News from the JCR/MCR – Simon Maria Kopf, Interview

14th February 2018

Simon Maria Kopf is an Austrian DPhil candidate, researching the relationship between Science and Religion. He tells us about his background and study interests.

1. Tell us about your background and what you did before coming to Blackfriars.

I am originally from Vorarlberg, probably the most awesome but certainly the most western state in Austria. Before coming to Oxford, I studied Catholic Theology and Philosophy at the University of Innsbruck, and Science and Religion at the University of Edinburgh. It was in Edinburgh that I got to know better the Dominican Order through the University’s Catholic Chaplaincy run by the Dominican friars.

2. Why did you choose Blackfriars for your studies?

During my time in Edinburgh, I decided to apply for doctoral research in the UK. Mark Harris, the programme director of the MSc in Science and Religion, encouraged and helped me to do so. One choice was the University of Oxford, and Fr Lawrence Lew convinced me that Blackfriars Hall would be an ideal place to do a doctorate in theology. Blackfriars is also a vibrant place to study Aquinas, not least because of the Aquinas Institute which hosts a number of events throughout the year.

3. What sort of things does your study programme cover and what particular focus do you have?

Science and Religion is a newly-developing academic field concerned with the interaction and relation between the sciences and theology. In my research, I look at Providence and why Chance – as we find it in biological evolution, for instance – is compatible with the Christian belief that God guides and cares for the world.

4. Where do you think you will go next after Blackfriars?

Although nothing is set in stone yet, I think I might stay in academia. I would like to develop and work on an exciting project on the status of Desire in theology, while teaching theology.

5. Blackfriars is not a typical Oxford institution—what do you think are its positives? Is there anything that has surprised you about studying here?

Definitely the people and the strong community they form. And, as a theologian, our well-stocked college library. What makes this place really unique is the close bond between our college and the Dominican Order. Faith and reason play an important part in our college life, whatever our personal world-views and diverse backgrounds might be. What surprised me most is how much the spirit and rhythm of Blackfriars can shape and enrich your thought and life.

6. Leaving aside your studies, what’s your favourite thing about Oxford?

There are always exciting events going on, an incredible guest speaker for a particular lecture, or just a mingling of amazing people from all over the world. Not to speak of the Harry-Potter-esque scenery.

Thank you Simon, and good luck with your studies!

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The Catholic Chaplaincy in Edinburgh, run by the Dominicans.