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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Tejas Rao completed his undergraduate studies in Arts and Law at the Gujarat National Law University in India, after which he came to Cambridge to read for the Masters in Law, with a specialisation in International Law. 

After a year gathering research and teaching experience in International Law and Public Policy, with a focus on Sustainable Development, he returned to do his PhD at the Department of Land Economy. 

His current project investigates the interaction of lawyers with the implementation and compliance of the three Rio Treaties: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Convention to Combat Desertification.  

We asked him about his aspirations, inspirations and his favourite place in Cambridge.

What aspirations do you have for your research?

My research interests are broad – as with most people in this line of work – I am a naturally curious person. While diverse, my interests coalesce around the intent to deconstruct and challenge prevailing notions of international law’s structure and effectiveness amidst escalating global crises. I aspire to be a good teacher, and hope to use the vast breadth of research across disciplines to train and educate a new generation of law and policy leaders who are well-equipped to solve our global challenges. 

What’s the most significant professional choice you’ve had to make? 

Staying in the UK instead of going back to India in 2021 after my LLM is probably the most significant professional choice I made. 

Focused on a future in academia, when my results rolled around and the PhD offers did not materialise, it was unclear what the year ahead would look like. I am hugely grateful that a few mentors patiently heard me out, opened doors, and provided opportunities for me that made it financially viable for me to remain in the UK.  My parents provided crucial support, and motivated me to work as hard as I could to make the PhD happen.  The stars aligned, and attending the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow that year is what gave birth to the PhD proposal I am working on at the moment. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

My inclination to affirmatively embrace every opportunity has, paradoxically, been both advantageous for gaining diverse experiences and a prelude to overcommitment and missed deadlines. I have a proclivity for saying ‘yes’ to things that open up. One of my earliest academic mentors recognised this trait and pointed it out to me. She asked a simple question, ‘Why are you in such a rush?’, and provided some excellent advice, ‘you can afford to do one project at a time’.  

I did not have an answer back then, dismissing the question and the associated advice, but some very painful professional experiences later where I have let down people I respect and admire, I have learned how useful it is to know the bounds of your time. I have multiple interests, so there are still multiple fires on the go simultaneously, but I now time-block, and move from one task/deadline to another, using my calendar and diary to greater effect than I did before. 

Who or what inspires you? 

I am continuously inspired by the scale of planetary crises we face, and the passion and inventiveness of the people surrounding me, who, knowing the immense scale of the problems, are working to expose bumps and innovate solutions to these problems. 

What might others be surprised to learn about you? 

Perhaps that I practice Vipassana meditation and am constantly on a path of learning to live in the moment, being aware and equanimous. There are several moments that slip by me, but I find the pursuit of balance, and reminding myself to continuously ‘try’, helpful.  

Do you have a favourite place in Cambridge? 

As MCR President, I am biased, but my current favourite place in Cambridge is my College, Gonville & Caius. I routinely change where I work, so while I am most frequently in the David Attenborough Building, I usually end up at some stage during the day at Old Courts or in the Caius Library at Senate House, which provide two sanctuaries of calm in an ocean of noise that is the beating heart and absolute centre of Cambridge. Other endearing spaces include Sidgwick site: sitting at either the Centre for South Asian Studies or the Faculty of Law.