Marie-Victorin Excellence Award

The Marie-Victorin Excellence Award is presented every year to a Ph.D. student at the IRBV. This $5,000 grant is funded by income from the Fonds Marie-Victorin , a growth fund created in honour of the founder of the Montréal Botanical Institute (now the IRBV) and the Montreal Botanical Garden.

Born Conrad Kirouac, Brother Marie-Victorin (1885-1944) had the gift of being able to communicate his passion for science to a wide audience. His extensive scientific inventory of the plants of Québec’s St. Lawrence River Valley was published under the title La flore laurentienne in 1935, and has since been updated and reprinted (1964, 1995). One of the founders of ACFAS (Association canadienne française pour l’avancement des sciences) in 1923, he also supported the establishment of clubs for young naturalists (Cercles des Jeunes Naturalistes). He was a major force behind the creation of both the Montreal Botanical Garden, now ranked among the greatest botanical gardens in the world, and the Université de Montréal Botanical Institute (Institut botanique de l’Université de Montréal), known today as the IRBV (Plant Biology Research Institute).

The Marie-Victorin Excellence Award is a supplement to the recipient’s income, and does not replace the financial support determined by the Department of Biological Sciences for a graduate student at the Ph.D. level. This award is intended to:

  • contribute to the student’s financial independence;
  • promote excellence in research;
  • develop highly-skilled future researchers;
  • heighten the importance and impact of research in plant biology;
  • increase the leadership and visibility of the IRBV.

Terms and conditions

The Marie-Victorin Excellence Award is presented to a student registered in a doctoral program at the Université de Montréal, supervised or co-supervised by a professor-researcher at the IRBV. The student must be registered full-time and have no intention of submitting a thesis before the January 1st preceding the award request. The recipient is not eligible to apply for the award for a second year.

Evaluation of applications

Candidates will be evaluated by the IRBV’s selection committee according to the following criteria, in order of priority:

  • the originality and quality of the research project;
  • the applicant’s potential as a researcher;
  • the applicant’s financial resources;
  • the applicant’s academic excellence.

Applicants must submit all of the following documents:

  • a description of the research project, justifying its importance (two pages);
  • a list of the applicant’s financial resources for the year for which the award will be granted, specifying amounts and including financial support to be received from the supervisor;
  • a letter of recommendation from the research supervisor;
  • a copy of the applicant’s curriculum vitae.

Application deadline

The deadline for student applications is 18 August. An electronic version of all documents must be submitted in PDF format to Laurence Honoré (

Thank you to the following generous contributors

Coop fédérée Amis du Jardin Botanique

To contribute, please see the Fonds Marie-Victorin page.

Every year, the Marie-Victorin Fund makes it possible for the IRBV to offer an award to one of its doctoral students. The recipients of this excellence award are:

2020 recipient

Michael RapinskiMichael Rapinski is the 2020 recipient of the Marie-Victorin Scholarship. The overall goal of his doctoral degree is to understand the role of local medicines and diets in the management of diabetes, predominant amongst Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. Extensive field work in Quebec (North America) and French Guiana (South America) have shown a disconnect between healthcare workers and healthcare users regarding the use of natural resources, such as plants, to fight diabetesin Indigenous communities. Although this contributes to current dietary and lifestyle changes that increase the risk of diabetes, medicinal and dietary plant use and knowledge remain relevant to diabetics.Ultimately, results from this study should lead to an increased valorisation of local practices in diabetes treatment in Indigenous communities.

Starting with his masters and moving on to his doctorate with Dr. Alain Cuerrier, Michel began his studies in the interdisciplinary field of ethnobiology at the IRBV in 2010. From his early beginnings, approaching diabetes and plant use through the lens of pharmacology phytochemistry, he has increasingly incorporated elements of ethnology and anthropology. Michel now blends qualitative and quantitative methods, notably applying multivariate statistical methods developed in ecology to analyse thematically oriented conversations on health, healing and medicines.

2019 recipient

Benjamin Mazin, récipiendaire 2019 de la Bourse Marie-VictorinBenjamin Mazin is the 2019 recipient of the $ 5,000 Marie-Victorin Scholarship. Benjamin presented impeccably his project on the molecular mechanisms allowing pollen grains and eggs to develop properly. He also showed great ability to describe the scientific benefits of his work.

The overall goal of his doctoral degree is to understand how external signals are integrated during the development of gametophytes and pollen tube growth in Solanaceae, including wild potatoes. In the laboratory, Benjamin showed that individuals affected by a decrease in the expression of a certain gene produced fewer seeds per fruit. These results will ultimately result in higher yielding crop varieties.

Benjamin began his Ph.D. in 2016 in the laboratory of Professor Daniel Matton who describes him as a hard worker and dedicated to his studies. Benjamin also has an impressive social implication. He particularly likes to help CEGEP students and high school students to carry out scientific projects.

2018 recipient

Alexis Carteron, récipiendaire 2018 de la Bourse Marie-VictorinAlexis Carteron is the recipient of the 2018 Marie Victorin Fellowship. The selection committee awarded the $5,000 scholarship to Alexis, who described his project on the role of mycorrhizas in Quebec’s sugar maple forests very well.

The overall objective of his doctorate was to improve our understanding of the influence of living (especially mycorrhizal) and non-living (e.g. chemical properties) soil components on the functioning and dynamics of sugar maple forests. Ultimately, his research has improved our ability to predict the impacts of biodiversity changes on ecosystem processes. To achieve this, Alexis used direct approaches in sugar maple forests in southern Quebec but also experiments in the research greenhouses of the Botanical Garden.

Alexis began his doctorate in 2016 in the Laboratory of Plant Functional Ecology (LEFO), led by Professor Etienne Laliberté, who noted that the results obtained were very encouraging and that this scholarship is “very well-deserved”. In addition to an excellent academic record, Alexis was strongly involved in his research community. Etienne pointed out that Alexis shows leadership and significant involvement in the operation of the laboratory, the IRBV and also, at the level of the department and the Center for Biodiversity.

2017 recipient

Julie Faure, récipiendaire 2016 de la Bourse Marie-VictorinJulie Faure is the 2017 recipient of the Marie-Victorin Excellence Award. The selection committee awarded the $5000 prize to Julie for her research project on plant-pollinator relationships and the evolution of pollination in Gesneriaceae native to the Caribbean islands (Gesneria and Rhytidophyllum), a project supervised by Simon Joly.

Among the nine excellent candidates, the members of the committee chose to recognize Julie for her academic excellence, the originality and clarity of her project presentation and her dedication as a volunteer.

Her thesis supervisor describes her as a student who demonstrates great curiosity. “Julie is truly passionate about natural sciences. She has a particular love for birds, as well as mammals and plants. It is not surprising that her Ph.D. project examines the relationships between several domains of life science!”

According to Simon Joly, Julie has a special gift for synthesis and analysis, and is also a talented communicator and generous volunteer. “Julie is an outstanding communicator,” he says proudly. “She has received high praise when she has presented her research at symposiums. Even more importantly, she really enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for science with the general public. She is very involved with Les Scientifines, an organization whose mission is to interest girls in science. Her success in getting these young people involved is absolutely remarkable!”

2016 recipient

Bara Altartouri, récipiendaire 2016 de la Bourse Marie-VictorinBara Altartouri is the 2016 recipient of the Marie-Victorin Excellence Award. The selection committee awarded the $5000 prize to Bara for his research project, “Intricate cell shape formation in Arabidopsis pavement cells”.

The committee members – researchers Alain Cuerrier, Colin Favret and Luc Brouillet – were greatly impressed by the scientific quality of Bara’s project, the clarity of his descriptions, as well as the young researcher’s many qualities.

Dr. Anja Geitmann, his thesis supervisor, agrees wholeheartedly with their assessment, adding that Bara is one of the most talented students she has supervised in her career. “Integrating into my research program, which focuses on plant development from a mechanical perspective and draws upon biology, engineering, microscopy and physics, is quite a challenge,” she says. “Bara, whose expertise is in molecular biology, familiarized himself rapidly with this multidisciplinary research program, and collaborates with researchers from several different fields. He has established new collaborative partnerships and proposed innovative experimental approaches that put our research projects on the leading edge in the field of plant development.”

Bara and his supervisor have already published an article synthesizing this research in a major scientific journal, Current Opinion in Plant Biology. Dr. Geitmann fully expects that Bara’s findings will be published in prestigious journals, particularly the results of his original experiment on labelling cellulose in living plant cells, in which he applied innovative methods.

(Photo © Zoueki, UdeM)

2015 recipient

Paul AbramPaul Abram is the 2015 recipient of the Marie-Victorin Excellence Award, offered each year to one IRBV doctoral student. Although all of this year’s candidates submitted high-quality applications, the selection committee awarded the $5000 prize to Paul without hesitation for his research project investigating the role played by phenotypic plasticity in the evolution of the reproductive strategies of stink bugs and their parasitoids. The quality of both his project and his presentation, the quality of his student record and the numerous articles he has published since beginning his doctoral studies all impressed the jury.

His thesis supervisor, Jacques Brodeur, is not at all surprised by this decision. A researcher in biological control, he considers his student to be simply “the quintessential student-researcher”. Ever since the young Ontarian began his studies at the IRBV in 2012, he has progressed at a rapid pace. “Everything is moving at record speed for Paul,” observes his supervisor. The young researcher has already published six articles in prestigious journals, and has submitted yet another. He expects to publish a half a dozen more articles before beginning his postdoctoral training, most of them the fruit of complementary research conducted by himself or interns under his supervision.

“This exceptional productivity has had no detrimental impact on scientific quality,” adds Jacques Brodeur. “Paul has attained a level of achievement close to perfection. He has immense talent for research; he excels in protocol design, experimental work, data analysis and writing scientific articles. His articles cover all the bases – they are organized, his arguments are well-reasoned and flow smoothly, and his style is perfectly aligned with his topic. He is also an excellent communicator, whether addressing an audience of experts or novices, in English or in French. He is an excellent ambassador for the IRBV and has already earned the respect of the international scientific community. And in addition to his immense talent as a researcher and his professionalism, he is open, good-natured, kind and highly respectful of others. His humanism is refreshing in the competitive world of research.”

According to Jacques Brodeur, Paul has all the qualities necessary to achieve his goal, which is to become a university or government researcher. “He would be ready to begin a fruitful career as a professor and researcher tomorrow morning!”

2014 recipient

edeline_gagnonEdeline Gagnon is the 2014 recipient of the Marie-Victorin Excellence Award, offered yearly to one IRBV doctoral student. The selection committee chose to offer Edeline the $3000 grant for her research project on the systematics and biodiversity of the genus Caesalpinia, a group of arborescent tropical legumes.

Edeline is a highly motivated young researcher with a solid background in botany combined with great versatility. Her thesis advisor, Anne Bruneau, stresses that her student is passionately interested in evolutionary systematics and the science of biodiversity, and skilled both in the laboratory and in the field. She also mentions that Edeline has shown strong leadership in the lab, and plays an important role in training students of all levels.

As a student, she has participated in expeditions to collect specimens in the Andes Mountains in Peru and northern Argentina. She has also held a four-month internship in the lab of Professor Colin Hughes of the University of Zurich and at the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Professor Hughes, with whom she worked in the field and in the lab, has glowing praise for Edeline. He observes that she excels at every task she takes on, whether in the arboretum, in the lab or in the field, and that she is working with great determination to complete her ambitious doctoral research program.

Edeline has already participated in several international conferences and will have published four scientific articles by the time her thesis is completed, which is expected to be in the summer of 2015. Her work on the phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships of the genus Caesalpinia will improve our understanding of the evolution and great diversity of tropical plants, particularly in the Andes.

2013 recipient

Valentin Joly is a thesis supervisor’s dream student. Highly academically gifted, he is a determined, organized researcher who persists in the face of challenge and whose amiable personality is appreciated by all.

Valentin began his studies at the Université de Montréal in 2011. Based on his excellent academic record at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (1st out of 513 students in Life Sciences), he was able to complete the final year of his undergraduate diploma in the Department of Biological Sciences at the UdeM, primarily at the IRBV. Valentin enjoyed his experience in Montreal so much that in January 2012 he decided to pursue his studies here and registered in the master’s program at the IRBV under the supervision of Daniel P. Matton.

He chose to study the molecular communication between male and female gametophytes and the maintenance of interspecific barriers in the genus Solanum. Less than a year later, he transferred directly into the doctoral program. His supervisor reports that Valentin is an excellent student and masters the multiple facets of a research project rapidly.

Valentin draws aptly upon the findings of scientific publications, and applies them in developing the hypotheses for his own research. His talents are not limited to the domain of theory, however. His thesis project encompasses several aspects of the role of pollen-pistil interactions on the evolution of species and implies extensive sampling of plants in South America. Thanks to his ability to strategize and organize, he was able to arrange a trip to Argentina to collect native species of the genus Solanum. Fluent in Spanish, he established connections with Argentinian researchers and was primarily responsible for the success of the fieldwork expedition.

Valentin also excels in bioinformatics. On his own, he easily created several programs that will be useful in the context of his research project, and have already been used by other researchers on the Matton team. He is co-author of three articles submitted recently for publication and has already made presentations at several international conferences.

Congratulations to a promising young researcher.

2012 recipient

Sougata Roy is the 2012 recipient of the Marie-Victorin Excellence Award, which is offered to one IRBV doctoral student each year. The selection committee unanimously chose to offer Sougata the $3000 grant, based on the quality of his research project and his exceptional abilities.

He is conducting his doctoral research in Davis Morse’s laboratory, studying the mechanisms responsible for gene expression in Lingulodinium polyedrum. Calm and thoughtful by nature, the young scientist originally from India is passionately committed to his research on this unicellular, bioluminescent alga. It is one of the organisms responsible for much of the primary production in the ocean, through photosynthesis, and consequently plays an important role in the earth’s carbon cycle.

Sougata’s research focuses on the molecular functioning of L. polyedrum, whose metabolism and physiology are controlled by circadian rhythms. His objective is to understand how the internal clock of this organism operates, and to acquire information that will help us better understand the impact of internal clocks in pluricellular organisms, including humans.

Sougata is exceptionally talented, possessing impressive knowledge and teaching skills. In the laboratory, he is greatly appreciated by his colleagues for his vast scientific knowledge, as well as his kindness and team spirit. In addition to his research project, he is actively involved in one of the lab’s large-scale projects, the analysis and annotation of the L. polyedrum transcriptome. He has already published two articles in prestigious journals, including one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which has an impact factor of 9.7.

In his classes and lab meetings, he chooses cutting edge topics at the forefront of scientific research, and always raises pertinent elements for discussion that demonstrate his thorough analysis of the subjects being studied. He has received a grade of A+ in every Ph.D.-level class he has taken. An excellent student, he is already a captivating speaker, able to make his presentations accessible to his audience.

Without a doubt, Sougata possesses all the qualities required to achieve his goal, which is to pursue his career in academia.

2011 recipient

Arnaud Sentis, Ph.D. student under the supervision of Jacques Brodeur (co-supervised by Jean-Louis Hemptinne from Université de Toulouse), for his thesis, “Modélisation des interactions trophiques et intraguildes au sein d’un système plante-herbivore-ennemis naturels”.

Arnaud was chosen unanimously by the selection committee because of his outstanding academic record and original research project, as well as his published articles and conference presentations. The hazards associated with global warming inspired him to examine the specific impact of rising temperatures on herbivorous insects and their predators. According to his supervisors, Arnaud is the ideal doctoral student. Dynamic, passionate, curious, rigourous, creative and independent, Arnaud has a promising academic future, given his extensive knowledge of the scientific literature in his field and his communication skills.

Arnaud is well-liked by his fellow researchers in both Montreal and Toulouse. He has set up complex experimental protocols with enthusiasm and developed an expertise in modeling. His scientific interests extend beyond the fundamental aspects of his project to the potential applications of his findings in agriculture and forestry, through biological control of pests in greenhouses, fields and forests.

2010 recipient

Youssef Chebli, Ph.D. student under the supervision of Anja Geitmann. Youssef was chosen among the nine submitted entries. The 3000$ grant was awarded to him in the presence of members of the Institute and about 60 undergraduate students.

Youssef began his master’s studies in 2006, focusing on the geometric and structural parameters of the pollen tubes of Arabidopsis thaliana, in the laboratory of Anja Geitmann. A remarkable student, he transferred directly into the doctoral program and completed his thesis in June 2011. Selected from among several applicants, Youssef applied the framework provided by his director to create a fascinating research project. Since only a portion of the expertise required to conduct his experiments was available in this laboratory, Youssef established contacts with other laboratories to obtain the necessary information. Demonstrating autonomy, ambition, scientific curiosity and an ability to understand and apply new techniques, he is a highly promising young scientist. Even before completing his thesis, Youssef had already published several scientific articles, including one in the prestigious journal The Plant Cell. He was also actively involved in the organization of an important international conference held in Montreal, the Plant Biology 2010 Meeting. An excellent communicator, he is appreciated by his colleagues and the undergraduate students he assists in laboratory research.