Discover GCI Alumnus Michael Durrant’s Journey from Cell Signaling to Classroom Chalkboards

Once immersed in the bustling pathways of Met signaling in cancer at the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute (GCI), our alumnus Michael Durrant transitioned into a captivating role as Professor at Champlain Regional College. From pipettes to pedagogy, discover Michael’s journey below.

As Michael sat in his undergraduate lecture hall with Prof. Morag Park at the front of the room, her memorable teaching style and inspiring research piqued his interest in cell signaling and cancer biology. Soon, he joined the Park lab and embarked on a quest to identify novel proteins that bind to phosphorylated tyrosine residues on the Met receptor tyrosine kinase. After completing his graduate studies in 2007, Michael’s time at the GCI was the last piece of puzzle that confirmed his passion for teaching: “At the GCI, I had the opportunity to supervise two students as they did their honours undergraduate research projects. I found that it was such a gratifying experience to help them understand the theory behind what the research was all about. I really knew at that point that teaching post-secondary biology was going to be a good fit for me.”

Today, Michael is the Science Program Coordinator and Biology Professor at Champlain Regional College, Lennoxville campus, leading a career that seamlessly blends academia and the joy of passing on knowledge. In his current role, he not only imparts scientific wisdom but also orchestrates the Science program. From supervising students' research projects to coordinating departmental affairs, Michael ensures harmony in the pursuit of knowledge. “Teaching post-secondary biology has evolved a lot since I started. There has been a shift from traditional lecturing and labs to having learning be more student-centered. For example, instead of giving students a procedure and have them perform an experiment, why not have students apply concepts by making their own research question, hypothesis, and then design and perform their own experiment? Even if this approach takes more time, these experiences are of greater value for students.”

Looking back at this time on and off the bench at the GCI, Michael’s graduate training forged not only scientific skills but also instilled resilience. "I learned to be independent, to take charge and get the job done well, no matter what it was," he reflects. From conducting his lab experiments to being part of the organizing committee for Défi Canderel, he learned and showcased the power of versatility and leadership that still hold tremendous value in his current role.

His advice for aspiring educators? "Do your homework and add as many teaching credentials as possible." Teaching, he emphasizes, goes beyond subject mastery; it's an art requiring a unique skill set: look for workshops on teaching, explore certificate programs, prepare for your interview, and learn the administrative structure of the teaching establishment you aspire to work at. Preparation and a deep understanding of the CEGEP or any educational system are keys to success.

From GCI's laboratories to the lecture halls, Michael’s passion and perseverance for proteins and pedagogy continue to leave an indelible mark at the crossroad of science and education. Feel free to contact Michael at mdurrant [at] crc-lennox.qc.ca.

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