Trainee at GlyoNet: Pierre-Guy Millette

Posted: September 7, 2018

Where do you work, what is your position and who is your supervisor?

I work at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Dr. Don Sheppard’s laboratory. I entered the network as an undergraduate student and I am now pursuing my work as a master’s student.

Which project do you work on?

Initially, I worked on the extraction and purification of fungal exopolysaccharides. Now, I am focusing on using those exopolysaccharides to develop diagnostic tools and vaccines for the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus.

If you have received a GlycoNet funded award, which one was it and what was your experience?

I have received the GlycoNet Summer Award twice and I can say it was a good experience. It allowed me to learn the basics of grant writing and gave me the opportunity to manage small research projects that led me to take on even more important ones. It was an opportunity I am really grateful for.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

My goal is to become a clinician scientist in the field of infectious diseases and immunity. My introduction to the Network helped me realize the role glycobiology plays in this field and how understudied it is. Glycobiology is definitely one of the avenues I would like to be able to pursue in my future career.
What does glycomics mean to you?

For me, it means an opportunity to do something almost no one else does. Every group seems to care about proteins and nucleic acids and think that’s the big deal.  I think, however, that at least for infectious diseases, glycans are the real deal. They are the part of the story that’s been missing until now, and it’s great to have the chance to work on the problem with pioneers in the field.

What is your favourite quote?

‘Just do it!’ Beyond being a simple but effective slogan, I find this phrase represents a philosophy that can apply to many areas, including my professional life. I find people are often afraid of taking a step forward or are afraid of change. Without taking unnecessary risks, of course, I believe the consequences are usually pretty mild when considering the great scheme of things. Bringing in new ideas and bridging information that would otherwise seem unrelated is a good example of what we should ‘just do.’ In research, many of the things, assays and experiments we do, we are the first ones to ever perform in the world and we very well might be the only ones to perform them, ever. We cannot afford to let ourselves be slowed down by minor concerns. If we had to be afraid or worry every single time we are doing something new, we would never achieve anything. So next time, don’t be afraid to speak up, just do it!

Is there anything interesting that you would like to share about yourself, such as any sports that you enjoy, talents you have, and/or what you do in your spare time?

I love science and research, but outside the academic setting, I also like to do sports and share time with friends. I am a big fan of rock climbing, that’s definitely my favourite, but I also love going for a run with my dog. I also enjoy taking care of my small collection of bonsais. Even though it doesn’t necessarily look like one, bonsai is definitely an art. I have never really been good at any art form I have tried before, but I discovered a talent with this one. My hobbies and passion bring me balance by contrasting with the busy and rapid pace of my work and I like it. Those little trees require lots of care though, so if you ever want to try it you should be ready for that.

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