Sanofi Biogenius Canada is very grateful for the contributions of our corps of professional mentors, who support our participants with their scientific and academic expertise. Here are a few of the mentors that have taken part in years past.


DR. ANGELA M. CRAWLEY, UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA

Dr. Crawley mentored Aditya Mohan with his project “Development Of A Novel Oncolytic Virus For Cancer Treatment And Diagnosis.” Aditya took the top prize in both the Eastern Ontario Regional Competition as well as the National Finals in 2015.

Dr. Crawley is an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology and Scientist, The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

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How did you become a Mentor in Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

In 2006, I was approached by a high school student interested in joining my lab to do a research project for this competition, and for local science fairs. I immediately recognized his unique creative intelligence and refreshing scientific curiosity, and therefore agreed to be his mentor. This student was highly successful and went on to win local science fairs, placed highly in the Canada-Wide science fair, won the National Sanofi competition and was invited to participate in the international Sanofi science fair. In 2013, I was approached by another exceptional high school student, who volunteered in my lab for 2 years and was equally successful in the regional, national and international science fair scene.

Would you encourage fellow colleagues to participate as a Mentor in Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

I would definitely encourage my colleagues to be Sanofi Biogenius mentors! This is a great way to connect with young minds, and to have a role in nurturing their scientific curiosity. It is not a huge time commitment, and would not have to be done every year. Secondly, it is a good mentoring opportunity for our trainees, who often take on much of the bench work with the Sanofi students.

What has been your most rewarding experience as a Mentor for Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

I am very satisfied with the ongoing process when the student meets with me for our weekly updates and has a huge smile on their face, or when they light up in the face of new experiments or positive data! This is how I now they are really enjoying what they are doing in the lab, and that can be very gratifying as a mentor.

What is your advice to a student interested in participating in Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

Students may have to approach a number of scientists before someone responds to their inquiry. This can be at times a bit frustrating, but perseverance will yield results.

DR. MARK BELMONTE, UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA

Dr. Belmonte mentored Dennis Drewnik with his project “Identification of Essential Plant Defense Response Genes in the Arabidopsis thaliana– Sclerotinia sclerotiorum Pathosystem.” Dennis took the top prize at the Manitoba Regional Competition in 2015, and continued on to win fourth place at the SBC National Finals in Ottawa.

Dr. Belmonte is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Manitoba. He was chosen as one of the CBC’s Future 40 for his work and for placing Manitoba on the world stage of agricultural research.

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How did you become a Mentor in Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

I’ve taught thousands of biology students at the University of Manitoba and one day a student approached me in my Cell Biology class and started talking about how her younger brother was interested in biology and computers – two of my favourite things! I invited Dennis (then grade 8) to my lab and we started talking about how we can use computers to help develop experiments that will help solve the World’s food shortages. He hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since. Dennis is currently a grade 12 student at Sisler High in Winnipeg and has made huge discoveries in the lab!

Would you encourage fellow colleagues to participate as a Mentor in Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

Definitely! It’s important for teachers, instructors and professors to give back to the community – especially the next generation of young aspiring scientists. Regardless of their success at competitions – if students are trained the right way and show a genuine interest in research and in making a difference the reward is unbelievable!

What has been your most rewarding experience as a Mentor for Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

Seeing Dennis grow as a scientist and as a human being! I’ve mentored Dennis for almost four years with the help of other grad students in the lab. Dennis has made huge discoveries on his own and his drive and passion for science has propelled him to where he is today. I’ve also had the opportunity to help represent Manitoba with Dennis at the Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition in Ottawa. Being surrounded by such incredible and bright minds opened my eyes to what young scientists can achieve. The future is bright and Sanofi Canada is playing a big role in the way we approach science and I’m grateful for being a part of it!

What is your advice to a student interested in participating in Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

Go for it and don’t be afraid to talk with researchers and professors! Do some research first and find your passion in science whether it’s agriculture, life sciences, medicine, engineering and everything in between! Try and find like-minded professor and possible mentors at your local university or college. Establish a dialogue with them and show them how much you care and what a difference you can make to the general scientific community and beyond! Ask yourself what kind of contribution you want to make and how you can help others whether it’s feeding the world and providing better access to nutritious food or finding a cure for cancer.

DR. HÉLÈNE GIROUARD, UNIVERSITY OF MONTREAL

Dr. Girouard mentored Justin Lessard-Wajcer with his project “X: Welcome to the future of CLARITY.” Justin took the top prize at the 2015 Quebec Regional SBC competition and continued on to win the Commercialization & Professionalism Awards as well as fifth place at the National Finals.

Dr. Girouard is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of Montreal, Faculty of Medicine.

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Would you encourage fellow colleagues to participate as a Mentor in Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

Yes, because it gives an opportunity to give an insight on the scientific life and science. On one hand, this will help the student to guide his career. On the other hand, this will have an impact on the quality of students who will choose to pursue in research because they will know what they want and will probably be more motivated. It could also give the opportunity for a graduate student to supervise a student and share his knowledge.

What has been your most rewarding experience as a Mentor for Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

The most rewarding experience is to see born a passion for science and research and to discover the excitation of the discovery. Also, it is to see the young fellow to become more self-confident.

What is your advice to a student interested in participating in Sanofi Biogenius Canada?

My first advice is to be as involved as possible to optimize their experience in research. The second one is be conscious that it is teamwork. The third one is to not underestimate their potential contribution while respecting the experience of their supervisor. The last one is to be conscious that most experiments do not work or do not necessarily give the expected results, so their mind has to be wide open.

DR. RALPH PANTOPHLET, SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY

Dr. Pantophlet mentored Iveta Demirova with her project “Exploring the Development of Antibody-Scaffolded Membrane-Fusion Inhibitors for HIV-1 Therapy.” Iveta won both the 2016 British Columbia Regional Competition as well as the SBC National competition for her efforts to discover a new therapy to help individuals living with HIV.

Dr. Pantophlet is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences and an Associate Faculty member of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. Research work in Dr. Pantophlet’s laboratory is focused on investigating antibody responses to HIV and other viruses of biomedical interest, particularly in the context of host-virus interactions and anti-viral antibody responses.

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What was your most rewarding experience while participating in SBC?

The SBC was great because it provides a venue for prospective mentors to interact intensely with a highly inquisitive student and explore potential projects that might otherwise not be possible.

Would you encourage your colleagues to participate as a Mentor in future SBC competitions?

I would encourage those colleagues whom I think are considering being a mentor for an SBC candidate but who are unsure about the experience. Alas, funding is always an issue and so the ‘fit’ needs to happen at the right time.

What advice would you give to students interested in biotechnology and/or participating in SBC?

The SBC takes hard work and dedication. Also an inquisitive mind that is not easily deterred by set-backs. Biotech, in all its facets, is an area that is likely to continue to grow in the coming years and students should become knowledgeable of new technologies. Immunotherapy, for example, is an area that is likely to see enormous growth – as also exemplified by major funding initiatives in this area recently.