They met 13 years ago as first year Geology students and now husband and wife team Rachel Anderson and Elijah Marshall have received their PhDs at a graduation ceremony held in Hobart today.
Elijah received a PhD in Chemistry and Rachel received her PhD in Geography and Environmental Studies.
While Elijah describes the experience of studying a PhD at the same time as ‘hellish’, Rachel is quick to point out the advantages.
“If anything, studying a PhD at the same time gave us a much better understanding of study demands. It was also an emotional release for us as we could provide support and understanding to each other because we knew exactly what the experience was like,” Rachel said.
The couple spent many long days and nights working on their PhDs.
“We would have breakfast together, arrive at uni and head off to separate buildings to work on our PhD. We would then meet up for dinner, go to bed and start the process all over again.”
“Many of our friends were supportive during this time. They would drop into uni and deliver us coffee,” Rachel says.
“You always had the PhD in the back of your mind,” Elijah adds. “Now we get to have weekends.”
Elijah’s talents were in the fields of chemistry and geology so he combined the two. His PhD involved research into gold hydrometallurgy and analytical chemistry to investigate how gold can be extracted from ore without using cyanide. He believes that having the knowledge in both fields gave him a much better understanding of this process.
Rachel conducted research of molecular ecology, particularly the evolutionary patterns of the South Eastern Australian brown butterflies, some of which are now threatened species. As part of this research she looked at three distinct sub-species and how to secure ongoing management of them to ensure their survival.
Elijah proudly points out that his wife received some excellent results and was sent an email from an International publisher who would ‘love to publish her work’.
Elijah and Rachel live in Sydney where they job share the position of Dean of Residents at Dunmore Lang residential college at Macquarie University. The college was a place Rachel stayed whilst she worked on a project with Macquarie University and the Australian Antarctic Division.
“Elijah looks after student discipline and I do project work. We spend a lot of our time talking realistically and honestly to students making sure they are travelling well at university,” Rachel explains.
Rachel and Elijah would both love to pursue a research role at university and would jump at the chance to live and work back in Tasmania.