“I am very honoured to accept this award. Recognition is a great tool that helps us take stock of our accomplishments. It allows me to see that my time at INRS - Urbanisation Culture Société Research Centre has been a turning point in my career, because it has allowed me to work on a variety of research projects using a multidisciplinary approach. This is essential in today’s complex reality, where things need to be examined from different angles.”
Ms Marie-Pierre Ippersiel (PhD Urban Studies, 2004)
President and Chief Executive Officer, PRIMA Québec
What brought you to INRS for your studies?
The research professor (Michel Trépanier) who I wanted to work with was at INRS-UCS. He was associated with the research centre (CIRST - Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie) where I worked as a research assistant for several years. I had the opportunity to speak with him and was very impressed by his research and his personality. I asked him, “If I get a FCARor SSHRC grant, can we work together?” He said yes. Meanwhile, I did receive an FCAR grant (previously FRQSC) and later an SSHRC grant. After having studied at UQAM and UdeM, I liked the idea of attending a smaller institution, that nonetheless had a strong reputation for research
What was your experience like at INRS when you studied here?
Off the top, the importance of studying in an environment where the priority is on teaching and research. Staying relevant is also key, although it’s sometimes challenging for research professors to obtain research grants. When research professors and students work together on external contracts they see beyond the academic setting to what is actually happening on the ground. It’s also a great way to get noticed by potential employers and especially to carry out your work in the field.
Do you have a favourite memory of your campus?
I remember the social aspect in particular. We were a good group of doctoral students from many different backgrounds who built strong friendships. We created the “Sangria Club” where we discussed our research projects, different concepts, and our goals and aspirations.” That time meant a lot to me because the friendships and feeling of community were a great support as I worked toward my PhD.
What is an important lesson you learned during your time at INRS?
So many memories! My biggest takeaway is recognizing the importance and value that multidisciplinary teams bring to a research project. INRS-UCS led me to draw on and integrate concepts of sociology, economics, and geography. This kind of learning is all the more essential today, given the complexity of the social and industrial issues we face.
Can you tell us about your career path from graduation to present?
In the last year of my dissertation, I took on a one-year contract for the now defunct Conseil de la science et de la technologie – CST (Committee on innovation in Quebec municipalities). I would work there during the week and write my dissertation on the weekends! As part of that project, I met the person who was to become my next employer. Near the end of my term with CST, I was contacted and invited for an interview for the position of economic development advisor for Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) At CMM, I helped create and implement the metropolitan cluster strategy and studied their political dynamics. After having helped set up the clusters, I chose to join one of them, namely Écotech Québec. After directing operations, content development, and relationships with funding organizations and industry players, I chose to return to my initial passion for strengthening ties between research and industry in the advanced materials sector at PRIMA Québec. PRIMA aims to provide businesses, particularly small- and medium-size businesses, with the academic expertise they need to innovate and become more competitive.
How did your time at INRS prepare you for your career?
The multidisciplinary approach is still relevant in my work. It helps me analyze an issue through a wider lense. Aside from my manager, I have had the opportunity to work with a research officer (Yvon Martineau, retired) who taught me interview techniques and sparked my interest in industrial tours.
What advice would you like to give to current students?
Choose a research topic of interest to you and then find the right research professor to support you every step of the way. The rapport between student and professor is very important. Also, never forget a PhD is a marathon not a sprint!
What are you hoping for in the future?
With regard to graduate studies . . .
- I hope to see more and more women in science and engineering graduate programs and as research professors.
- I hope to see businesses and organizations (especially in government) do more to acknowledge the contribution graduates make to their operations. It’s happening in a number of sectors, but not enough.
In general . . .
- Speed up energy transition for future generations
- Strengthen ties between research and industry: They generate significant benefits for both parties on many levels.