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Thomas Milan, an IRIC Ph.D. student who stands out

Published on août 4, 2021

Last June, Thomas Milan, a Ph. D. student in the High-Throughput Genomics Research Unit operated by Brian Wilhelm, won two prizes and scholarships. He was granted third place in the Acfas “Ma thèse en 180 secondes” scientific outreach contest and received a $750 scholarship. He was also awarded the “Prix de reconnaissance de l’engagement étudiant 2020-2021 – cycles supérieurs” of the Université de Montréal and won a $1000 scholarship. Here is the portrait of a student who has distinguished himself with his outstanding academic achievements, his commitment to the community and the human qualities that he has actively demonstrated throughout his academic career.

Why did you choose Molecular Biology? What advancements in the field would you like to contribute to?

I am most fascinated by the field of Genomics, which is the study of all genes and their regulation. Since the year 2000, it has been possible to read the entire DNA present in a human cell, thanks to sequencing and bioinformatics techniques. With my PhD project, I wanted to contribute to cancer research by exploring the genomics of pediatric patients with leukemia.

Scientific outreach is one of your strengths. You launched your own channel to democratize the subject on Twitch, in addition to having won third place in the competition organized by Acfas. What is your goal with this channel?

The main objective of my channel, created in October 2020, is to demystify science, especially research done in Quebec universities, to a very diverse audience. Through interviews with researchers, press reviews or talk-show like programs that I imagine and create from scratch, I rely on a relaxed atmosphere to transmit a dose of science. I had the chance to have a live discussion for almost 2 hours with the Chief Scientist of Quebec, Rémi Quirion; a nice memory and a very rich exchange!

Twitch being a platform centered on community and discussions with viewers, I exploit this feature to ask questions, push the exchanges, make people think and inform the listeners.

Over the past few years, you have made your mark through your involvement with the community, both with students and professionals. What do all your volunteer activities have in common and what motivates you to persevere?

All of my volunteer work has had the common goal of making an impact on the community, both student and non-student. Creation, innovation and suggesting new concepts are also aspects which particularly stimulate me. It’s what has fueled my perseverance and my desire to develop new initiatives year after year.

The three editions of “Dans les Coulisses de la recherche contre le cancer” have allowed me to break down the walls of laboratories to create bridges between the public (educational mission) and the next generation of scientists (training and concretization of their daily life). When I was president of IRIC’s student association, I was always concerned about the well-being of the community: this was the objective of the Mental Health Awareness Week, during which we tried to open a dialogue on this issue, which is even more topical with the pandemic we are experiencing.

Finally, why do you think it is important to cultivate a curiosity that is broader than just your area of expertise? What drives you to do this?

To continue to marvel at the world around us! Keeping up to date with scientific news allows you to get your head out of the game and keep an eye on new discoveries. Curiosity is an essential quality for a career in research!

Congratulations to Thomas Milan for these two recognitions highlighting his remarkable achievements!