Farah Elawar Memorial Scholarship shares the essence of life

Farah’s brother Hicham accepts PhD for his sister after her tragic death

Tarwinder Rai - 09 June 2022

image-1.jpegFarah Elawar would leave the University of Alberta Marchant Research Lab every day at 7 p.m. And, without fail, every evening, she would call her mother, Nabila, who would be waiting to hear all about her daughter’s day. 

Nabila would stay on the phone until her daughter reached her downtown apartment, safely. 

Every day. 

On July 18, 2021, Farah, a PhD student studying virology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, made an exciting new discovery in the lab. A discovery she wanted to tell her parents about in person. So, rather than her usual phone call, that night Farah got into her car and started driving towards her parents’ house in Alsike, Alta. 

Farah never made it home that night. Two months away from completing her PhD and walking across the convocation stage, Farah passed away in a collision.

In her memory, the Elawar family has created the Farah Elawar Memorial Scholarship. And, to commemorate the completion of her graduation degree, her brother Hicham, ’19 BSc CivE, will be walking the convocation stage and accepting her PhD. 

“She was preparing to enter the next phase of her life journey,” says Nabila. “She had achieved what she wanted to in university and she was being recruited to go work out east at a major research facility.”

Farah grew up in Warburg, Alta, and attended Warburg School with her brother. She helped her mother and father, Khaled, by working at the family business in the area.

“If you met her once, you would never forget her,” says Nabila.

The Elawar family has also created a second 10-year scholarship in Farah’s name for students at Warburg School. 

She surfed. Skydived and travelled the world. Just like her dad, she loved nature. Farah never stayed in one spot for too long. She was always on the move. She was a planner. She loved playing board games, especially chess. Farah was the joy of the Elawar family. She loved everyone. And her work was going to improve lives.

The next chapter of Farah’s life after graduation was going to include a surprise — a proposal from her longtime partner, Joel, who she met while attending the U of A. 

A proposal only her mother knew about.

“It was a surprise for her,” she says. Farah was always in a race with time, like she knew she had limited time.”

She sat on numerous committees at the university. And her research area was one-of-a-kind. Despite being at the beginning of her career, Farah had already established a name for herself internationally. 

“She was very passionate about her research,” says Nabila. “She wanted to make a difference in the lives of infants.”

“She developed collaborations. She was the centre of the social network at the lab,” says researcher and Farah’s graduate supervisor David Marchant. “She was just very interested in science, she was a very inquisitive kid. I’m writing papers now and developing projects using her data. We keep finding new things she discovered.” 

Farah’s research focused on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) strains — the leading cause of child hospitalizations worldwide —  and their effect on infant health. Her thesis, The characteristics of respiratory syncytial virus variants, is now in the process of being published.

“She found something she really loved and pursued it hard,” says Nabila. “She liked to travel everywhere. She always managed to have time for that.”

It’s this thirst for living life that the Elawar family hope the recipients of the Farah Elawar Memorial Award exemplify. 

“We want this award to go to someone who has her spirit,” says Hicham. “Hopefully they can take this award as an inspiration and drive to keep moving forward, and to just go for it. Just like Farah always did.”