Works really well with others.
McGill researchers know that innovation and isolation don't go together. The big questions – the really big ones – can't be answered by brilliant minds working alone. That's why the University encourages interdisciplinary partnerships that bring together professors and students across faculties, research centres, our affiliated hospitals, other institutions and private enterprise. Look behind every great discovery, whether in medicine or engineering or astrophysics, and you'll find the same thing: a great team.
Dr. Janusz Rak leads a winning team. Undergraduate and graduate students, research assistants and postdoctoral fellows: They all bring special skills and strengths to the lab bench. Following a "gut feeling when I first meet someone," Rak has assembled talented people "who seek satisfaction from greater achievement rather than just their own little niche." His instincts have paid off. The readers of Québec Science magazine awarded the title "Discovery of the Year" to his team's identification of a fundamental mechanism by which tumour cells spread. These findings may very well one day change how we fight cancer.
Rak likens scientific collaboration to a team sport. "You can't just be a superstar on your own," he muses, "because you ultimately lose." The questions keep getting bigger, the complexities greater. There's a limit to how much individuals working in isolation can accomplish. "One person can be a jack of all trades, but master of none – and mastery is what is required these days."
In 2006, Rak joined McGill, where he is now a professor in pediatrics and a researcher in pediatric oncology at the Research Institute of the Montreal Children's Hospital of the MUHC. He was attracted to the University in part because of its inclusive quality. "People interface here at a tremendous rate. It's an interesting soup of interactions that are all very gratifying."
"The science of yesterday bred very skilled people who just couldn't work together," he adds. "The science of tomorrow needs very skilled people who embrace integration and collaboration, and share a long-term view."
Rak may be quick to sing his team's praises but he's a humble coach: "I have to say I've probably been undeservedly lucky."