Face of the next generation: discover Sophie Ehresmann

Face of the next generation: discover Sophie Ehresmann
« Thanks to those who surround me at the IRCM, I was able to immerse myself in a field that I did not know and be guided to develop a highly promising research project. » Sophie Ehresmann

For over half a century, the IRCM has contributed to the development and training of generations of researchers from all over the world. Every year, talented and dedicated future scientists trust the IRCM to help propel their careers. Among them, Discover Sophie Ehresmann, a doctoral student in molecular biology who conducts research in the laboratory of Dr. Martin Sauvageau, director of the RNA and non-coding mechanisms of disease research unit at the IRCM.

Sophie, tell us about your research and why you are passionate about it.
My research project studies non-coding RNAs in order to shed new light on the formation of metastases in breast cancer. We believe that non-coding RNAs could provide certain answers which could, in turn, lead to new therapeutic options in cancer. This is why this innovative project, on a relatively unknown subject, fascinates me; because it has the potential to make a difference for millions of people.

How did you get the science bug?
As long as I can remember, I have always been interested in science. As a child, my mother took us to science museums where I was fascinated by everything inside the body. Later, this naturally led me to undertake studies in science, and more specifically, in biochemistry. That is when I discovered the fascinating and infinite universe of biomedical research, during an internship in a research laboratory at Sainte-Justine Hospital on the genetics of epilepsy, followed by my master’s on neurodevelopmental diseases and epigenetics. This is how I dived into the world of transcription regulation, which explores the way genes are turned on or off in body cells. These mechanisms operate naturally in the body, but can be deregulated and lead to diseases such as cancer.

What brought you to the IRCM?
I was completing my master's when I met Dr. Martin Sauvageau. I was lucky enough to attend one of his lectures and immediately knew that I wanted to join his research group. I had a deep interest in new discoveries in the field of non-coding RNAs, and when I met Dr. Sauvageau, I knew that his laboratory at the IRCM would be the ideal place for my doctorate. Together, we developed my research project on RNAs regulating transcription in breast cancer.

Thanks to those who surround me at the IRCM, I was able to immerse myself in a field that I did not know and be guided to develop a highly promising research project. I also have the opportunity to contribute to the Student Association, where I was warmly welcomed into several social and scientific activity committees, and where I now hold the position of president.

What's the next step for you?
The COVID-19 pandemic has really disrupted research in general. But activities are slowly resuming their course and I am optimistic. As my project is taking shape and my results are promising, I hope to publish in a year or two. I will then be able to present my results to the scientific community of our field at prestigious international conferences. I'm really looking forward to that. These results will open the way to new perspectives, and at the same time, to new projects in our laboratory. And consequently, I will have the opportunity to further explore many of the ideas that I have developed. Finally, I plan to write my thesis within the two coming years.

What keeps you motivated?
In my studies, I am lucky to count on people who represent a real source of motivation for me. My supervisor, my lab colleagues, other IRCM students and my family are an inexhaustible source of motivation for me. Whether through advice, words of encouragement, or simply by their presence, each in their own way helps me get through difficult times.

The path to a research doctorate can sometimes be a real obstacle course, both professionally and personally. But, despite these challenges, I intend to complete my project and publish my results. For me, studies are synonymous not only with academic learning, but also with personal development and enriching encounters. The doctoral degree will be the icing on the cake which will then allow me to tackle new projects.

Apart from research, what are your hobbies?
When I'm not in the lab, I like spending time with my friends, and I really like cooking. So to combine the two, I organize cooking evenings where we watch episodes of the show Top Chef. Having friends and family all over the world, I also spend time playing video games online with them.

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