Como resident’s academic journey inspires Young Achiever nomination

PhD student Brittany Rurak and research assistant Madeleine Graham with a trans-cranial magnetic simulation device at a Murdoch University lab. Picture: Matt Jelonek
PhD student Brittany Rurak and research assistant Madeleine Graham with a trans-cranial magnetic simulation device at a Murdoch University lab. Picture: Matt Jelonek

A COMO resident’s research into Parkinson’s garnered her a scholarship for her PhD and respect from her peers for breaking through her circumstances.

PhD student Brittany Rurak is researching how different brain regions communicate and contribute to common motor dysfunctions in Parkinson’s disease.

“We’re exploring different interventions or protocols to optimise treatments, in a nutshell,” she said.

“What we want to do is try to identify an optimal protocol using non-evasive brain simulation to help develop more targeted treatment to reduce tremors.”

Ms Rurak was nominated for a Young Achiever Award 2019 by her senior lecturer at Murdoch University for her research, which has been entirely financially supported by a Research Training Program scholarship.

Ms Rurak, who moved from Canada to Perth in 2008, said her proudest academic achievement was being admitted into university after difficulties in school.

“I had a speech-sound disorder which simply meant I couldn’t pronounce the words,” she said.

“I think early on I was deemed as someone who wasn’t going to achieve any academic success and for me that just motivated me more.”

After living with a traumatising upbringing, Ms Rurak said she was becoming more comfortable with her past and used it to help others.

“My dad was drug and alcohol dependent so often my sister and I would get neglected,” she said.

“As a drug and alcohol counsellor, I feel like I’m having a very direct impact on individuals and every time I walk out, I feel good.”

Young Achiever Award winners will be announced on May 25.