Students as critical contributors to Canadian research

Annual public meeting highlights the importance of mentorship for students to develop skills, make discoveries and innovate

OTTAWA, ONTARIO — Most of the research being done in facilities across the country is by students. Without them, says Marie-Josée Hebért of Université de Montréal, there would be no research. Hébert, Vice-Rector of Research, Discovery, Creation and Innovation, was one of four participants in an online discussion during the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) annual public meeting.

The discussion titled, Mentorship as a winning element in research and economic development, was moderated by Roseann O’Reilly Runte, CFI President and CEO, and included two research mentors and their students.

Hébert’s mentee, Alexandre Brodeur, said that thanks to Hebert’s insights and her research team’s advice, he not only gained a better understanding of his research, but also shifted focus to the implications of his findings on society at large. Now a research assistant at the Centre de recherche du CHUM, Brodeur spoke to the importance of the research team “family.” At one point, he almost abandoned his project, but with the support of his team, he persevered.

Jeff Dahn, Principal Investigator, NSERC/Tesla Canada Alliance Grant at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., spoke about the many benefits of mentorship, including the career opportunities for his students. Several of his former students now work for a research spin-off company in Halifax. His mentee, Tina Taskovic, said that working with Dahn and his team gave her confidence, and helped her develop both the hard and soft skills needed when pursuing science.

Despite their different fields of research, Hébert and Dahn both agreed that the biggest motivation for students is simply getting excited by their work. “The eureka moment — we live for this — it's the adrenaline rush that is unbelievable,” said Dahn. Hébert added that a mentor must share in the highs and the lows with their students, and to cherish and share in their passion. “We don't talk enough about the passion of discovery, of science. When you can share this excitement with your student, magic happens,” she said.

The annual public meeting also included an overview of the CFI’s financial reports and activities for 2021-22, as well as the release of the CFI’s 2021-22 annual report.

Watch a recording of our annual public meeting 

Read our 2021–22 Annual Report