Tribute to inspirational student at Murdoch research showcase

November 14, 2017

Emerging researcher: Tamara Hourani with her supervisor Dr Garth Maker (left) and Conor Murphy's father Maurice

Emerging researcher: Tamara Hourani with her supervisor Dr Garth Maker (left) and Conor Murphy's father Maurice

A new award that honours the incredible life and achievements of late Murdoch University student Conor Murphy, has been presented to a high-achieving honours student.

Tamara Hourani was presented with the Conor Murphy Oration Award at the inaugural Murdoch University Annual Research Symposium (MARS) for her research into the insecticide permethrin.

Mr Murphy was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) at the age of three-and-a-half. Despite the challenges he faced as he grew older, he achieved a double degree in Politics and History at Murdoch in 2012. At the time of his death, Conor was employed in the electorate office of Fremantle MP Melissa Parke.

Mr Murphy passed away in 2014 after his home was affected by a blackout, switching off the power to life-preserving breathing equipment.

His father Maurice, who presented Ms Hourani with her award, said the research being done at Murdoch led by Professors Steve Wilton and Sue Fletcher, while too late to make a difference to his son, was helping many others. Conor was a long-standing friend of the researchers and members of their team, and remains an inspiration to them all.

Ms Hourani, who is planning to continue her studies with a PhD, said she was honoured to be the recipient of the award.

“Conor was a remarkable young man and an inspiration to all. This award is one of great honour and privilege and gives me the confidence to continue to strive for success,” she said.

“My involvement in scientific research has instilled a passion within me, and new doors have opened. I will continue to question, learn, better myself and reach for the seemingly unreachable.”

Murdoch University’s emerging researchers from across disciplines showcased their translational projects at MARS, giving them the opportunity to establish potentially fruitful connections.

Organising committee chair Dr Rakesh Veedu from the Centre for Comparative Genomics (CCG), said the goal of MARS was to provide a platform for all Murdoch’s research students and early career researchers to meet, interact and share their research in accessible language.

“Interdisciplinary research and collaboration is a strength and a priority at Murdoch, and we hope the symposium encourages the researchers and their supervisors to open the scope of their studies,” Dr Veedu said.

“After attending a workshop organised by the Research and Innovation office, I could see how my own research into precision drug development could be enhanced with the help of my fellow researchers at Murdoch.

“This would result in my research being lifted way above my expectations and this is what sparked me thinking about the concept of MARS.”

The event had over 180 registrations and the program featured five guest keynote speakers, 16 oral presentations, 29 fast forward presentations and 38 posters, with prizes for the top performers on the day.

In his closing address Professor Chris Hutchison, Director of Research and Innovation at Murdoch, said the event had been a celebration of everything that is good about Murdoch.

“This is the only university that I know that takes a whole of value chain approach to research," he said.

“The symposium is an excellent reflection of the breadth of expertise at Murdoch, and it is encouraging to see such great work from emerging researchers in disciplines currently ranked at world standard or above.”

MARS was organised by an interdisciplinary organising committee of 11 academics, three students and four professional staff members. It was sponsored by the Murdoch Research and Innovation office, In Vitro Technologies, Fisher Biotec Australia, Western Australian Health Translation Network, Perron Institute, UniBank, Rowe Scientific and Genesearch.

The Conor Murphy Oration Award was sponsored by the CCG and Muscular Dystrophy WA.

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