2016 Carrie M. Derick Award for Graduate Supervision and Teaching

On this page:
Valérie OrsatLisbet A. Haglund


Valérie Orsat, Bioresource Engineering

“My supervision must be both technical and personal.”


I am an Associate Professor and the Department Chair in Bioresource Engineering on the Macdonald Campus. I obtained my PhD from McGill in 1999. From 1999 to 2007, I coordinated the training activities of international developmental projects in postharvest engineering, first in China with the project “Microwave processing in China”, and then in India with the project "Consolidation of Food Security in South India". Since 2007, I have been an academic member at McGill, recognized in 2015 by the John Clark Award from the Canadian Society of Bioengineering in recognition of my outstanding contributions in the field of food engineering. My research program focusses on the engineering approaches to develop new food products and functional ingredients.

Approach to graduate supervision

In graduate student supervision, the first challenge lies in understanding and assessing the overall capacity (technical and intellectual) of each of my new graduate students along with their career goals and the underlying reasons to be pursuing a higher degree. The next step is to design a suitable project collaboratively which could take them to their potential peak of exploration to solve the posed research question(s). Following these steps, I follow their progress until the thesis is submitted and the relevant papers are published. I make sure that I give them full support to allow them to present their work in national/international conferences. My supervision must be both technical and personal to help them progress effectively and in a harmonious way.


Dr. Orsat plays a remarkable role in maintaining the highly-esteemed reputation of the Bioresource Engineering Department. As Head of the Department, her expertise in handling the incoming applications judiciously is one of the key factors in attracting bright talents to the department from different parts of the globe. Her simulating scientific thinking, research inputs, co-operation, enormous enthusiasm, affection and support were the driving forces behind the success of my Ph.D. thesis at McGill. I learned a lot from her deep insights in this field to tackle research problems independently and handle hard times in research with positive bent of mind. She instigated the potential of developing my own scientific viewpoint and confidence of making them work. Her inspiration and continuous encouragement created a conducive atmosphere to foster creativity and cognitive thinking to nurture my expertise and establish a solid foundation for my life-long learning and career development. 

Dr. Winny Routray, former PhD student


Prof. Lisbet A. Haglund, Experimental SurgeryLisbet A. Haglund, Experimental Surgery

“I encourage my trainees to reach out to me whenever they have a question or need advice."



I joined McGill University, Department of Surgery and Division of Orthopaedics in February 2009. I have a strong interest in musculoskeletal research and have developed a research program that focuses on clinical and translational research in IVD regeneration, and degeneration and pain, which impacts the fields of spine biomechanics, neurochemistry and neurogenic pain. My teaching interest is in tissue ageing, injury and degeneration, in regenerative medicine as well as in knowledge management. I teach trainees at different stages of their education from undergraduate, masters and doctoral students, to postdoctoral fellows and students in health care professions.

Approach to graduate supervision

My goal with research supervision is to coach and prepare the trainees for the future challenges they will meet in a highly demanding biomedical research environment. I make a point of being available, and I encourage my trainees to reach out to me whenever they have a question or need advice. In addition to the regular day-to-day contact, I have a weekly meeting with everyone in the group. I expect the trainees to actively participate in the meetings and to help each other in the laboratory; this promotes the formation of a supportive team. I try to facilitate thinking by asking questions that will make them think critically, build an opinion and come up with their own ideas. In research, it’s important to have an open mind and to be adaptive to new and controversial ideas. Although it is important to have a hypothesis for the result an experiment will generate, it is equally important to accept when the hypothesis is wrong and come up with an alternative from the knowledge generated. I guide my trainees to choose and focus on a few subjects to avoid ending up with "a lot of nothing", many little scattered results that will never generate a comprehensive story, results that will never form a paper or a thesis. Students under my supervision graduate on time, generate publications, they are selected to present their work at conferences and often win prizes for their performances.


Prof. Lisbet Haglund is an excellent mentor who makes graduate school incredibly enjoyable. Prof. Haglund’s successful mentorship strategies include scientific mentorship, activate supervision, striving for trainee success and career guidance. She helps trainees become experts in their fields, master experimental techniques, and can design projects and write manuscripts. Prof. Haglund takes a hands-on role to supervision with meetings, by ensuring projects move forward and by teaching techniques and analyzing data in the lab. She works to ensure her trainees’ success, for example by teaching speaking and presentation skills. She also mediates beneficial introductions. Prof. Haglund sees it as her responsibility to provide career guidance. In my case, this was how to obtain a good postdoc position, but she also helps people work towards non-academic careers. Finally, she wants to make her trainees to enjoy themselves in and out of the lab and maintain a good work-life balance.  

Dr. Emerson Krock, Postdoc at Karolinska Institute, Stockholm

Dr. Lisbet Haglund has been one of the most influential mentors among all the mentors I have had during my academic endeavors. I started with her research program coming from a clinical background with very limited knowledge about basic science research. She was instrumental in training me in basic science research from scratch and mentored me in different aspects of science. She is the kind of supervisor who puts students before her and grooms them for a successful career ahead by taking personal interest in their career trajectory. She is very supportive of new ideas, good ones and bad ones alike, and gets students to discuss them rather than providing limited feedbacks. I owe all my curiosities in science to her and consider her more of a friend than a supervisor and a mentor. Words can’t express my gratitude for the training she provided and the excellent time I had at McGill University.

Dr. Rahul Gawri, NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), University of Toronto

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

Back to top