Survival Skills for Scientists

Friday, March 9, 2018

9:00am - 6:30pm
Leacock Building, 855 Sherbrooke O

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(registration is full)

Scientists in a labWorkshop Description

It can be daunting to think of the myriad of opportunities that await you after you graduate. Sure, you could pursue a career in academia; however, you may be curious about the incredible number of other options available to you as graduate student in the sciences. Fortunately, no matter where you want to go, there is high-demand for individuals who can apply scientific methods and logic to solve problems and analyze complex data.  

But how do you get started? How do you identify these opportunities and how to you translate your work as a graduate student into employability? What is the honest reality of the job market for scientists?

This one-day workshop will help you explore how your work may be applicable in a variety of careers by providing you with personal insight from keynote speakers and panelists from academia, industry, government, and the non-profit sectors. Survival Skills for Scientists will give you the opportunity to have your questions answered while providing guidance to inspire and inform your own successful career paths.

The event is inspired by the book of the same name, written by Dr. Federico Rosei of Institut National de la Recherché Scientifique (INRS). In collaboration with INRS (including Dr. Rosei) and Concordia, SKILLSETS will host the event for students in the STEM and medical fields. The day will include keynote talks, a panel discussion, and career development workshops, followed by a networking wine and cheese.



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Time Location Title

8:30 - 9:00am 

Leacock Lobby


9:00 -10:00am 

Arts W-120

Opening Keynote: A Scientific Odyssey of a “New” Canadian (with Apologies to Homer)
The author came from India to Canada as a Ph.D. student in 1962—ill-prepared, with gaps in his education , and into a climate, food habits, culture and accents of an alien nature. He struggled to surmount many obstacles , failures and impediments and navigated through these difficulties and through some unscholarly distractions of his youth. Thus he evolved his own “survival skills” and raced his way through a distinguished scientific career which is still flourishing and achieving new heights. His odyssey may perhaps give confidence and encouragement to young scientists who encounter their own desperate struggles in carving out a successful scientific career.

Speaker: Dr. Ashok Vijh, Maître-de-recherche at the Institut de recherche d’Hydro-Québec 

10:00 - 10:20am

Leacock Lobby


10:20 - 11:45am

Leacock 26

Discover Your Career Options Panel Discussion

Moderator: Paul Dufour

Academic rep: Dr. Federico Rosei

Government rep: Dr. Teodor Veres

Industry rep: S 

NPO rep: Shawn McGuirk 

11:45am - 12:45pm

Leacock Lobby

Networking Lunch
12:45 - 1:45pm

Arts 260

Arts W-20

Arts W-120

Survival Skills Workshops
Select one:

1. Plotting your individual development plan
Facilitator: Lorna MacEachern

2. Navigating the academic job market
Facilitator:Francine Salinitri
Explore the basics of academic CV writing for post-secondary teaching positions. Attendees will learn the differences between a cegep and a university application, what to include in a CV, and where and when to search for teaching positions.

3. Resume writing for non-academic jobs
Facilitator: Bob Menard
Your resume and cover letter are your personal sales tools to market your qualifications to prospective employers.

1:50 - 2:50pm

Arts 260

Arts W-20

Arts W-120


Survival Skills Workshops
Select one:

1. Own your IP 
Facilitator: Béatrice Ngatcha
​A strong intellectual property (IP) is key to a strong economy – IP it may deem the most valuable asset for a business. Identifying and registeringIP associated to your innovationmay improve the chances of attracting investors and/or selling the business. This workshop will give you an overview of the various fields of IP including patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial design. You will also learn IP strategies for commercializing your innovation in Canada and abroad.

2. Preparing a Business Plan
Facilitator: Alex Gavrila
At its core a business plan is a roadmap for your business that outlines goals and details the steps to be taken to achieve those goals. As with any map, if you get it wrong, you will not reach your desired destination. This interactive workshop will provide you with the basics of a good business plan and highlight free online resources that you can use to create one.

3. Interview Preparation & Strategy 
Facilitator: Susan Molnar
We will discuss what to do before, during and after a job interview. Find out what is involved in interview preparation, what kinds of questions to anticipate, how to construct answers highlighting your relevant skills and experiences, how to communicate effectively (verbal and non-verbal), and what to do after the interview.

2:50 - 3:10pm

Leacock Lobby

3:10 - 4:10pm

Arts 260

Arts W-120

Arts W-20

Survival Skills Workshops
Select one:

Designing your research pitch 
​Facilitators: Racha Cheikh-Ibrahim & Anja Novkovic 
How will you convince your audience in less than a minute the essential or inspiring elements of your research? What do you include and exclude? How would you deliver your message clearly, briefly and effectively given the time constraints? Answering these questions, will help you perfect your research pitch. This workshop offers different strategies for selecting the essential elements to include in your research pitch. The session also includes opportunities to practice.

What to say after "hello"? Networking for introverts 
​Facilitator: Susan Molnar
This workshop will identify and explore key components of effective in-person and online communication throughout the job search process, including academic conferences. 

Writing for your audience
Facilitator: Dr. Federico Rosei
This discussion group will focus on how to write compelling papers both for specialist and broader audiences.  We will discuss the usual forms of written scientific communications, including short letters/communications, full papers, comments, perspectives, review articles, book chapters and even books. Besides the ‘technical’ or ‘nuts-and-bolts’ aspects of scientific writing, we will emphasize the fundamental concept of "playing chess", learning to play from the other side. Anything that matters in the world of science is peer-reviewed before it is seen by the ultimate readers; therefore we advise to place yourself in the mindset of those who are going to evaluate your written work to anticipate their reactions and forestall objections before they are even made.

4:15 - 5:10pm

Leacock 26

Closing Keynote: Chemistry of Life: A Personal Story

I fell in love with material chemistry during high school, when I first learned about crystalline structures, and today I am a pretty accomplished professor in Materials Engineering at McGill University. But the path from there to now was not at all straight. Figuring out what I really wanted, fighting with a global market collapse, solving few two-body problems, balancing love for research and for my children, staying focused on the joyous parts of academia are some of the issues I had to face, and currently struggle with. I will share my story not as a model but as an example, and tell a few suggestions and lessons learnt along the way.

Speaker: Dr. Marta Cerruti, Associate Professor, McGill University

5:10 - 6:30pm

Arts Building Lobby

Networking Wine and Cheese



Moderators' and Speakers' bios

Sean Arani (Panelist), founder and President of his namesake company Arani believes in positively impacting the environment by making access to eco-friendly products easier. He graduated with a Masters degree in electronics engineering from Lancaster University in the UK at the age of 21 and started Arani in 2009 immediately after graduation. He finished his MBA at McGill on a part time basis while running the company at the same time and graduated in 2016.  Arani uses a manufacturer-to-installer direct model to supply LED lighting to electrical contractors. Their customers are mostly in Canada with some small sales in the US. In 2016 Arani was ranked as Quebec's 4th and Canada's 34th fastest growing company.

Dr. Marta Cerruti (Keynote Speaker) is Associate Professor in Materials Engineering at McGill University. Since 2011, she is Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Bio-synthetic interfaces. Her research focuses on controlling interactions between material surfaces and biomolecules. She received numerous awards and honors, such as being one of 55 young scientists participating in the World Economic Forum in 2017 and 2018. She published more than 70 papers in journals including JACS, Advanced Materials, Nanoscale, etc, two book chapters, and reported three inventions. Her research was featured on the Journal de Montreal and she was recently interviewed live on CBC

Racha Cheikh-Ibrahim (Workshop Leader) is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Her work focuses on improving the economic feasibility of pretreated forestry waste by developing efficient biocatalyst using fungal enzymes. Racha was the winner for the PhD Award and People’s Choice Award for the three minute thesis competition in 2015. Racha has worked with GradProSkills and the Center for Teaching and Learning since 2014 in various roles including workshop facilitator, outreach coordinator.

Paul Dufour (Moderator) is a Senior Fellow and Adjunct professor with the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. He is Principal with the consulting organization PaulicyWorks where he has conducted assessments for numerous organizations including, National Research Council of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Grand Challenges Canada, and Genome Québec. He has been senior adviser in science policy with several Canadian agencies and organizations over the course of the past 30 years. Born in Montreal, Mr. Dufour was educated at McGill, the Université de Montreal, and Concordia University in the history of science and science policy.

Shawn McGuirk (Panelist) is a senior Ph.D. student and Vanier Scholar at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre of McGill University, where he studies the role of metabolism in cancer progression. His startup ProVivoX won top prizes at the NIH/CAI Breast Cancer Startup Challenge and Fondation Montreal’s Your Ideas Are Good Business competition before closing in 2016. He sits on the board of directors of Acfas and is co-President of the non-profit Science & Policy Exchange, whose mandate is to elevate the student voice in science policy and through which students may gain unique experience in policy and public outreach.

Bob Menard (Workshop Leader) has been advising graduate-level students at the John Molson School of Business for the last fifteen years. Bob has a B. Comm from McGill University and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business. Previously, he spent nine years working in the private education sector.

Béatrice T. Ngatcha (Workshop Leader) is a patent agent registered in Canada and the United States having doctoral and post-doctoral training in chemistry. She joined Goudreau Gage Dubuc in 2010 having been practicing in the field of intellectual property since 2000. Béatrice is also a lawyer called to the Ontario Bar. She is a member of the Barreau du Québec (c.j.c.). Her practice covers the areas of chemistry (organic/medicinal), biochemistry and biotechnology. Her practice also includes domestic and foreign patent prosecution, and the development and management of patent portfolios. She also provides opinions and counselling regarding patentability patent validity and infringement matters, as well as regulatory affairs.

Anja Novkovic (Workshop Leader) graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology in 2012. Upon graduation, she focused her energy on storytelling—spoken word poetry performance and personal story collection as an affiliate researcher of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. She began her Master of Science in Geography, Urban and Environmental Studies in 2016, with a desire to uncover the intimate construction of public spaces. Her thesis work centres on the collection and exposure of personal stories from a downtown Montreal alleyway through mapping and installation art.

Dr. Federico Rosei (Panelist) has held the Canada Research Chair (Junior) in Nanostructured Organic and Inorganic Materials between 2003 and 2013. He is Professor and Director of Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Énergie, Matériaux et Télécommunications, Université du Québec, Varennes (QC) Canada. Since January 2014 he holds the UNESCO Chair in Materials and Technologies for Energy Conversion, Saving and Storage and since May 2016 he also holds the Canada Research Chair (Senior) in Nanostructured Materials. He received MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” in 1996 and 2001, respectively.

Francine Salinitri (Workshop Leader) has over 15 years of experience advising students on all aspects of their job search. Through the years, she have gained in depth knowledge in the area of academic CV writing, which she shares with graduate students pursuing careers in academia. Francine holds a BFA, a Grad Dip in Communication Studies and a Grad Dip in Instructional Technology.

Dr. Teodor Veres (Panelist) is a Principal Research Officer and Bio-Analytical Micro-Nano Devices Section Head in the Life Sciences Division of the National Research Council of Canada.  He holds an adjunct professor positions in INRC-EMT,  Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering departments at McGill University as well as at Laval University Medical School. He graduated in 1999 from Université de Montréal with a Ph.D. in Physics.  Dr. Veres is an internationally recognized expert in the field of nanotechnology and lab-on-chip based micro-nano devices for applications in life sciences research, clinical and industrial applications. He is the co-founder of the joint NRC and Health Canada centre, Reference Centre for Rapid Molecular Diagnostic, Regulatory Sciences and Food Safety.  Dr. Veres has coauthored more than 140 papers in per-reviewed journals and 60 patent applications.

Dr. Ashok Vijh, Ph.D., (Keynote Speaker) is Maître-de-recherche at the Institut de recherche d’Hydro-Québec and, concurrently, Invited Professor at the INRS of Université du Québec. Elected to The Royal Society of Canada in 1985, he was President of its Academy of Science (2005-2007). He is a scientist rooted in interfacial electrochemistry whose research covers many areas of natural science, including immunity, cancer and nutrition. He has published over 380 refereed papers and seven books on research spanning inter-disciplinary problems involving chemistry, physics, engineering and biology. His work has been awarded over 60 distinctions: prizes, medals, decorations, fellowships, honorary doctorates, named lectureships and professorships, academy memberships and international editorial boards. He has been decorated as an Officer of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the National Order of Quebec and a Knight of the Order of Montreal, for his exceptional contributions to scientific research. He became the youngest scientist to receive the Izzak W. Killam Memorial Prize of the Canada Council in 1987.


You may be interested in this event if...

  • you want to learn about a wide-range of career options open to you after completing your graduate studies

  • you want to develop skills to plan your career path and present yourself effectively to peers in your field and potential employers

  • you want to learn about the power of networking and have the opportunity to build your professional network 


McGill University is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. McGill honours, recognizes and respects these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we meet today.