By Chantall Van Raay
July 23, 2012 - If you ask what makes her passionate, you may be surprised by the answer. “Soil-dwelling micro-organisms,” she smiles, convincingly.
Because of it, Canada’s future industrial and commercial growth looks promising, which is why McMaster PhD candidate Renée St-Onge, a student in IIDR member Marie Elliot’s lab, is most excited to receive a prestigious 2012 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. “More than anything, being awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship is a tremendous honour and an unparalleled opportunity,” she says. “It will permit me to pursue my passion while contributing to our country’s industrial and economic growth.”
St-Onge joined Elliot’s team in September 2011 to study Streptomyces, soil-dwelling micro-organisms that require certain proteins to control their development. “Understanding how these proteins (resuscitation-promoting factors and Rpf-binding proteins) control Streptomyces development can have ecological, medical and commercial implications,” she says. “These bacteria break down organic material in the soil, enrich the soil with minerals and protect plants from diseases. They are also major producers of useful pharmaceutical compounds that are routinely used in medicine today. A better understanding of their development will allow us to optimize the production of these important medical compounds.”
Before joining Elliot’s lab, St-Onge studied at the Université de Moncton. She has published in refereed journals, including FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Journal of Bacteriology and Parasitology and Systematic and Applied Microbiology and has been a presenter at several noteworthy conferences.
Her Vanier joins a host of other awards including the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, a Mention d’Excellence and Bourse d’Excellence from the Université de Moncton, three undergraduate student research awards and a merit and silver medal award from the Society of Chemical Industry and the Chemical Institute of Canada, respectively.
“Renée is truly remarkable,” says Elliot. “She approaches her science in a very different way than anyone I’ve worked with before, and it is obviously extremely effective, as she completed her M.Sc. with more first author manuscripts than many graduating Ph.D. students. She is also one of the very few people I know who are comfortable chatting about their weekend - and their experiments - in either French or English. I’m inspired to work on expanding my language repertoire!”
The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship is worth $50,000 per year for three years of study and is administered by Canada’s three research granting agencies (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada). The program aims to attract and retain world-class doctoral students by supporting students who demonstrate both leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies.