Alumni Profile: Tyler Lane

Tyler LaneTyler Lane (DPhil) reflects on his career to date and time at Green and Green Templeton college.

Going to Oxford

I was lucky enough to be accepted to the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, where I completed an MSc (2009) and DPhil (2013) under the supervision of Professor Lucie Cluver. My research focused on how familial illness affected children’s responsibilities in deprived South African communities.

As part of my studies, I spent a year and a half leading research teams in Cape Town, Durban, and Manguzi, a rural community sandwiched between Swaziland/eSwatini and Mozambique in northern KwaZulu-Natal. We experienced considerable challenges due to social upheaval over the course of the project, from the ouster of controversial President Thabo Mbeki and the election of even more controversial Jacob Zuma, the 2010 World Cup, torrential rains that wiped out a month of fieldwork, widespread labor strikes, and a puff adder that tried to get into our kitchen one night. We also contended with community distrust, which was understandable given the history of racism in South Africa and our ignorance about the importance of local political and tribal structures. My colleagues and I wrote a paper about these challenges along with potential strategies to overcome them. Many lessons were learned from even more mistakes!

Tyler Lane With Family In AustraliaAfter Oxford

After my DPhil, I joined the Civil Service as an Assistant Statistician in the Ministry of Justice using the quantitative analytical skills I fostered while at Oxford. Then in 2015, I moved to Australia where I currently live in a converted church in Melbourne’s inner-city suburbs with my wife, son, and daughter. We regularly see many of our Oxford friends who have either returned to Melbourne or relocated here.

Since coming to Australia, I have been a Research Fellow at Monash University, Cancer Council Victoria, and the Victorian Department of Health. In my current role as Senior Research Fellow at Monash, I study the health effects of the 2014 Hazelwood coal mine fire, which covered nearby towns in smoke for up to six weeks. What we’ve found so far has troubling implications for a heating world that will experience more widespread fire events. Recently, the Editor-in-Chief of Respirology penned a commentary about my study on the effects of smoke exposure and vulnerability to COVID-19, writing, ‘This makes the work by Lane et al. unique and important. We should all be worried by their findings. Catastrophic coal fires like the one in 2014 may be rare, but catastrophic wildfires are not.’

My work across a variety of fields has also received attention. For instance, I led the Compensation Policy and Return to Work Effectiveness (COMPARE) Project, which won the 2021 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research (Economic and Social Impact). I’ve also led several independent studies that I conducted in my spare time, which have garnered considerable attention. These include the first analysis to indicate that the opening of recreational cannabis dispensaries increased road deaths, which received considerable media attention, has been cited by governments around the world, and is used as a methodological example in textbooks and peer-reviewed journals, as well as a critique of a pro-gun researcher’s study that was later used as evidence to dismiss their testimony as an expert witness.

Why did I choose Green Templeton for my place of study?

Coming from the American undergraduate (BA, Psychology, University of Connecticut, 2006) where colleges were just administrative groupings of disciplines, I had no understanding of the Oxford college system. My late English father had mentioned it, and we even watched History Boys before I came to the UK, but it did not click how important colleges were until I arrived at Oxford. And so, I chose what was at the time Green College (pre-merger with Templeton) as it best aligned with my course.

This was probably the happiest accident of my life; not only did I meet lifelong friends across many fields from around the world, first at Green and then Green Templeton, but I also met my wife, Erie Lane (née Roberts), with whom I have two children. I still reminisce fondly about lunches and dinners in the Observatory building, bops in the Stables bar, and late nights on the quad with some food and drinks where we occasionally bumped into one of the local hedgehogs.

Tyler Lane With Family At GtcWhat is my most enduring memory of GTC/time at Oxford?

My most enduring memory of GTC and Oxford is definitely not Summer VIIIs 2011, when I rowed in 2 seat as part of the first GTBC men’s eight to win blades, where on the last day of racing we over-bumped Jesus III to take the head position in Division VI, then an hour later bumped Regent’s M1 to secure our place in a fixed division. Nor is it winning blades in the next three bumps races for a total of four blades that currently adorn my office, including Torpids 2013 when I commuted back from London to stroke for the second eight and win my last set of blades.

No, my most enduring memory is marrying Erie Martha Roberts in 2011, exchanging our vows at Town Hall and having our reception at the Observatory. It was the first time many of my family visited me in the UK, and they were absolutely enamoured with GTC, the grounds, and all the friends who were in attendance at our wedding. It is all the more special because as far as we know, we are the first marriage to come out of the newly-merged GTC.

For those considering Green Templeton

There are two things I’d say for people considering Green Templeton College. The first is to try to get a grasp of the Oxford college system and what you can get out of it. Should you so choose, your college will be the centre of your social life for at least a year. And you should, because you will almost certainly never have another opportunity to make friends with such an impressive group of peers, especially at a place like GTC. My second suggestion is to look into how graduate-only colleges differ from one that mixes graduates and undergraduates. For instance, graduate-only colleges focus on graduate students, and so many of the services operate outside of term time.