A couple were awarded PhDs together six years after they came to the UK from Syria.
Dr Joud Sabouni and Dr Murhaf Jalab were joined by their family at the celebration in Preston, with four-year-old son Majed proudly cheering them on, as they both accepted PhD awards for their work related to brain cancer and infectious diseases research, respectively at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
The couple’s educational journey started in their native Syria, where they met whilst studying for their Masters’ degrees before war forced them to flee the country in 2015.
Whilst in Turkey, Joud and Murhaf applied for scholarships through Cara (the Council for At-Risk Academics), which led them to be offered full fee-waiver scholarships from UCLan to study in the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences.
Joud, said: “Today represents the end of what was a very difficult journey at times. Although it was hard to leave our country, we felt happy to have this opportunity to do our PhD studies and achieve our dreams. We’ve both enjoyed living in Preston and being able to continue our research at UCLan.”
Murhaf said: “I’m not sure Majed really understood why his parents were on a stage being given awards, but he was very excited all the same and it was lovely for Joud and I to graduate together.”
In addition to adjusting to living and studying in a new country, Joud and Murhaf also had to adapt to life as new parents during their PhD studies when Majed was born in 2017.
“I had to spend many weekends working in the lab, which was hard at times when I had a baby at home to look after.” said Joud. “The nature of our research means that time is of the essence because we work on live cells. We’ve had to make sacrifices so it’s nice to finally celebrate with our families, who have been so supportive.”
Since finishing their doctorate degrees, Joud and Murhaf have welcomed a second son, Yazan, and spent the last year working at the University of Nottingham as postdoctoral research fellows.
Murhaf added: “We will always be grateful to our supervisors, UCLan, and Cara for their support. Our hope has always been to make a difference in cancer and infectious diseases research through our work. We hope to be able to continue living and working in the UK to develop our research further.”