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December 2012

Award Winner Interview: Oualid Haddad

Mitacs offers its congratulations to Oualid Haddad, a University of Guelph postdoctoral fellow from the Department of Integrative Biology who conducted research during his Elevate fellowship involving the construction of a novel cell stretcher/incubator device that could be used to study the response of live cells to large-scale mechanical strain.

The research led to the completion of a motorized incubator device that now enables researchers to observe live cells for days at a time as they are stretched under the microscope.  His work may help to cure a devastating skin blistering disease called epidermolysis bullosa simplex.  Below is an exclusive interview with Mr. Haddad, who won the Mitacs Post-doctoral Award for Outstanding Research Achievement, as presented as presented by the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, held November 28th in Ottawa.

What is the greatest advantage you feel you gained by participating in Mitacs Elevate?

Through my experience with Mitacs Elevate, I feel more confident in leading research projects within strict deadlines, and to collaborate in ways that cater to individual students’ learning and personality styles. I have also learned a great deal about industry expectations which will help me enter my desired field and find a career placement.

Which skill do you think is most important for post-doctoral researchers to learn before entering an industry environment?

Clear communication and strong motivation are important skills to have when collaborating with an industry partner—they help you from the beginning of the process and all throughout your projects.

What advice would you give other researchers currently considering participating in Mitacs Elevate?

It is vitally important for researchers to be open to a new experience with a different approach than they are used to in academia. Coming from an academic background in which we only deal with methods, logic and results, it is easy to be sceptical or to underestimate the importance of small details—for example in presentations, communications, interviews,  as well as the importance of networking—often thinking that the findings and or the skills prevail . However, in a competitive world economy such as we have today, it is these small details which make the difference. Taking part in Mitacs Step workshops helps to build these skills. The workshops represent a one-of-a-kind opportunity to interact and learn from knowledgeable professionals—something that each researcher should take full advantage of.

What are your future plans?  Where do you see yourself in five years?

After my postdoctoral position at the University of Guelph ends, I am looking to continue my career in North America in either industry or academia. My hope would be to secure a permanent position at a university or to develop my own biotechnology start-up using the skills and experience which I learned through Mitacs Elevate.