Injured violinist followed environmental scientist dream

May 23, 2016

Erin Chen (left) with Lorraine and Barry Young, Amanda Young's parents

Erin Chen (left) with Lorraine and Barry Young, Amanda Young's parents

A former musician rewarded by Murdoch University for her performance as an environmental science student, said the course helped her recovery after an arm injury forced her to quit playing the violin professionally.

Erin Chen travelled to many parts of the world as an orchestral violinist, and after settling back in Australia played predominantly with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. But the devastating overuse injury sustained almost two years ago meant violin playing, typing and daily activities such as chopping vegetables and even getting dressed, became difficult and painful.

She was two-and-a-half years into her environmental science degree when the injury developed in August 2014, and was forced to withdraw for much of semester two of that year. But on her return to Murdoch, the Equity and Social Inclusion office offered support and advice which was ‘revelatory’ she said.

Erin’s dedication and passion for environmental science saw her graduate earlier this year and the University honoured her outstanding academic performance and leadership at a recent Student Prize night.

“Receiving the awards is an honour that lasts long after the ceremony is over,” said Erin. “It provides myself and fellow students with the conviction that we’re on the right track.

“Now that I’ve graduated, I’m fortunate enough to be working in my chosen field as a graduate environmental adviser at Woodside, and have found much of my study at Murdoch to be very relevant to what I’m doing now.”

Erin said her original plan back in 1997 when she was in Year 12 at school, was to study environmental science at Murdoch. But she was convinced to explore her talent as a violinist and embarked on a music degree instead.

“Throughout my subsequent 13 year career as a professional violinist, which was filled with amazing opportunities including living in The Netherlands for five years, I could never quite shake the feeling that I wasn’t doing what I meant to be doing,” said Erin.

“Inspired by my mother, who entered university as a mature age, external student, I applied to Murdoch in 2011, and from the moment I undertook my first science unit, long unused parts of my brain were once again stimulated. This inspired feeling lasted throughout the degree, thanks to the incredible and diverse staff at Murdoch.”

She said being forced to give up playing the violin and withdrawing from her studies for a period was a real test. But support from her husband and family, looking after her dog Chaka and developing a passion for gardening helped her through.

“When I returned to uni in 2015, Murdoch staff and the equity department made sure I was aware of the many alternative ways for exams and assessments to be taken should injuries or disabilities be a factor for students,” explained Erin. “It was a revelation for me as I had thought I would just have to withdraw again if my injury went downhill.

“Meeting other students throughout my degree, I realised that everyone was facing their own challenges, big and small, and I found Murdoch staff were there to support us every step of the way.”

Erin won the Award in Environmental Science for her exceptional academic achievements, and the Amanda Young Leadership Prize, which is presented to the graduating student who displays the best combination of leadership, academic performance and potential for contribution to the environment.

The latter prize is dedicated to the memory of Amanda Young, an exceptional young sportswoman with a passion for environmental science who tragically died at the age of 18 after contracting meningococcal disease.

Winning this Prize had particular meaning for Erin because she knew Amanda when they were in the same swimming club together around the age of 11.

“It’s truly inspirational to see what she achieved in her short life, and the amazing work that her family have done in supporting so many causes in Amanda’s memory via the Amanda Young Foundation,” she said.

Background

  • This year, Murdoch University awarded 272 student prizes to 260 students at a series of award ceremonies run on campus.
  • The prize program rewards the effort and achievements of students within all disciplines and at any year level.
  • Prize donors are asked to commit to a prize for at least five years and prize amounts vary from $250 to $2,000 a year.
  • This year’s prizes represent $88,650 dollars in cash value, plus thousands more in organisational memberships, professional development vouchers, books and subscriptions to industry journals.
  • Of the total prize pool, $17,950 comes from Murdoch schools who fund prizes for their highest achievers. The rest comes from alumni, staff, industry organisations and companies who wish to reward high achievement by students.
  • Organisations or individuals interested in becoming prize donors should call the Development Office on +61 8 9360 7252 for further information.

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Media contact: Jo Manning
Tel: (08) 9360 2474  |  Mobile: 0408 201 309  |  Email: j.manning@murdoch.edu.au
Categories: General, Teaching and Learning, Domestic students
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