Congratulations to our scholarship winners!
INRS Foundation Board Scholarships

Natalie Herkendaal, a master’s student in energy and materials sciences under the supervision of Professor Lionel Roué, and Marília Karla Soares Lopes, a doctoral student in telecommunications under the supervision of Professor Tiago H. Falk, are the first winners of the INRS Foundation Board Scholarships, which are presented in Montreal today, on the eve of International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

In line with INRS’s goals of equity, inclusion and diversity, the $2,500 scholarships aim to encourage and support more female students at the master’s and doctoral levels in the Centre Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications research centre’s training programs, where women tend to be underrepresented. The scholarship supplements the conditions offered by Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) to the recipient.

We asked our scholars a few questions to learn more about their work and aspirations. 

Natalie Herkendaal
Master’s student in energy and materials science

Natalie Herkendaal

What brought you to INRS?

I started my career at INRS as a summer undergraduate trainee. It seemed like a great opportunity to gain relevant experience in my field, practice my French and do some networking. In the end, I was able to meet my future research supervisor, Professor Lionel Roué, and engage in a master’s project that I am passionate about. This experience allowed me to explore and clarify my options for graduate studies and make some new friends at the same time!

Can you describe the issue at the heart of your research project?

My master’s project focuses on the development of silicon-based anodes for lithium-ion batteries. With a specific capacity almost 10x higher than that of conventional graphite, this material is mainly studied in the context of electric cars, where this capacity will translate into a range with more kilometres between recharges, and therefore less time spent at the terminal. The attractiveness of electric cars is an important issue in the transition to clean energy and in reducing air pollution in urban centres.

What does winning this scholarship mean to you?

This scholarship will allow me to maintain a good balance between my studies, work and extracurricular activities. I love being involved in my community and participating in a variety of activities, but these are difficult times for all of us and the most vulnerable members of our community (such as post-secondary students) are impacted even more. This bursary will allow me to feel free to invest the time, attention and daily caffeine intake necessary to complete my studies and achieve my personal goals.

How do you see the future?

I plan to fast-track my PhD in the next few months to further develop my research capabilities here at INRS and with our partners at the Institut des Matériaux de Nantes. This is not the last you will hear of me at INRS! I hope that my background and achievements in my field can inspire other young women to pursue a career in science despite all the obstacles they may face.

Marília Karla Soares Lopes
Doctoral student in telecommunications

Marilia Karla Soares Lopes

What brought you to INRS?

I learned about INRS from a student at a conference in Montreal (Women in Machine Learning @NeurIPS). I was finishing my studies in Brazil at the time and was looking to fulfill my dream of gaining study abroad experience. I was looking for universities to start my Master’s degree and I found INRS to be the ideal place for me, as it is an institute that values scientific research and gives students the means to carry out their project. I finished my master’s degree at INRS and in 2021 I also started my PhD at INRS under the supervision of Professor Tiago Falk. During my training, I gained a lot of experience and joined a stimulating multicultural team.

Can you tell us about the research at the heart of your PhD project?

Stress and anxiety are increasingly present in society, contributing to many chronic diseases and diminishing quality of life. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common mental health problems worldwide. Since the onset of the pandemic, more people have turned to nature through walking, forest bathing and hiking to promote relaxation and treat anxiety and stress. Although the benefits of interaction with nature on mental health have been well documented, these outdoor activities may not be accessible to all. A more inclusive approach is therefore needed.

My Nat[UR]e@home project aims to bring nature into the patient’s living room using ultimate reality (UR). While VR systems only offer audiovisual stimuli, the new UR systems engage not only the auditory and visual senses, but also olfactory, thermoreceptive and tactile. Such multisensory systems can be portable and open up new avenues for the treatment of stress and anxiety in the home that can be accessible to all, despite limitations in mobility, health conditions and access to nature in urban areas.

As this project is the first of its kind, the scientific knowledge that will emerge will contribute not only to the advancement of immersive reality, but also to new stress/anxiety/relaxation biomarkers and accessible treatment tools. I aim to develop new models of stress/anxiety based on the multiple signal modalities measured and advanced machine learning tools.

What does winning this scholarship mean to you?

First of all, I would like to say a big thank you for this opportunity. I am very grateful for the support that has been given to me. It motivates me to pursue my projects and my research career.

How do you see the future?

I see an opportunity to grow as a woman scientist and seek to encourage more women in the field. This encouragement pushes me further to build my career. 

These scholarships are offered following a competition held in the fall. A selection committee composed of faculty members and representatives of the Service des études supérieures et de la réussite étudiante assessed the applications submitted and determined the winners. 

To celebrate the success of our students and to mark International Women and Girls in Science Day, some 30 members of the INRS community are participating in the award ceremony held today at the Energy Materials and Telecommunications research centre’s Montreal campus. Words of welcome from INRS CEO Luc-Alain Giraldeau, Centre Director François Légaré, and Foundation Board Chair Martine Vanasse will precede a presentation of the scholarship winners.

The Foundation’s Board Scholarships were created in 2021 through a five-year, $25,000 donation commitment made on behalf of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. An annual sum of $5,000 is used to offer the scholarships.

In addition to acknowledging the invaluable contributions of the Chair of the Board, Ms. Vanasse, and the former Director of the Centre Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications, Professor Marc André Gauthier, the INRS Foundation extends its warmest thanks to all those who submitted applications and participated in the selection process.

Congratulations and best success to our inspiring students!

More details about this scholarship

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