changed my practice, because I’d never worked with such  a tight group of curators before that so quickly understood how to flexibly change  presentations to the audience that were no longer physical because of covid arising as a challenge, so they immediate,  he changed everything about how the gallery was run,  to put everything online and to think deeply about how we can get as many people  access to these free artistic exhibitions and contemporary art through an online means. So that was particularly inspiring for me,  working with that team curators

[00:16:00] Geoff

sounds amazing. And some of your exhibitions have featured across multiple countries have online. Yes.  How did that come about?  How did it transpose that you actually then able to travel your works?

[00:16:13] Victoria

Well, a couple of times it happens because a particular curator or  a particular art director happened to show up to the opening of the gallery in  Australia and they saw my work or some of my colleagues works often because I work  collaboratively. And then they were interested in our practices got to meet us and  invited us to work in various places overseas,  like the UK or in France or the United States in other options. So this is less  interesting because it involves just a lot of emailing and  a lot of applying for open calls or artistic exhibitions or showcasing your work,  the kind of perhaps old fashioned way of sending your portfolio to  a gallery or to or to write. And then having to look at your work and perhaps  suggesting that they’d like to show it at the gallery at some case,  in some place.  So that is also another avenue of anyone’s thinking about how the  show you work just getting down to writing to other people that proved to be really  helpful for me, especially when I’m moving to  a new place. And I don’t know anyone that was made the main option.

[00:17:16] Geoff

Well, I think it’s important that people understand that life isn’t always as simple as  well. It just so happens. I have to make it happen. You know,  we have to work hard. We sometimes we have to take opportunities and sometimes we  have to make opportunities that works both ways. And I love the saying that funny how the harder I work,  the luckier I get. So you make your own luck in life. So think it’s good people  understand that you’ve been so proactive about making things happen,  which is brilliant. You also somehow find time to host and produce your own podcast.  And what’s that code and can you tell us about it?

[00:18:01] Victoria

Yes, so the podcast is called declassified. It’s called so because in 2020,  myself and a couple of my friends when we were studying back at the conservatorium, Together,  were talking linked. And thinking about whether or not because of carbon,  because of the upheaval that covid caused. It would be time for the industry to  rethink some of its practices and classical music. At least for me, I saw  a lot of challenges because it’s often painted as this kind of cultural heritage  art form. Which is fine because I quite like listening to music from the baroque  period and before however, it involves the training of so many hundreds of living, performing artists to make it happen,  who also are interested in furthering their art form by producing new works and working with local artists,  and in many institutions there’s less scope for that kind of new making of music in  the classical sense. So the podcast is called declassified because I wanted to make some sort of  a resource for anyone who is interested in being active in the classical music  industry or changing the way it’s represented or run to listen to other people who  have opinions about that. People who have changed classical music in their  respective fields.  People who have started up their own conservatorium,  or anyone like a composer combined, or various speakers from the ABC, classic,  often who very kindly volunteered to be on the podcast,  to talk about how they think this particular part of the industry could change over time. So it’s  a collection of speakers who are talking about the classical music industry, particularly in Australia and how it can evolve.

[00:19:43] Geoff

So is that sacrilege, according to some? Yes.

[00:19:48] Victoria

I think so. I think a lot of people wanted to, to stay this pedestal of pure,  beautiful music which in many ways it is. But I think there could be some space for  some particularly new Australian music to be played and heard in those concert halls.

[00:20:03] Geoff

I imagine you got some good uptake as well?

[00:20:07] Victoria

Yes, actually I was, I was actually surprised because I thought it’s such  a niche topic.  I don’t think many people beyond my small circle of people who are  trained in classical music would be interested. And then suddenly they had  thousands of listeners from America and Europe and the UK,  so I didn’t expect it to have that much of an impact. So I’m glad if it helped  anyone feel less alone or feel like they could be more active in that space.

[00:20:32] Geoff

So where do people find declassified?

[00:20:35] Victoria

You can find it on Apple podcasts on Spotify,  and you can find it on YouTube. So those are the three channels that it’s streamed onto.

[00:20:44] Geoff

Awesome. Well, it sounds absolutely brilliant. So I hope it continues to go well for you. How long  has it been running now?

[00:20:52] Victoria

Two years

[00:20:54] Geoff

and how long? How often do you?

[00:20:57] Victoria

Oh, how often it happens about once  a month I would say divided into two seasons and the second season is just about to end.

[00:21:05] Geoff

So stay tuned for season three.

[00:21:08] Victoria

Yes, thank you.

[00:21:12] Geoff

Do you see yourself ever returning to Australia or is Europe homenow?

[00:21:17] Victoria

Oh, that’s a good question.  Yes,  I would see myself returning to Sydney. I think Sydney will always be my home  because my family’s there. And my partner’s family is there, and I miss the sun,  particularly in winter over here in Europe. So I think in the long term the sister will always be home.

[00:21:36] Geoff

Well, I think your partner’s family were pleased,  as well as your family to hear that you are planning to come home at some stage. So  I was very happy to know that your art has been performed,  and it’s been exhibited and commissioned across Australia, the States, the UK,  of course, in France. Tell us a bit more  in depth about some of your, you know,  the work you’ve talked about. Some already and what inspires you to achieve certain things and so much?

[00:22:07] Victoria

Well, similar to the scientific research side of me,  most of my artwork or my art practice is about sound. And that’s probably because I  trained first as a musician. But then I got interested in sound installation,  sound performance and seeing how in contemporary are more recent in the last 50  years has brought in other fields to its presentation. So I started thinking, oh,  why can’t I bring sound and speakers and sound experiences into  a more artistic.  So at the center of my practice and all my research practice is  sound. So most of my work or my body of work is about focusing on getting people to listen again,  more deeply to one another and creating these kind of large scale installations  where people can interact with objects that are making sound or creating  a soundscape and a new Sonic environment that people can immerse. So  a lot of the work is about challenging people to listen more deeply or to listen  out for something that’s bizarre and alien and have an experience through this kind of,  of cathartic but also grotesque experience through sound. So it’s about pushing,  pushing what you can hear and how you can hear. So that’s pretty much what drives  me in terms of the art is I spend a lot of time listening and collecting sounds,  kind of like one would collect postcards or postage stamps. I spend  a lot of time with a microphone outside recording very, very quiet sounds or very,  very loud sounds. And I’m always doing that to build an archive. And most of that  archive is what builds up the work through research and the work through artistic  practice. You ask them what also inspires me to work so much? Yeah. That’s  a good question as well. I Suppose I’m very curious about everything and I’ve been  fortunate enough with that not to fight so far. We’ll see how it keeps going. And  that’s what drives me to continually ask questions, and those questions turn into either an artwork or they turn into  a research project. And that’s what pretty much keeps me going all the time. Just this endless curiosity to,  to hear more.

[00:24:22] Geoff

What would you say would be the most bizarre sound that you’ve been  able to capture or one of the most difficult sounds that you’ve been able to capture or record?

[00:24:35] Victoria

I have the same answer for both of them really. And it’s really,  really quiet sounds that I find are really challenging to capture, especially when you’re outside. And there’s incidental noise,  like people speaking or wind blowing. I always want to try and capture the sound of plants growing,  which is almost impossible because they’re so slow in the way that they move the  way that they evolve through the dirt. So I found ways to do that. You need  a specific kind of electronic node,  you can stick it into the dirt and it will pick up vibrations which are then  translated to sound. So that’s proven to be both difficult, but also it’s produced  a surprisingly loud sound.  When you listen to it through speakers,  it’s almost like the plants are speaking. So that’s been both bizarre and difficult.

[00:25:21] Geoff

Is that over a period of time that they’re recorded?  And what period of time would it take to capture that? That sound?

[00:25:30] Victoria

It’s only about an hour actually really. Yeah. So it’s not too bad,  especially in Spring when the plants are sprouting and they begin to move with the  movement of the sun. And you can capture that movement in  a couple of hours. If you have a time camera, it’s  a similar type of technique when you’re recording the sound.

[00:25:47] Geoff

So the chatty little flora,

[00:25:49] Victoria

they are very chatty, especially when they’re trying to get to the sun.

[00:25:54] Geoff

Well, yes, very true. So during certain times of the day,  clearly in the UK or in certain seasons, when the sun’s out go,  according to what you said earlier. But in all seriousness,  it’s absolutely Fascinating to be able to do what you do and to put some  perspective to it as well. So congratulations. You’ve featured as the lead artist in several festivals,  including vividly container in your soon to be antidote twenty two. Can you  tell us about, I guess your musical interests and you started in piano as you said?  So what have you been doing in some of these festivals?  Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

[00:26:43] Victoria

Yes, so quite a number of these festivals meant that I had to write some kind of music. I started  out first as you mentioned it in piano and then I moved on to being interested in  writing music and composing. And that’s eventually what I studied at the Sydney  conservatorium was competition. And in that particular course, you had more traditional compositions. And I was working directly with musicians  who were studying their instrument and working with them to create new works. But  there was another smaller component to the course that involved learning how to  write electronic music and Learning how to use software and sound recording things.  And I sort of slipped into, slipped into that world,  which was more connected to the sound of an experimental installation making that I mentioned earlier. So in these festivals,  I was writing music except it was electronic. And it was the beginnings  particularly vivid when I was still an undergraduate.  When that first started happening, David was  a space where I could try out these ideas and the public would come in and interact  with the works. At the time I was working with  a fellow composer named James heysel. And we had created this kind of small installation with a keyboard,  and it was particularly aimed at children. So children would come and play the  keyboard and the keyboard would then activate all this cutlery that was swaying  back and forth above jars and then playing this bizarre percussive electronic  instrument. So most of the installations from these festivals started from that  point where the two of us, all by myself, we were asked to create these kind of small interactive,  participatory music installations where people could kind of make their own music  and make their own sound book as part of our structures,

[00:28:27] Geoff

I was going to say I would be very exciting for young people because it is  interactive. And very visual. When I was very young and my mother wanted to me to  learn the piano that would have been a good way to motivate me to continue to do it.

[00:28:41] Victoria

Oh yeah, that’s true. I bet actually never occurred to me that perhaps one of those kids  would, I would love to get on the keyboard now.

[00:28:48] Geoff

Yeah. Well, you know, just for people who are less motivated to in music and  a tone deaf probably could have been an entire set because you’re actually Achieving more than notes.  You’re saying visually,  things happen because you because of what you’re doing with your fingers. And  that’s very crudely put, but yeah, you know,  maybe you can turn that into some sort of training program or educational tool.  May I just I’d like 10 percent of that commission for the gmh God. Or you might say,  oh, that’s weird. So let’s not even go there. So on that note, probably being the latter,  we’ll move on quickly. But it is Fascinating because you,  you continue to use your passion for sound through your studies in both areas  to be combined in what it is you do. That’s absolutely fabulous. You really are passionate about sound communications. I

[00:29:51] Victoria

just feel like the center of everything.

[00:29:54] Geoff

Yeah. Well, it’s going to start having fun to fit everything in,  but it’s probably because of that passion that combines everything in your life.

[00:30:03] Victoria

That would be the main motivator. Actually, no, not motivator,  I actually don’t like using that word.  So the main driver I have to actually admit  that I do set some pretty hard limits on my time, which has helped, as you say,  fit everything in, for example, I don’t walk after dinner ever. And I don’t work on Sunday,  so there are some hard restrictions that I put on myself because I notice that if  suddenly I have a wash of time where I could do anything,  I feel like I don’t actually finish things. So whereas if I set  a deadline for myself where I don’t work after 6:00 p.m. every day, I just know that I have  a set amount of hours where the work can be done and should be done. So that allows  me to just get through the things I need to do without it bleeding into the rest of my life.

[00:30:50] Geoff

Good advice and also protect the work life balance.  Gives you a, you know, I guess  a definition of where that starts and finishes as well. When I get home from work,  whatever time that might be. I go straight to the bedroom,  put my track is on and that will change to whatever it is. I’m going to do,  and for me there’s  a signal for me to switch off. It doesn’t happen. I find I odd to switch off,  but it is the plan. And I think you need to have  a plan to initiate your work life balance in whatever capacity that is or how heavy  you structure that. I think it’s really important. You’re  a semi-finalist in the young achiever Awards back in 2018 for the coffee club arts  award.  And people can understand why that would have been you are extraordinary and  you’re doing everything with 100 per cent passion. And that’s what we love about  the Awards and people like yourself. And at 22, you became  a finalist the following year in the 2019 Western Sydney University academic achievement award. And for good reason,  just happened that you came up against and those who went on to win  the overall young achiever of the year. So I should say that you were so  Highly regarded by the panel and sometimes it just happens that way that you come  up against someone whose academic achievements were massive and have continued on.  I had the good fortune to chat with and nosh on the podcast as well.  Both of you are extraordinary in your achievements,  to being nominated and becoming an award finalist. Help you personally and your career. Do you think?

[00:32:44] Victoria

Yes, in both senses and for very similar reasons. When I was around that age,  I was still kind of figuring out whether or not what I wanted to pursue was even  remotely possible. That I wanted to balance on science in this kind of bizarre  interdisciplinary way. Because most people I met were kind of skeptical as to  whether that was possible or even something you could sustain over  a long period of time. And because for some reason I managed to very luckily and I  feel very grateful to have been nominated for two categories,  the first film in art and the other one in academic achievement,  which was more of my scientific research world. I think that affirmed for me that  it was possible to be able to balance these two seemingly distinct aspects of my  life Together and to pursue it as a career. And I think for  a lot of people who didn’t know me very well or knew me kind of just in passing,  that also gave them confidence that I wasn’t completely nuts in wanting to do  things that it was possible and that you could,  you could dedicate your passion towards two things that joined Together in the end.

[00:33:54] Geoff

Well, you’ve proven that  and I think at the time you became  a finalist, you had a bachelor of music studies in composition and a bachelor of arts,  archaeological art history. And you have alluded to tell us some of the horrors  that you’ve traveled with your research and your studies. You tell us some of the  highlights during those early years of study.

[00:34:19] Victoria

Yes. So the Department of archaeology at the University of Sydney was very keen on  a lot of their students gathering some sort of fieldwork experience because that’s  one part of being archaeologists is training for it theoretically. But at the end of the day,  you need to be able to go there to collect the data and particularly remote areas, learn how to,  to survive in those areas will cope if you were not used to it. So the big  highlight was in twenty seventeen. I got chosen to go to Mongolia on my first ever international archaeological dig,  which was amazing. But I’d never been camping before at that point. And suddenly I  was in this extremely remote remote area in Mongolia with a tiny tent, which now I realize looking back,  it was way too small. A tiny tent with no electricity, no cell phone connection,  no running water, no hot water. And I loved it,  but that was the big change of realizing the reality of what it meant to be that  kind of scientific research on the amount of physical fitness I needed. Which I  think I underestimated before I went out there having some sort of paramedic wilderness training,  which fortunately the team which was run by an American director Julia. She  provided that kind of training for everyone who signed up for that field work trip.  And then just just realizing how much physical fitness is required to be a scientist surprised me.

[00:35:45] Geoff

Yeah, well that’s Fascinating. When we say archaeology on TV, oh look, you know?  Perfectly groomed and well shaven. So you’d never,  and the makeup is perfect on the movie. So it never actually really consider  the physical attributes that you need to maintain to actually be involved in the  research and the dig and all that type of stuff. But also the little things like  not being allowed to have a spa or bath or a  hot shower. I mean, it’s not for me,  but I think which makes it even more special for those who are committed  in that in that regard. It would be very slow process in many archaeological research trips too.

[00:36:34] Victoria

Yes, especially the first week is basically figuring out where are we going to dig?  And it’s quite methodical, actually, but takes a while, because once you start the process, you don’t want to make  a mistake. It takes so long to undo it and start again.

[00:36:46] Geoff

Yeah, absolutely. Fascinating. What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any?  I mean after six and on Sundays?

[00:36:56] Victoria

Yes. Well if it’s light outside and not raining, I quite enjoy going over quite long walks. That probably sounds  a little bit like cliche,  but I really do like going on long walks. It gets me in touch with the environment.  So I’m not sitting at the computer all the time. And over here now that it’s spring, there are  a lot of birds and small animals that are hatching and growing. So it’s quite  a nice time to be out in terms of any other things I do in my spare time,  I quite like board games. So I’ll spend most of my time after not playing board  games or watching movies with my partner.

[00:37:28] Geoff

What type of movies do you like?

[00:37:30] Victoria

Oh, I quite like fantasy. We’re  a big fan of Lord of the rings. So if there’s any opportunity to rewatch those films, I’ll do that.

[00:37:40] Geoff

Perfect. Well, have you had much chance to travel and I hope it would have impacted it had much  chance to travel around Europe whilst since you’ve been in the UK

[00:37:52] Victoria

it’s been mainly little bits and pieces around the UK just because that’s  a little bit easier. But recently in the last two months, they’ve relaxed  a little bit how to get in and out of Europe,  especially now that brexit has occurred. So I’ve managed to go to France because  it’s the easiest way. Just take a train from London to Paris, so it’s been nice to,  to visit some old friends in Paris and see some colleagues

[00:38:15] Geoff

being from Australia, you know, only too well that bits and pieces like,  just travelling across to France is beyond our understanding if you haven’t  travelled to Europe on holidays or whatever it is when you have to fly for hours to  go to Perth or Darwin from Melbourne and Sydney. So it’s just to travel by train,  cross to France. It sounds very exciting,  but we’ve got friends who live in the UK and they’re here there and everywhere all  the time. Probably prior covid and brexit. But yes, they,  well hopefully you’ll be able to get more opportunity to do that over the coming time.

[00:38:58] Victoria

Yeah, I hope so. I mean,  it does surprise me to you every time I think about how close everything’s overhere.

[00:39:05] Geoff

How long do you have left on your studies?

[00:39:08] Victoria

I’m exactly halfway through, so I have another 18 months left. So have you. Yeah.

[00:39:18] Geoff

How do you stay motivated to continue that level of excellence?

[00:39:24] Victoria

I think I mentioned this before that I don’t like the word motivated so I should probably explain

[00:39:29] Geoff

this quite deliberately. No, not really.

[00:39:33] Victoria

I should probably explain why I think it’s,  I actually get asked that relatively regularly and I never really know how to  respond. And I realized after seeing your question and having a proper think about it finally,  which was probably overdue. Was that I don’t think of it as being motivated because  being motivated sounds like it’s something I need to,  I need to acquire the motivation in order to do something. So I have a pretty boring response to this,  which is rather than motivation. I think of it as discipline because then I don’t  have to push myself in order to stop something. If I have the habit in place of  doing the work from this to this time and I’m quite flexible with that schedule in  terms of what happens when. But if I know that I’m going to do this kind of work today,  and then tomorrow I’ll do this all the kind of work and it all feeds into some sort  of connection with whatever result I want at the end. Whether that’s the research  paper or some sort of presentation to the public, then I have the time to decide if weekly to,  to achieve those things without having to push myself to be motivated. I just know  that I have the discipline of having some sort of a routine when it happens.

[00:40:42] Geoff

I think that’s a good answer.  In fact, I think people who coped best with covid or any change are  those that were disciplined about their process. In other words, working from home,  they didn’t change their process, their daily routine. And for me,  I found it quite easy and I find it easy to work from home because I follow exactly  the same routine as I would if I was heading to work. I get up same time,  follow the same routine that I would get ready for work and start work in the same  might be a little bit early,  because then I have to travel.  And often my wife would get home from the  office when we’re not in lockdown here in Australia. And I would think, oh wow,  she’s home early, but I look at my at the time and think, oh my goodness,  it’s six o’clock and I just don’t realize I’d just get into that disciplined,  not motivated discipline routine or the process. So I think you’re right. And that’s  a really good lesson for every one of our listeners to be disciplined in your routine.  And part of you with your work life balance is the discipline and finishing around  a certain time each day. Then you work hard knowing that you’re going to finish  this particular time. So I like that a lot. It’s very good advice.

[00:42:18] Victoria

Thank you.

[00:42:20] Geoff

Well, it’s something that we might not know about.

[00:42:24] Victoria

I feel like I already exposed my  obsession with the Lord of the rings. So I have to do something else and we think, oh,  I quite like building things. I’m not very good at it at all. But I realized that  the other day that when you’re doing research, you kind of never ends,  the work kind of keeps going where you’ll find another thing to read. So in the  meantime, it’s just the satisfaction of being able to finish  a task. So for example, I’m not very good at painting,  and I’m not very good at sculpting or anything like that. So I’ve been doing that  recently because even if it’s hideous, which most of the time it is, I managed to finish it.

[00:43:02] Geoff

That’s good.  And you have to follow  a disciplined approach that’s got to be done within a certain period of time. Well,  that doesn’t work for because it’s actually

[00:43:12] Victoria

not so much. Well, look, I think was going to

[00:43:16] Geoff

be fun. I mean, I shouldn’t say that because I know your work and your passions are all fun. And  that’s the beauty of what works for you too.  And it’s a secret,  isn’t it for people to be happy in what they do for their work and passion to enjoy  it. So yeah, I think that some, it’s good to be able to do something different,  but to have a release. What’s that? I thought it might get something more juicy than that Victoria, but that’s,  that’s good. Good tonight. Well, what’s your current passion and what compels and drive you to achieve so much?

[00:43:55] Victoria

I Suppose it kind of summarizes everything we’ve been talking about. The passion is, I’m really,  really interested in asking how do we listen and how can we listen more deeply and  finding different solutions or procedures or processes in which I can try to unpack  that. I’m also particularly interested in unpacking that as a group because I can achieve  a lot of this by myself. This happens because I get to work in the lab with all the  scientists. I have lots of mentors and  a lot of artistic collaborators of getting to do that in some sort of cohesive  community and asking one another questions about listening and sounds. And how we hear is, is currently my main passion

[00:44:37] Geoff

in your research, in your studies. Do you get to write many papers or present presentationopportunities?

[00:44:46] Victoria

Yes, so embedded in the post graduate degree,  which I think is the same in most places. You have the expectation that you will  present your research to the Department or to any relevant department during your  time. Because I’ve been lucky enough to do it a few times. There are also opportunities to,  to lecture here and that which is quite good and it’s good for building my speaking  skills. In terms of writing papers, it’s recommended that you write  a few. When you’re studying well though, I should say to anyone who isn’t studying a postgraduate degree, you can,  you can still write still also an option. So you don’t necessarily need to be  pursue postgraduate student or someone with a Ph.D. to publish. I know it seems that way from the outside sometimes,  but it’s not

[00:45:29] Geoff

good to know. So what’s next for Victoria fare?

[00:45:34] Victoria

Well, hopefully finishing this period is the key priority over the next two years. Later  this year will be coming back to Australia for the first time since the end of 2019,  I think. So I’m very excited to see my family. But I also have  a few exhibitions in Melbourne that are opening up in September. So I’ll be working  towards those while I’m in Australia later this year.

[00:45:58] Geoff

Well, I’ll have to come and attend. Being in Melbourne.  I have said please let me know  when they’re on and where and I’ll have to come and have a look.

[00:46:11] Victoria

Of course I’ll definitely invite,

[00:46:12] Geoff

,  you know, probably have no idea what it is, but I’m going to be interested sincerely. And I can’t Wait.

[00:46:21] Victoria

Wonderful, wonderful to see you in person.

[00:46:24] Geoff

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, we’re going to a,  a knitting exhibition, a crochet exhibition in July because someone, my wife knows, is a very,  very good one of australia’s best crochet is evidently. So I’m sure if I can go to  a crochet exhibition. Yours will be super amazing. But don’t tell my wife,  I said that about the crocheting. Two of those crochet is,  it’s awesome. And it’s not quite clear on how that turns into exhibition. But in all seriousness,  I think that will be amazing.  And there’s some extraordinary works in all forms of  Four art styles. I really looking forward to it and please, please don’t forget me.

[00:47:10] Victoria

Of course want

[00:47:11] Geoff

terrific little  what do you reckon the world needs more of right now?

[00:47:17] Victoria

I feel like I’m hammering this into what I feel like the world needs to listen more  deeply to the natural world. Especially I Suppose I Suppose it’s quite topical in  Australia considering what’s happened to the East Coast in the last three years. From fires to, to rain,  to listen to us more deeply and to listen to one another more deeply. If covid has  taught us anything, perhaps we could pay a bit more attention to the people in the communities around us.

[00:47:48] Geoff

Yeah, definitely. I think all too often we listen to respond rather than listen to hear. Yes. So yeah,  I think you’re right. Is there one piece of inspiring advice that you’d like to leave with our listeners?

[00:48:08] Victoria

Suppose I’ve already mentioned, collaborating as  a way away to work. So I won’t touch her again. So following from the listening deeply,  Suppose another thing to consider is to listen to oneself deeply. If anyone’s interested in evolving or developing in  a certain way. One thing I tend to do is sounds very cliché, but to keep  a journal less so I have several. So one that’s dedicated to research one that’s  dedicated to our practice and then one that’s just for me. And that’s been  a useful technique to just not keep me on track because I don’t like to think of it  that way. But just to keep me in touch with what’s happening,  my thought processes and things like that. And also other people’s thought process.  So I make sure that I put it down somewhere and then I can close it and put it  away because it stops me from overthinking in times where I shouldn’t be working.  And it also keeps me paying attention to the world around me and to the people and  the communities around me, either my research team or my various collaborators,  as well as myself. So I would, that’s my one piece of advice is to find  a way to write down your thoughts and keep with you.

[00:49:24] Geoff

I think that’s great advice. How important is it to reflect back on it?  Is it the writing and the thinking as you’re writing? Or is reflecting back really critical as well.

[00:49:38] Victoria

Both. Yes. So because while I’m writing,  I Suppose you are reflecting on what’s happening to the day or the week before,  and particularly the personal journal. But then for example,  if I’m going through research and I can’t remember how I got to something,  I can’t remember what random tangent I had it to. I am being able to open that book  and reflect on how I got to that point.  It’s also been very useful for me and  thinking about the processes in which you think and work and

[00:50:04] Geoff

where can our listeners connect with you online?

[00:50:08] Victoria

So it occurs to me that I don’t have the world’s biggest online presence. I do have  a website I can send you the link to that,  but my only kind of Social media outlet is actually through Instagram. So you can follow me there, I promise.

[00:50:24] Geoff

All right, Victoria fam, on Instagram.

[00:50:28] Victoria

Victoria and the letter a and V fan.

[00:50:31] Geoff

Victoria Ave.,  What about LinkedIn?

[00:50:36] Victoria

Yeah, I don’t actually, I used to have  a LinkedIn and then it occurred to me because of the way I was working and it was  kind of awkwardly international and it was moving so much, particularly after my undergraduate degree,  that it didn’t help me as much as I think if I had stayed in Australia longer,  that would have been a more useful resource, but I no longer have a link to do well and

[00:50:57] Geoff

Instagram it is then. And of course your website that is

[00:51:04] Victoria

W W WW dot Victoria AB Fab dot

[00:51:07] Geoff

com. Simon’s Instagram, fantastic, and this will be all in the show notes that Annette will put Together as well.  Highly recommend people. I had a look at your website. It’s awesome. And very contemporary. I think it’s  great and if anybody would like to find out a bit more about Victoria and it works and that’s  a good place to start.  Victoria has been such a pleasure,  spending time with you today. You really are Inspirational. I find what you’re  doing is Fascinating. I find you extraordinary. You are an amazing achiever,  a role model for so everybody. I thank you so much for your time today.  I know it’s early in the morning over in London or in Cambridge. So I do,  I do appreciate you making the time to, to speak with us today.

[00:52:07] Victoria

It was going to say the same thing to you. Thank you so  much for making the time to speak to me. And I really appreciate the interesting  questions that you’ve prepared and getting to speak with you this morning as well. Been really moving. Thank you.

[00:52:20] Geoff

Thank you so much. If anyone would like the links to today’s chat with Victoria head towards Australia dot com,  forward slash podcast until next week, stay safe and remember be kind and you will be the difference. Thank you  Victoria. I really appreciate your time. It’s just really amazing. I just absolutely overwhelmed with your ability the you just  a really wonderful human to say, congratulations and thank you.

[00:52:56] Victoria

Thank you so much. You’ve been so kind to me.  I didn’t know what to say.

[00:53:01] Geoff

Please also make sure you nominate again when you get back on this. Yeah. Yeah. What,  what you’re doing is extraordinary. And you’re really paving the way so good on you. Well done.

[00:53:17] Victoria

Thank you so much, Jeff. It’s been a pleasure speaking with

[00:53:19] Geoff

you and sorry about the initial hiccups with my lack of technology experience. Oh

[00:53:27] Victoria

not at all. I mean it happens when I’m recording the podcast. You sometimes it just crashes.

[00:53:31] Geoff

Well, yeah. My laptop. I’ve got  a microphone and then that didn’t work last time and then this time it’s just from my laptop audio. Anyway,  I’m just trying to work out how to get out of this. I can’t get my mouse. Annette  couldn’t find one mouse on to this other screen, but anyway,  I’ll work it out. Thanks so much. You have a great day.

[00:53:52] Victoria

You have a lovely evening and say, hello to Natalie.

[00:53:56] Geoff

Yeah, I will take care. Thank you,  Victoria. I. I hope you enjoyed today’s interview as much as I have. If it’s lovely  to subscribe to our podcast, you won’t miss an episode. Join us each week as we talk with ordinary Australians.  Achieving extraordinary things. Did you know that Awards Australia is a family owned business that proudly makes  a difference in the lives of those that make a difference for others?  And we thank our corporate not-for-profit partners to making award programmes possible to you know, someone that’s making  a difference or maybe your business might like to sponsor an award. Contact us  throughout Instagram page. Inspirational thought Australians will head to our website. Awards,  Australia outcome would be great if you could share the site with your network. Because who doesn’t like  a good news story and please write and review us. We would really love to hear your  thoughts until next week. Stay safe. And remember, Together we make a difference.