Face of a new generation: Marguerite, a scientist at the heart

Face of a new generation: Marguerite, a scientist at the heart

For more than half a century, the IRCM has contributed to the development and training of generations of scientists from all around the world. Every summer, thanks to the IRCM scholarships for young researchers, the Institute's laboratories open their doors to undergraduate students, allowing them to immerse themselves in a multidisciplinary research environment that is both enriching and conducive to learning.

This summer of 2022, Marguerite Cusson did an internship in the laboratory of Dr. Martin Sauvageau, Director of the RNA and Non-Coding Mechanisms Research Unit at the IRCM. This fall 2022, she began her second undergraduate year in biochemistry and molecular medicine at the Université de Montréal.

Why did you choose biomedical research?
Since the age of 6, I have had a great curiosity for the human body, its functioning and the many mechanisms that compose it. When it was time to make my college studies at the CÉGEP de Saint-Laurent, I naturally wanted to combine this interest in health sciences with a second passion. I thus obtained a double-DEC in music and natural sciences. Each of the two programs balanced the other, and they taught me discipline as well as long-term projects management. Then, to deepen my knowledge of the molecular basis of medicine, I enrolled in biochemistry and molecular medicine at the Université de Montréal where I just finished my first year.

Tell us about your internship experience at the IRCM
Eager to immerse myself in the practical aspect of research, I applied to do a laboratory internship during my first undergraduate year. I had the opportunity to read the summary of a student project on the identification and characterization of RNA:DNA triplexes, and it immediately caught my attention.

RNA research has always focused on the interaction between RNA and proteins. However, Martin Sauvageau's laboratory wonders about the other unknown aspects of RNA. RNA:DNA triplexes are rare structures of direct interaction between RNA and DNA and these interactions could explain certain changes in gene expressions that could potentially be involved in the formation of breast cancer metastases. This is therefore a very promising research avenue. Under the supervision of PhD candidate Sophie Ehresmann, I was able to deepen this subject while I was experiencing this first contact with laboratory research.

This 16-week summer internship at the IRCM was a real opportunity for me to learn about RNA:DNA triplexes, their formation in vivo and their interaction with genes. The rise of this subject in recent years makes daily work extremely interesting and rewarding, especially as many aspects remain unknown. At the IRCM, I met passionate and motivated people who are generous with their time, as well as students who are involved, both in the scientific and social life of the Institute. They were all a real inspiration for me.

What's the next step for you?
As part of my bachelor's degree, I intend to do a second internship in the summer of 2023, before I apply for the Honor path of the Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine Program at the Université de Montréal. This would allow me to gain additional experience in fundamental research. I am particularity interested in the structural biochemistry field, especially in the link between the form and the role of proteins. Improving knowledge on this matter is a first step towards understanding the effect of mutations or different conformations found in certain metabolic diseases.

What is your long-term goal and what motivates you to move forward?
The academic path is the natural one for me. In the future, I would like to go for a master's degree, and later a PhD in biochemistry, to pursue a career in academia as a researcher in biomedical research. Success to me is a future where I can remain curious, quench my thirst for learning and put both at the service of science in a research laboratory. I would also like to work with collaborators to learn from others and share my results. 

Beyond academic activities…
I have been playing the violin for almost thirteen years, and today, I am part of an orchestra of young amateurs in Montreal. We are students from several backgrounds who meet weekly to rehearse and perform a variety of classical repertoires. Music is a way to ease my mind as well as being part of a group. I find that there is an obvious link between music and scientific research. In both cases, people must work together, in synergy and in harmony to achieve a high-calibre results.

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