Interview with Natali Van Zijl – Enterprise Associate 2023
17 October 2023
Enterprise Training and development
Natali is a DPhil student at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Engineering Science, funded by a Rhodes Scholarship. Her research focuses on bringing together physiological modelling and data-driven approaches to explore and increase our understanding of blood flow control in the brain, and what exactly is happening when it goes wrong.
Tell us a little about where you come from, and what moves or motivates you?
Prior to coming to Oxford to do my DPhil, I completed my bachelor’s in chemical engineering and master’s in extractive metallurgical engineering at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. I love to learn new things and to problem solve – especially in the context of things that matter and that have a real impact on people. Apart from the scientific curiosity that drives my current research, my personal motivation is the relevance of blood flow control in stroke patient outcomes.
Why are you attracted to entrepreneurship?
I am attracted to an entrepreneurial mindset because it means opening yourself to new connections and new possibilities, and allowing yourself to imagine what could be. I enjoy learning about other people and what they are passionate about in life – and who knows, maybe we can be helpful to one another on our journeys.
I love doing research in an academic setting, but I do not want to get stuck in a silo, just learning about one thing for the rest of my life. That is why I try to lean into an entrepreneurial mindset, whether that means within academia, industry, or somewhere in between.
Tell us some of the things that you hope the Enterprise Fellowship will help you to do or achieve, for yourself or for others.
I hope to help change the perception that entrepreneurship and innovation is only for people who already know that they want to start their own business. Enterprise and innovation involve looking for opportunities and pushing boundaries – which is valuable in every sphere of life.
A few years ago, I would not have applied to be an Enterprise and Innovation Associate, but after participating in the SeedWISE programme for women in industry, science and enterprise here at Oxford, I felt confident enough to apply for something outside of my comfort zone. I also hope to get the message of these types of programmes out to more students, post-docs and early-career researchers, because I find that there is a communication or awareness gap between the wealth of enterprising and innovation activities Oxford has to offer and the people who would be interested in participating in them.