The gold rush: uOttawa PhD student earns prestigious Mitacs Award

Posted on Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Renelle Dubosq

An up-and-coming researcher at the University of Ottawa has been recognized for her innovative work to probe the atomic structure of pyrite — commonly referred to as Fool’s Gold.

Renelle Dubosq has earned the inaugural Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation — Indigenous, during a ceremony presented on November 26 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Dubosq — a geologist and PhD student working under the supervision of Professor David Schneider in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and a member of the Painted Feather Woodland Métis tribe of Ontario — is among the first to apply new 3D nanoscale imaging technologies to document the behavior of pyrite during deformation, the process of folding, faulting, or shearing, of rock that occurs beneath the earth’s surface. Her innovative work will help geologists target their mining efforts more effectively.

Her research is also helping to bridge the gap between geology and material sciences because she was the first to successfully record voids (small pores filled with either liquid or gas) in the pyrite that measure only a few nanometers. The breakthrough is helping, among other things, to more accurately date rocks for the interpretation of ages and is providing a better understanding of how earth’s tectonic plates came to be the way they are today.

Renelle Dubosq agreed to answer our questions:

1. Where does your interest in geology come from?

From childhood, I was interested in science in general, but I especially liked reading books about the earth and space. My family also spent summers camping, so I developed a passion for the outdoors. In high school, I was still interested in science, particularly physics, and when the time came to apply to university programs, I decided to enroll in the University of Ottawa's Geology-Physics program without really knowing what to expect on the geology side. In the second year of the program, I developed my passion for geology and decided to change to the advanced geology specialization program.

2. What does it mean to you to win a Mitacs Award?

It is an honour to have been nominated and recognized for my work and innovative approach to science. I appreciate the opportunities that the Mitacs program has provided me during my research, as well as the support of home and host institutions.

3. What is the impact of an award on your research and career?

I think the impact of the awards remains to be seen. Winning the award has certainly motivated me in my research since Mitacs’ recognition, and my supervisors and collaborators have instilled a lot of confidence in me.

4. What are your next objectives, your next challenges?

I am currently in the second year of my PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences and therefore my short-term objectives are to continue to publish my research and complete my thesis over the next two years.

My ultimate goal is to continue to conduct research and to bring the disciplines of geology and materials science closer together by introducing techniques that were initially developed in materials science in the field of earth sciences.

5. You are a woman in science, bilingual and Métis... Do you see yourself as a role model for others?

I have never considered myself a role model for other women, nor for bilingual or Aboriginal people, but I think it is very important to have role models or mentors in personal and professional life, especially at the beginning of a career.

I certainly wouldn't have gotten to where I am today without the opportunities that my mentors have given me. And if I could do the same and inspire others, I would be very honored. If I am lucky enough to get a job in the university environment, I will certainly try to do so with my own students, creating an environment that is as inclusive as possible.

Alejandro Adem, President of NSERC (and former Mitacs CEO) presents the Alejandro Adem Legacy Award for Outstanding Innovation – Indigenous to Renelle Dubosq of the University of Ottawa.

Alejandro Adem, President of NSERC (and former Mitacs CEO) presents the Alejandro Adem Legacy Award for Outstanding Innovation – Indigenous to Renelle Dubosq of the University of Ottawa.

For more information on the 2019 Mitacs Awards:


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