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Medical student lands prestigious Rhodes scholarship

November 22, 2006

Source: University of Alberta

Third-year medical student Travis Murdoch has been awarded an esteemed Rhodes Scholarship from Oxford University, making him the University of Alberta's 24th Rhodes Scholar and third in four years.

"We are absolutely delighted that Travis has received this prestigious recognition," said U of A President Indira Samarasekera. "It is a tribute to his achievements and to those around him who have encouraged him throughout his academic journey. He is an exceptional student and brings great distinction to the University of Alberta."

The 22-year-old says his experience working with the research team that developed the Edmonton Protocol treatment for Type 1 diabetes was inspirational. As a 16-year-old participant in the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research's summer mentorship program in 2001, Murdoch joined the research group shortly after it announced its groundbreaking advance in islet cell transplantation.

Murdoch now works as a part-time researcher with the islet transplant team, under Dr. James Shapiro, and conducts research with Dr. Richard Fedorak, director of the U of A Centre of Excellence for Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Immunity Research.

"The fact that they continued to have me on - it is putting a lot of trust into someone to let them into your lab with a lot of expensive equipment and let them do experiments," said Murdoch. "It is phenomenal that we have these kinds of researchers at the U of A who are really world class and who give students like myself a chance to get involved."

Fedorak isn't surprised that Murdoch was successful in his Rhodes bid. "Travis is probably one of the brightest and most enthusiastic students I have had the opportunity to work within the last 20 years," Fedorak said. "He's bright, he's energetic, he's thoughtful, he's compassionate - he has all of those attributes that make for an outstanding clinician-scientist."

Murdoch will take a one-year leave of absence from his studies at the U of A to attend Oxford in October. There, he'll work towards a Masters of Science in Integrated Immunology. He also has interests beyond medicine and academics. He has formed a literature club for medical students that focuses on fiction, as opposed to scientific literature. He also remains active in the AHFMR Heritage Youth Research Summer program that originally brought him to campus, and is a volunteer judge and workshop instructor for junior high school debate tournaments.

The Rhodes Scholarships, first awarded in Canada in 1904, are the best known of international scholarships. They are financed and administered by the Oxford-based Rhodes Trust established under the will of Cecil Rhodes. Up to eleven Rhodes Scholarships are awarded annually in Canada, including three in the Prairies Region of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Scholarship is tenable for studies at the University of Oxford in England for two or three years, beginning in October 2007. Selection is made by committee after personal interviews and on the basis of a candidate's record. Although scholastic ability is of importance, such factors as character, qualities of leadership and physical vigour are carefully considered. Distinction, whether in intellect or character or a combination of these, is the essential requirement.

For more information, please contact: File No. 51

Phoebe Dey, Public Affairs Date: November 22, 2006

University of Alberta, (780)492-0437



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