The Luc Bélanger Distinction Scholarship, awarded annually as part of the CRC scholarship competition, aims to recognize the involvement and societal commitment of student members, as well as their determination to pursue a research career in graduate studies. This prestigious recognition pays tribute to Dr. Luc Bélanger, a passionate and dedicated research builder in the field of oncology in Québec City. This scholarship is made possible through the Fonds de cancérologie de l’Université Laval.
This year, the CRC has awarded this scholarship to two co-recipients: Marie-Violaine Dubé Ponte and Aurélie Lacouture. Here is the profile of these two inspiring students.
Marie-Violaine Dubé Ponte, Ph.D. student in nursing sciences in the team of Professor Geneviève Roch
After a successful career as a musician with the Québec Symphony Orchestra, Marie-Violaine Dubé Ponte redirected her path towards the clinical domain. She is currently developing her expertise in cancer research to focus on optimizing care for children living with cancer and their families.
During her bachelor’s degree in nursing, she met Professor Geneviève Roch, with whom she completed her research internships and her master’s degree on the influence of prenatal education on breastfeeding. She presented her research findings at numerous provincial, national, and international conferences and received several excellence scholarships. Simultaneously, she got involved in the project on best practices in pediatric hemato-oncology, which became the focus of her doctoral studies. Throughout her journey at the Faculty of Nursing Sciences, she participated in various teaching and student mentoring activities while working as a nurse.
Since 2022, she has been a member of the Student Intersectoral Committee of the Fonds de recherche du Québec, where she actively participates in activities and initiatives to promote the visibility of young researchers. This involvement followed years of volunteering with children and their families in healthcare settings. She also volunteered with a community organization that supports breastfeeding. Drawing from her professional and personal experiences as a mother and natural caregiver, it was only natural for her to engage in a research project that can benefit pediatric hemato-oncology nurses and the families they serve.
Her doctoral research aims to assess the impact of a module with video game-based training for pediatric hemato-oncology nurses, developed based on the concerns of families, clinical teams, and managers. Her project also seeks to evaluate the acceptability, relevance, and feasibility of implementing this module. Marie-Violaine’s ultimate goal is to contribute to improving the quality of care and services provided to children and families living with cancer.
Aurélie Lacouture, Ph.D. student in molecular medicine in the team of Professor Étienne Audet-Walsh
Passionate about biology, Aurélie began her academic journey in France. She developed a strong interest in laboratory research during her master’s internships in the laboratory of Dr. Santamaría, who focuses on lung cancer, providing her with her initial exposure to research. Determined to pursue a Ph.D., she crossed the Atlantic to join the dynamic laboratory of Professor Étienne Audet-Walsh. She completed a master’s degree with an accelerated transition to a Ph.D. to advance her work on understanding the metabolism of the mammary gland, a relatively unexplored topic.
During her master’s, she developed a primary culture model of mammary gland epithelial cells in both two- and three-dimensional formats (organoids). Organoids recapitulate key gland structures. With this model, she discovered a new role of estrogen receptor alpha in this organ, which was previously well-known for its involvement in mammary gland development and breast cancer but not in metabolism modulation. Continuing to focus on the gland’s metabolism, she then investigated the potential impact of endocrine disruptors like bisphenol A, and her work was published in the summer of 2023. A dedicated feminist, she is pleased that her research may one day contribute to improving women’s health worldwide. She also actively collaborates on her colleagues’ project, balancing her work between the breast and prostate, two organs highly influenced by hormones. She enjoys participating in public events to highlight the morphological and functional similarities between these two organs and to promote awareness of the associated cancers.
In September 2020, she joined RÉAGIR, a network of peer helpers for research students, to promote the importance of mental health, a cause close to her heart. Serving as the association’s president for the second year, she hopes to facilitate discussions about the mental health of research students, improve conditions for her peers, and provide assistance to those in need. Passionate about video games, anime, and, above all, Star Wars, she loves spending her free time with her husband and cat, comfortably settled on her couch with a cup of tea and some knitting. As she approaches the end of her Ph.D., she is contemplating the next steps in her career. One thing is certain: she will be a researcher.