Chantal Bassett has been appointed Research Facilitator for the Faculties of Science, and Agricultural and Food Sciences. As a new member of the Faculty, in a newly created position, this is a great opportunity to learn more about Chantal and how she came to be a Research Facilitator.
It’s not exactly a direct path!
When Chantal Bassett started taking courses at the University of Manitoba, she was thinking that she would be a dietitian, and although she has always maintained an interest in nutrition and health, it wasn’t long before her list of occupational choices grew in a number of different directions. The list expanded to include: university professor, research scientist, medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, midwife and stay-at-home mom! The notion of a research facilitator, her ultimate career, was not even on the horizon.
Her first real experience with research was in her second year of university where, with the help of her Department Head, she landed a summer job at the Cereal Research Centre. Although her summer employment itself was somewhat tedious, she developed insights into and a great appreciation for the research process.
“Research allows you to understand why things behave as they do and challenges you to determine how they can be improved,” explains Chantal.
As a conscientious student with good grades and some institutional awards to her name, she was encouraged to apply for a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA), and was awarded a position working in a Food Science pilot lab. The project involved frying French fries to determine which vegetable oils were most resilient against rancidity and the development of “off” odours. The position left a lasting impression.
“To this day, says Chantal, “when I enter a restaurant, I can detect if their frying oil is rancid.”
While still an undergraduate, Chantal discovered the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine at the St. Boniface Research Campus while attending a workshop. She had already decided to go to Graduate Studies and had successfully competed for an NSERC graduate fellowship. However, she was still wrestling with the topic of her research project. The solution to her conundrum resulted from attending the workshop.
“I met the director and joined his laboratory the following week. I thought how cool to study foods in a medical setting,” she recalls. Within her first week with the Centre, she was on her way to Banff for a conference! Problem solved.
Graduate school was a fun, challenging and exciting experience, where Chantal not only competed successfully for scholarships and published papers, but was involved in community outreach, conducting radio and television interviews, working in schools promoting heart health and travelling the world visiting places like Fiji, Australia, Finland, France, Italy and Japan. It was a tremendous time of personal growth as she developed skills in research, project management and communication – not to mention travel!
Always on the lookout for new experiences, she decided to give private industry a try when a term position as acting manager of health and innovation at Pulse Canada (the industry association that represents the growers and producers of beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils) became available.
“I really enjoyed the fast pace of industry; I enjoyed being part of the decision-making process; I enjoyed facilitating projects,” says Chantal. In fact, she enjoyed it so much that she took on a second term position when it became available.
She also learned some very important things about herself: what she wanted out of a career.
She explains, “I had come to realize that I was more interested in facilitating research, than conducting research. So when the job for a Research Facilitator opened up at the University of Manitoba, I thought it was a perfect fit!”
Chantal explains: “I provide mentoring and assistance to researchers who are developing applications and proposals. I help them explore new funding opportunities, collaborations and industry partnerships, and I help them get funds so they can continue to do what they do best: research."
More detailed information about Chantal’s role can be found on the Research and Grant Support section of the Faculty of Science website.
Dr. Chantal Bassett
CHANTAL'S ADVICE TO STUDENTS
Take advantage of the snowball effect of success – apply for small awards; they add bulk to your CV and help you achieve larger awards in the future
Consider completing a graduate degree! You will learn skills that will help you excel in the workforce;
Explore new opportunities – volunteer to do outreach programs, take on summer internships in research laboratories or with industry and take on term positions once you graduate. Yes, not having a permanent position can be discouraging, but you will gain valuable experience in new surroundings. I believe my time in industry was instrumental in getting my current position at the UofM. I differentiated myself from other PhD graduates by having exposure in industry.