Barbara Augustin (M.Sc. Applied Microbiology, 2006)
Instructor, Cégep de Saint-Laurent
She believes that the outstanding support she got at INRS left her with an excellent foundation of knowledge—knowledge she now shares with others on a daily basis. This solid base gave her the confidence she needed to undertake a teaching career.
Barbara Augustin considers herself “fortunate” to have studied at INRS. When she first set foot on the Laval campus, she was delighted to discover a “secluded and peaceful environment" that she likens to a “little piece of paradise.” Barbara knew nothing about INRS before a Université de Montréal professor introduced her to Charles M. Dozois, the INRS professor who went on to supervise her master’s thesis in applied microbiology—but she loved her experience.
Even though she adored doing research and working in a cutting-edge lab, she felt that her life as a researcher, with its “intense focus on tiny bacteria, in my bubble,” lacked “big picture” perspective. During her studies, she worked part time at the Armand Frappier Museum on campus. That’s where she first dabbled in science communication, an experience that spawned a desire to share her passion for science with others. Museum visitors encouraged her to pursue a career in teaching.
Barbara was determined to pursue her research and satisfy her interest in sharing scientific knowledge, so she started a PhD and also signed up for a short program in teaching. She enjoyed the research and lab work as much as ever, but as her doctoral exam grew near, she found herself doubting her topic, an extension of her master’s research on the genes in E. coli. responsible for urinary tract infections.
So she tempted fate and, contrary to plan, submitted her CV to St. Lawrence College, which invited her to interview for a lecturer position. When the college called the day after the interview to offer her the position—beginning the following week!—she accepted on the spot. She really wanted to know what it was like to teach. On hanging up, she realized that she was complicating things for her PhD studies. But she also knew she was a hard worker and was confident she could handle both challenges at the same time.
From her first day in the classroom, she was hooked. “I said to myself: ‘This is what I want to do!’” She gave up her PhD to teach, work as an educational consultant, and do research in microbiology. Among her achievements over the past decade, she's proud to have developed an attestation of collegial studies program in applied microbiology and to have contributed to various educational initiatives.
The decision to end her graduate studies is still a sensitive subject; she knows she disappointed the people who guided and supported her, but she’s still convinced it was the right choice. Looking back on her time at INRS, she describes it as a one-of-a-kind institution that gives students the opportunity to work with leading scientists in an environment where people are respected and research teams help each other. She believes that the outstanding support she got at INRS left her with an excellent foundation of knowledge—knowledge she now shares with others on a daily basis. This solid base gave her the confidence she needed to undertake a teaching career.
Today, she enjoys telling her students that she studied at the Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre and encourages them to consider it as a great option for getting a top-level scientific education. For her part, she plans to delve deeper into the realm of educational technology. Despite its numerous downsides, the pandemic created opportunities that made her realize she had a knack for adapting her classes and labs for distance learning—and for helping her teaching colleagues navigate the transition in order to continue nurturing the curiosity of a new generation of scientists.