Univ Dates: 2009-2013

Degree: DPhil Chemistry

Degree Level: Postgraduate

Occupation: Infrastructure and Climate Change Specialist at the World Bank

Biography: Dr Tara Shirvani currently works for the Infrastructure Unit of the World Bank Group, with a focus on designing climate-resilient and low-carbon transport and energy policies for developing countries. Through her diverse work experience at the Climate Policy Unit of the World Bank, the United Nations office in Iran, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, she strengthened her practical understanding for the need to transform oil-based economies into information-based ones. Dr Shirvani is fluent in German, English, French and Farsi and has experience working in low to middle income countries such as Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Rwanda and China.

Dr Shirvani has several featured articles in The Economist, The Times, Foreign Affairs, Harvard International Review, New Statesman magazine and Washington Quarterly Magazine on a variety of topics ranging from climate change, low-carbon energy transformations and Middle-Eastern energy politics. Her public speaking engagements include keynotes at Durham University, University of Oxford and Harvard Business School. She holds an MPhil degree in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge (Queen’s College) and a DPhil degree in Fuel Technology from the University of Oxford.

In 2012, she was recognized as a ‘Global Shaper’ by the World Economic Forum and in 2016 she was featured on the front cover of Forbes Magazine as one of the most noteworthy recipients of the annual ‘Forbes 30 under 30 Award’.


What were your preconceptions of Oxford or Univ before you started here?

Before starting my DPhil at Oxford I had just completed my Masters’ at Cambridge University in Engineering for Sustainable Development and knew that both Oxford and Univ would offer me a world-class education in the engineering field I am most passionate about. Of course, there is always the good old Oxford-Cambridge Varsity rivalry keeping you on your toes when it comes to testing your sportive and academic spirit, and I absolutely loved that!


Was there anyone at Univ who really inspired you?

Without a doubt, my biggest inspiration at Univ was my DPhil supervisor and Univ Fellow Sir David King, who was the Chief Scientific Adviser to H.M. Government under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and Head of the Government Office for Science from 2000 to 2008. Sir David always pushed me to go further in my research whilst trying to find technological solutions to the biggest challenge of the 21st Century: climate change.


Any one outstanding memory?

Having the opportunity to meet President Bill Clinton at the Annual Forum of the Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment and discuss with him his views on the future of renewable energy solutions for the Middle East. It was incredibly inspiring and rewarding to hear the encouraging words of a former World Leader on the future development path we should be pursuing.


How do you think Univ shaped you?

I strongly believe that if you are young, have strong aspirations and a relentless will for going after your hopes and dreams then it’s never too soon to start doing so. My time at Univ and Oxford have been crucial in developing this drive and passion in me. Everything from testing myself as Vice President of the MCR, to being Women’s Captain of the Oxford University Blues Boxing team and getting my Varsity Blue in water polo: Univ, and the people I was fortunate enough to meet there, had a big influence on me to push myself harder and follow my dreams in many different directions, regardless of the outcome.


Did you know what you wanted to do after Univ?

I always knew that I wanted to work on projects with a low-carbon agenda that have a real impact on the ground and aid rural communities. As such, working for an international organisation such as the World Bank, which is currently helping 130 countries to take action on climate change, gave me the opportunity to look at the development business through a climate lens and become part of a task force which catalyses climate action around the globe.


How did it feel to be selected to take part?

It’s been a great honour to be selected by my former alma mater to partake in this initiative and just another confirmation of my long-held belief that University College is really one of the most well-rounded and attentive colleges in Oxford, both to their current and former students.