When husband and wife team Roya and Sam Rudd first locked eyes on each other, they knew it was love at first sight. Meeting in the first tutorial of the first week of their Chemical Engineering degree at Azad University in Iran, it was clear that the chemistry they shared was more than just books.
Now, nine years, 12,000 kilometres and three degrees (each) later, their bond stands strong.
Inseparable since day one, they’ve pursued a near identical education, driven by a love of learning and a love of each other. Yet despite this dovetailed journey, UniSA’s September graduation ceremony was the first time they got to cross the stage together.
Roya says it’s a significant milestone for the couple.
“This graduation is like a dream for us,” Roya says.
“After nine years of study together, this is the first time we get to graduate together.
“We’ve worked hard for this – as a team – and it’s wonderful to be able to finally celebrate our successes at the same time.”
Married directly after their undergraduate degree, Roya and Sam emigrated from Iran in 2011, choosing Australia to make their home. But when jobs in the same city looked less likely, the duo decided to pursue their passion for learning, enrolling at UniSA to further their education.
With the goal always being to ensure that Roya had the same opportunities as Sam, they researched a lot of universities, before selecting UniSA as ‘the one’. Roya says it was UniSA’s reputation for valuing diversity that cinched the deal.
“What I really loved – and continue to love – about UniSA is how much they value women,” Roya says.
“It sounds funny, but whether you go to the library or to the UniSA website, female researchers are always profiled so positively, and I really love that.
“We both felt loads of positive energy from our encounters with UniSA, and I just said to Sam, ‘UniSA is our choice, I love UniSA.’”
Roya and Sam both went on to study their Masters by Research with Roya graduating in Science and Sam in Engineering.
Each step along the way, they’ve been there to support each other. When Sam sacrificed his study to support them financially, Roya was there to help him with his research papers. And when Roya was stressing about her presentation when she was about to set foot on stage, Sam was there.
“Sam is just like a driving force for me,” Roya says.
“I remember saying to him that I can’t remember a single word for my Three Minute Thesis presentation last year, but he was there encouraging me and supporting me, and I knew everything would be okay. As it turned out I not only won first prize for the School and Division, but also the People’s Choice award!”
By the time they started their PhDs at UniSA, both had received scholarships, enabling them to focus, undistracted, on their research. Roya says that from day one they were valued as researchers.
“The first thing our supervisors told us was ‘you’re a researcher, you’re one our colleagues’. From top to bottom there was no hierarchy,” Roya says.
“It was such a good feeling to be thought of as independent researchers to develop our skills.
“I thought this is a completely new perspective for a university – which is another reason why I fell in love with UniSA. And now UniSA has become our second home.”
Following the successful completion of their PhDs, Roya will be applying her skills to thermal camouflage technology in the defence sector, while Sam will be progressing his research in conductive polymers, to help farmers better manage water and fertilisers for their crops.
Over the past nine years, each has been a pillar of strength and advocate for the other. Sam says it’s their shared support and friendship that make their relationship so successful.
“Your partner’s successes are your successes,” Sam says.
“Roya has always been the superstar. Right from the first day I met her.
“It’s been amazing to see her succeed - much more so than myself – and we got to share in each other’s successes as we graduated, finally, together.”
Roya and Sam were among 53 students who were awarded PhDs at UniSA’s September graduation ceremonies.