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Bacteria researcher takes out top corporate PhD pitching night
14 November 2018

Samra Qaraghuli from South Australia’s Flinders University has won the AMP Amplify Ignite competition for 2018 after wowing the judges with her research presentation on creating a new family of antibiotics from fungi.

Samra took home top prize while 53-year-old Art Cruz received the people’s prize – judged by the audience – for his research on detecting concrete cancer in Australian buildings.

The AMP Amplify Ignite competition is one of Australia’s premier competitions providing researchers with the opportunity to work with professional performance coaches and pitch their idea to a corporate audience.

"... ambition and drive to solve problems other people can’t solve ... you give us all inspiration and belief."

Hundreds of people from across the business community came together in Sydney for the competition overnight – with the student finalists only having 150 seconds to deliver their idea to the audience.


Samra said she was completely shocked to win and thanked her husband and her mum as she accepted her award.

Originally from Iraq, she had only studied English for six months before beginning her PhD studies in Australia.

AMP Group Executive for Technology and Operations, Craig Ryman, joined Samra on stage to congratulate her on the win and praise the work of all the students involved.

“Tonight, what I’ve got out of our presentation is we have a cohort of PhD students with ambition and drive to solve problems other people can’t solve and you give us all inspiration and belief,” Mr Ryman said.


17 PhD students from nine universities made it through to this year’s final – beating out competition from their peers at 18 universities across Australia.

PwC Chief Creative Officer Russel Howcroft was MC for the evening – guiding the students as they tried to sell their research to an audience with no background in their specialist areas of knowledge.

“AMP gave me the chance to meet with people from the corporate world.”

In a time when research funding is scarce – and significant research can go undiscovered – AMP Amplify Ignite is designed to help bridge the communication gap between academia and business.

Topics pitched to the audience included wearable sleep devices for insomniacs, cold water therapy to help cure anxiety, peer-to-peer electricity trading, and a plan to save Australia’s native honey bee.


Last year’s AMP Amplify Ignite winner Dr Noushin Nasiri passed on some of her wisdom and advice to the PhD students.

Since competing at AMP Amplify Ignite in 2017 Dr Nasiri has been working as a lecturer in the School of Engineering at Sydney’s Macquarie University.

She told the crowd she had always loved telling people about her research but had never had the means to communicate her ideas properly.

“The training gives you a chance to look at your idea from a business perspective,” she said.

“AMP gave me the chance to meet with people from the corporate world.”

Samra will be hoping she can emulate some of Dr Nasiri’s success now she has been chosen as the AMP Amplify Ignite 2018 champion.

She said she had applied with no expectations of reaching the final but could now see several opportunities for her to gain a wider audience for her research.

Pictured, top to bottom

1st: The team and PhD students behind AMP Amplify Ignite 2018

2nd: AMP Amplify Ignite 2018 winner Samra Qaraghuli from South Australia's Flinders University

3rd, left to right: AMP Amplify Ignite 2018 people's choice winner Art Cruz, AMP Group Executive for Technology and Operations Craig Ryman, and AMP Amplify Ignite 2018 winner Samra Qaraghuli

4th: AMP Amplify Ignite PhD students with the night's MC, PwC CCO Russel Howcroft

5th: AMP Amplify Ignite 2018 judges Rowena Westphalen (Salesforce), Chris Bell (AMP’s Chief Technology Officer), Peter Bradd (The Beanstalk Factory), TC Miles (PwC) 

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Audrey Blackburn
+61 (0) 466 406 997