What motivates a young full-time CEGEP student to embark on a new adventure in scientific research? In other words, what motivates him to spend his summer vacation in a research center?
Alex Picard, athird-year student in natural sciences at the Cégep de Sorel-Tracy, answers these questions in this interview he had with Jean Paul Ndoreraho, pedagogical advisor for research at the Cégep de Sorel-Tracy and the Centre de transfert technologique en écologie industrielle (CTTÉI).
Alex, you have been a student researcher at the CTTÉI since the winter of 2022. How did you get the idea to join the CTTÉI?
I was looking for a job close to the Cégep de Sorel-Tracy that would offer me a flexible schedule. Being close to my community and giving back has always been very important to me. When some employees of the CTTÉI visited the Cégep to talk about the student-researcher position, it piqued my curiosity. While talking with my friends and looking at their website, I was impressed by what was being done right across the street from the Cégep! All my job search criteria were met and on top of that, there was a very good salary for a student "job". So, without hesitation, I decided to submit my resume.
When I run into you at the CTTÉI and we talk about your internship, I find that you talk about your experience with enthusiasm. Where does this passion for research come from?
In my college, in the natural science program, we learn theoretical knowledge. I feel the need to experience the practical side of these subjects in my program. Working at the CTTÉI, I see all the applications I can do with what I learn in my classes. I find it fascinating how much we are able to do with a simple waste product that would normally go to landfill. So the reason I'm so excited about doing research is because I can apply what I'm learning, and it has a positive impact on the environment.
Interesting! Can you describe your research experience at the Cégep and the CTTÉI (your projects, the support and training you received, etc.)?
My research experience at the CTTÉI is very rewarding. First of all, throughout the internship, there are several trainings dedicated to research that are not only useful at the CTTÉI, but also in graduate studies. For example, we had a training on documentary research presented by the Cégep librarian who showed us the different steps of a documentary research. She presented, among other things, the different strategies for doing a literary review. We also had a training on the structure of a scientific research. These trainings are not only interesting but also very useful in the short and long term. Secondly, I was able to carry out an autonomous project, that is to say, to do from A to Z (or almost) a CTTÉI project. This may sound scary, but in reality, I was greatly helped by all the employees of the research center. They are passionate people, it shows in the way they explain the different projects and answer my questions. They are always available for any question concerning my project or the one of another. It is a place where mutual aid is very present.
Would you like to share with me an event, an outstanding experience as a student researcher at the CTTÉI that will remain a source of satisfaction and encouragement for you?
Of course I did! The event that marked me the most was the final presentation of my independent project. When I handed in and presented my project, I realized how much I had accomplished at the CTTÉI. There is a real satisfaction in knowing that what I am doing has a concrete impact on the local economy and the preservation of the environment. Working at the CTTÉI is not like other student jobs. You are at the center of changing the world of tomorrow. It's encouraging and motivating.
Have you encountered any challenges in your experience as a student researcher?
My main challenge was adaptation. It was a new work environment, I had never worked in a lab before, there was a lot of equipment and I had no experience working in the field.
So how did you overcome these challenges?
I was able to overcome these challenges with the help of several CTTÉI employees. They showed me little by little all the equipment that was available. They are always available to answer my questions. Moreover, when I ask a question, a discussion on the subject follows. This allowed me to quickly understand everything that was being done here. So quickly I felt more comfortable in the lab, I knew what my tasks were.
How do you manage to balance your studies, research at the CTTÉI and your personal life?
As I said earlier, it's really easy when I compare it to other student jobs. First of all, the CTTÉI is across the street from the Cégep. This makes working between classes a really interesting option. Secondly, the schedule is very flexible. If I can't come to work because of studying for an exam or if I have team work, they are very accommodating and I can make up the hours I missed. Finally, because of my work schedule (I work during the week, during the day), I have my evenings and weekends to see my friends or study.
Do you have any words for a fellow student who would like to get involved in research and is having doubts about doing so?
If you're interested in exploring an area of science and seeing what it's like to work in a lab, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try. By coming to work here, you'll gain experience in the lab and in research, you'll make connections with people who are passionate about their work, you'll add a great asset to your resume, you'll be able to apply what you see in class. There is a good salary of $18/hour. Finally, if you chose the Cégep de Sorel-Tracy, it's probably because of the proximity to your home, the family spirit and the mutual aid that reigns in the establishment or for the kindness of the people there. The CTTÉI shares the same values as the Cégep and the two institutions are very similar. So why are you still hesitating? To try it is to adopt it!
Thank you Alex and good luck.
Thanks to you too Jean Paul.