Jacinthe Gingras’ letter to her young self

Jacinthe currently conducts research directed towards drug design and discovery for conditions of debilitation such as pain and neurodegenerative diseases.

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Dear Jacinthe,

Hope this message finds you well. Funny I am writing to you in English, as you do not understand this language yet! Not only will you master this 2nd language, but your scientific career will require that you use it daily! Do not worry, you will learn it in due time and will have a number of English speaking friends when you get older. Until then, I know that you will find a way to read and understand this letter, as you are a very curious and know where and when to get help. These are certainly personality traits that will serve you for the years to come.

I won’t take much of your time as I know you are a very busy little girl. Always surrounded by friends, you never stop moving. Good thing you will be able to join many team sports, they will help you develop team player skills and keep your school/life balance at an equilibrium.

First, I want to let you know that I am very proud of what you will accomplish. Life will bring a few (ok, many!) surprises along the way, and even when things get hard or discouraging, don’t give up! All this experience will shape you into a very unique individual and you will someday be yourself a source of inspiration for many students and will help a number of them with their career choices. Here are a few things I want you to remember as you get older:

1) Never stop learning. No matter how hard and time consuming this might sound, you will find happiness in learning new things everyday. Most will be in the various science fields, as your interest naturally veers towards the subject, and don’t be surprised if you suddenly have an urge to learn new languages, sports, art technique or want to explore the world and simply do it!

2) Follow your instinct. Even at a very young age, you know what you like and most importantly, what you don’t like. Follow your heart and let the world of science in. It won’t always be easy to be a woman in science; sadly stereotypes don’t fade away very fast. I will let you in on a secret: scientists are not all men, wearing lab coats, sporting a funky hairdo and a pocket protector! There is plenty of space for both genders and all styles! You will meet some pretty awesome scientists in the future and many will be phenomenal women. Trust me!

3) The secret to great science… is to have an open mind, a critical eye and an endless imagination! For you, imagination will emerge as a passion for arts and drawing. Embrace it. These artistic skills will come in handy many times in your future career and be at the source of a great imagination when the time comes to design your experiments and develop new ideas.

I will leave it at that… the rest you will discover on your own as you get older. No matter what you do, listen to your heart, follow your passion and always respect the individuals around you, no matter who they are. Some might try to convince you that science is not for women, but you know best and you are right! You will have a wonderful future ahead; you will travel the world and meet very special individuals in unexpected places!

Until then, as we say in French, “Tout vient a point a qui sait attendre” (Patience, all will happen in due time).

Jacinthe

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Jacinthe Gingras is a scientist for Amgen Inc. She holds a BSc in Biological Sciences from the Université de Montréal (’96), an MSc in Neurobiology at the same Institution (’98) and a PhD in Neurology & Neurosurgery from McGill University (’04). She completed her graduate studies as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University (’09), in the laboratory of Dr. J.R. Sanes. There, she carried out research on muscular disease as well as designing new tools to generate skeletal muscle in vitro for transplant and therapeutic purposes. Her current research focuses on drug design and discovery for debilitating conditions such as pain and neurodegenerative disease.

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