Dr Judith Bunbury: Girls Can Go Anywhere


On this year’s International Women’s Day, the University published a profile of St Edmund’s own Dr Judith Bunbury in its This Cambridge Life series. Anyone who’s been involved with the college in recent years will remember Judith as our talismanic Senior Tutor – a constant and ever-visible presence in college life.

As an up-and-coming geologist Judith didn’t always find it easy to stand out in a field that was, like too many others, once dominated by men. In her own words she did sometimes: ‘find it difficult to get a word in edgeways with so much machismo on the rock.’ She soon found she could make herself impossible to ignore by donning bright colours, fashioned from rejected sample lines purchased from cloth manufacturers in Turkey, the location of her first fieldwork.

Judith arrived in Turkey having completed her undergraduate studies at Durham, where she first became interested in the study of volcanoes after spending time on the Isle of Rum. She applied to work as a PhD student under Cambridge’s Professor Dan Mackenzie, and soon found herself studying around 80 small volcanoes in a country she admits having to look-up in her school atlas.

From there, Judith made a geographic transition to Egypt and an academic one to archaeology, all by responding to a postcard pinned up in the Department of Earth Sciences back in Cambridge. Since then she has enjoyed a successful career as a geo-archaeologist, and nowadays always has several projects on the go at once. One recent project looked at the medieval Arab indigo trade and the massive investments made in Mamluk irrigation schemes in Egypt, built from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. She identified the individual irrigation channels and determined their dates by sifting through the refuse contained within them, a process she likens to solving a puzzle.

Judith says that her experience of working with diverse teams of archaeologists, on sites far from home, has helped her in her role as Senior Tutor at Eddies, where this year our student body is made up of people from 81 different countries. Judith is a teacher through-and through. Countless numbers of Eddies students have benefitted from her guidance and tutoring; as have the members of the Guides group she leads.

You can read the original profile on Medium.