Profile with Julia James
Julia James (New York & Green 2004) is earning a Master’s degree in Global Health Science at the University of California - San Francisco. She holds a DPhil in Clinical Medicine and a Diploma in Integrated Immunology from the University of Oxford, and a BS in Chemistry from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. In addition to her research, Julia writes creative nonfiction.
Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?
Julia James: San Francisco, California. I live in the Sunset District, which is a misnomer because it’s actually not very sunny in that part of the city most of the time.
Rhodes Project: What was the last book you couldn’t put down?
Julia James: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a personal favorite.
Rhodes Project: What’s playing on your iPod right now?
Julia James: Emeli Sandé. Her most recent album is Our Version of Events. I love it.
Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Julia James: Surgeon General.
Rhodes Project: Tell me a little bit about what you’re working on at the moment.
Julia James: I’m doing research and finishing up my Master’s in Global Health Science at UCSF. For my Capstone project, I conducted qualitative interviewing for the very first time in my life. For the remainder of my postdoctoral fellowship (2 years), I will conduct translational immunology research on the interface of immunology and nutrition in HIV. I really believe the future of science is cross-disciplinary.
Rhodes Project: From your perspective, do you find there is a disconnect between scientists and policy-makers? Are the best policy makers scientists? Do you wish there was more collaboration?
Julia James: Yes there is tension between science and advocacy. However I don’t think scientists are necessarily better policy makers. In turn, health policy-makers can benefit from having scientific evidence yet that alone is insufficient for policy development. Ideally there would be synergy between the two. It can be very difficult for scientists to communicate their results in a way that is readily accessible to policy-makers, but it’s a lot to expect for a basic scientist to be able to do that. It would make sense to take advantage of people who could be translation scientists, who are already trained to think across fields. Here at UCSF and other universities, there is increasing emphasis on translating evidence into policy. For my own work, my motivation for getting into HIV research was driven by what I was seeing in my community. As a result, I don’t personally have a conflict between being a scientist and being an advocate. But I also have the luxury of being in a field where that is not something that takes me away from the work I’m doing.
Rhodes Project: What’s something interesting that you’ve done or that’s happened to you in the last year?
Julia James: Four days after I moved to San Fran, I participated in AIDSWalk San Francisco. It was in Golden Gate Park and that was amazing. After the event, I was featured in an article at the university. My age was spoiled! The entire university knows how old I am.
Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Julia James: Life is a journey and success isn’t a destination. When I was 16, I had a lot of interests, which was great. I had to meet with a guidance counselor throughout high school and say what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I was always growing. At one point I said archaeologist, then pilot, then marine biologist. I was overwhelmed by the options. So I would tell myself that it’s okay to explore, to be unsure, and to come up with a plan and write it all in pencil, and start all over again.
Rhodes Project: What would an ideal day look like?
Julia James: Wake up and watch the sunrise. Then I write a poem, short story or an essay. Then I get a lot of my research done and by the end of the day, I’ll go to the gym, work out, and watch the sun set. I’m engaged to a fellow Rhodes Scholar (Daliso Zuze Merton 2004), so ideally my fiancé would be here in San Francisco (he currently resides in London).
Rhodes Project: If you had unlimited resources to devote to any one issue, global or local, what would it be and why?
Julia James: Over the course of the past year, I’ve become more aware of how economic development can actually improve health. If countries have stronger economic capabilities, they can then actively participate in the global economy. If I had unlimited resources I would build health infrastructure but primarily by focusing on economy development and building capacity for developing countries to be financially independent.
Rhodes Project: What’s something you’re looking forward to right now?
Julia James: Completing my master’s paper! That’s the most immediate thing. I also have a 10 year goal to see the sun rise and set on every continent. I’ve complicated it a bit because not only do I want to see the sun rise and set, I want to help in some sustainable way. I have no idea what I’m going to do for Antarctica! I think I’ll leave Antarctica for last.
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