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Double celebration for mother and daughter

Tuesday 21 May 2019 10:37pm

Graduation---PHD-mum-and-daughter-image
It was a double celebration for Shereen Murugayah and mother Regina Maniam, as they both received their PhDs from the University of Otago at graduation on Saturday.

Graduation was even more special for one mother and daughter over the weekend, when they both walked across the stage to receive their doctorates.

Regina Maniam receive her PhD in management, while her daughter Shereen Murugayah graduated with a PhD in biochemistry.

Studying and graduating at the same time was not a conscious decision, but one which they are both embracing, Regina says.

“When we found our completion times were close enough, Shereen waited for me so that we could graduate together. How often do a mother and daughter get to graduate together with PhDs?”

"When we found our completion times were close enough, Shereen waited for me so that we could graduate together. How often do a mother and daughter get to graduate together with PhDs?"

The pair are from Malaysia. Shereen came to Dunedin in 2010 and completed an honours degree in biochemistry before commencing her PhD in 2014. Her PhD topic focussed on investigating a way to prevent infections on medical implants using enzymes to prevent bacteria from growing.

In 2010, while visiting Shereen and her son Steven, both already students at the University, Regina decided to spend more time in Dunedin as a student.

This ultimately led to her commencing her PhD in 2014, following the completion of a Graduate Diploma (management) from Otago Polytechnic and Master of Business (management) from University of Otago. Interviews with current and former students of universities in New Zealand formed the basis of her PhD research on the effects of social capital on start-up outcomes.

The pride each has for the other’s achievement is obvious.

"Although our research areas were very different, we both experienced the triumphs and tribulations of the journey through a PhD."

“To have made it through with my PhD is an immense achievement. For me, graduating with my daughter is a very special occasion and for this I am grateful,” Regina says.

For Shereen, graduation is a mix of joy, relief and gratitude.

“We made it through and did it together. I have grown so much but I could not have done any of this without the support of my family, supervisors and a whole host of others. A PhD can be a lonely journey for many, so having support is incredibly important.”

They say studying at the same time certainly had its advantages.

“Although our research areas were very different, we both experienced the triumphs and tribulations of the journey through a PhD.

“Having each other's support certainly made it easier as we shared a lot of common ground,” Shereen says.

And the common ground continues, with both now employed at the University.

Shereen and Regina can now share the title of Doctor with Steven, who graduated from Otago in 2011 with a medical degree.