JAD 7055 web


Learning that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

Olufemi (Femi) Awe is currently studying for a DPhil in Engineering at Oxford. He is a member of the 2017-2018 Christians in Academia cohort. We asked him to reflect on what he has learnt during his time on the programme.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in the Southwestern part of Nigeria and lived there for the first 11 years of my life before moving to the UK. I therefore hold two citizenships and the question 'where is home?' is altogether blurred.

Tell us about your studies to date and how you became interested in your discipline?

Growing up, I found anything to do with spacecrafts and rockets very 'cool' - that really was my initial career motivation! My undergraduate degree was in Aerospace (aeronautics & astronautics) Engineering at Queen Mary University of London. During my degree I had the privilege of taking a gap year to work as an engineering design systems and knowledge management Intern with the British aircraft engine manufacturer, Rolls-Royce Plc. My postgraduate studies have been primarily focused on aeronautics. I studied for my MRes degree at the University of Cambridge where I specialised in aircraft engine research, and then moved to Oxford for my DPhil.

How did you hear about Christians in Academia and why did you want to get involved? What have you learnt from the programme?

I heard about Christians in Academia through the Developing a Christian Mind* (DCM) conference. I also met up with people who had participated in a previous cohort.

The programme is unique in bringing together a group of twelve or so Christian postgrads from different academic disciplines to further explore what place our learning and research has in the context of God's purposes. An emphasis has been to help us integrate our intellectual work and faith in Christ rather than seeing a dichotomy between these sides our of lives. We have also learnt about character formation in areas such as humility, thankfulness, honesty and cultivating an attitude of service.

It has also enabled me to explore specific questions related to my own discipline, for example: the consequences (or perhaps, philosophical presuppositions) of engineering and society; the place of Nature, Man, and Machine, and the intricate complexities of our techno-modern world. I also initiated a book group during the year where we read The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul.

What was your favourite part of the year?

Every part of the programme was definitely useful: the retreat together at the start of the year in a country house, talks and dinners with Christian academics, meeting up with a mentor in my field, readings and discussion sessions; it’s hard to pick a favourite. However, one discussion session in particular struck me in Michaelmas term. It was centered around the topic of Humility, and prior to the discussion we read the following:

  • Brooks, David. ‘The Moral Bucket List’ The New York Times
  • Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together, in Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works vol.5
  • Excerpts from: Augustine. The Confessions.
  • Lewis, Michael. ‘Occupational Hazards of Working on Wall Street’ BloombergView

We discussed that the pitfalls of many occupations can be pride - as a result of prestige, and moral bankruptcy - as a result of privilege. Academia is not exempt from these, especially in Oxford. Learning to obey Christ's command to 'Love your God ... and Love your neighbour as yourself' is very counter-cultural in the hyper-competitive environment of academic research, but this is true wisdom.

Is there one thing you will take away with you from the year into your future career?

I've learnt to see all of life under the Lordship of Christ, and whatever career I find myself in, to see it as an opportunity to be of service to others with all love, honesty, thankfulness - and a strong work ethic!

*Developing a Christian Mind (DCM) run two conferences annually in Hilary term. The ‘Seeking Wisdom’ Discipline Streams Conference will be held this year on Friday 16th- Saturday 17th March at New College, Oxford. Postgraduates, postdocs and academics at Oxford and Oxford Brookes are all welcome to attend. For more information about DCM and to register for the conference