A native of St-Timothée, Québec, Professor Fortier graduated from McGill with a BSc (1972) and a PhD in Crystallography (1976). While at McGill, she was awarded both an Entrance Scholarship and the R.P.D. Graham Scholarship for an exceptional student in Geological Sciences.
Professor Fortier is a crystallographer by training, specializing in the development of mathematical and artificial intelligence methodologies for protein structure determination. She has made contributions to the development of novel techniques in crystallographic data mining to gain new insights from the large structural databases. She was a member of the Protein Engineering Network of Centres of Excellence (PENCE), the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (IRIS) and Communications and Information Technology Ontario (CITO). She has authored or co-authored over 80 scientific publications and had made numerous invited scientific presentations.
Prior to her appointment as Principal, Professor Fortier served for seven years as President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). She increased the agency’s capacity to support discovery research and Canada's ability to attract and retain the best students and professors, promote business-academic relationships and foster innovation. She also forged stronger relationships with other national and international granting agencies and organizations to increase the number, scope and impact of joint initiatives available to researchers.
Before joining NSERC, Professor Fortier held the posts of Vice-Principal (Research) from 1995 to 2000 and Vice-Principal (Academic) from 2000 to 2005 at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, where she was a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and in the School of Computing.
She has received the Clara Benson Award for distinguished contributions to chemistry by a woman (1997), the Entrepreneurship Award from Communications and Information Technology Ontario (1997), the Queen's University Distinguished Service Award (2005), honorary doctorates from Thompson Rivers and Carleton Universities (2006 and 2014, respectively)) and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012). She is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an officer of France’s National Order of Merit.
Professor Fortier served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Ontario Centres of Excellence Inc., the Board of Governors of the Royal Military College of Canada, the federal government's Council of Science and Technology Advisors (CSTA), the Board of Directors of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Steering Committee of the Networks of Centres of Excellence. She is currently a member of the Strategic Committee of Investissements d’Excellence Bordeaux; the Ontario Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress; and serves on the Board of Directors of Montreal International; the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal; and the Conference Board of Canada.