CAREER DEVELOPMENT  |  The Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training

Let us help!

The Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training is here to support trainees at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) on their way to a fulfilling career.

Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) logo

The Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) is the only program of its kind in Quebec that is situated at a health research institute.

DCAT provides career and professional development training opportunities to approximately 1200 research trainees at the RI-MUHC. Through a variety of events and training sessions, DCAT:

  • Exposes trainees to diverse career paths and options
  • Connects them with mentors in industry, government and academic centres
  • Creates peer communities for career planning
  • Offers training aimed at developing hard skills (e.g., project management, clinical trials management and operations) and soft skills (e.g., communication, business acumen).

Career advice

DCAT supports RI-MUHC trainees in these strategic ways, and more:

  • CV Review
  • Prepare for an interview
  • Job-hunting strategies
  • Career exploration tools
  • Referrals
  • Career planning
  • Skill acquisition

Contact us to schedule an appointment with a career advisor.

Emily Bell, PhD
Emily Bell, PhD

Associate Director, DCAT

Trainees can contact me for career advice, mock interviews, resume review, references and more.

Christina Farant
Christina Farant

Coordinator, DCAT

Contact me for Trainee newsletter and events.

Career development programs

The Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) currently offers RI-MUHC trainees access to career-focused programs. Each program is designed to help guide trainees to identify and achieve their desired careers. DCAT is focused on enriching RI-MUHC trainees with the knowledge of available careers outside of academia and helping them to pursue these careers through professional development.

Peer Career Discovery Groups

Program overview

Format: Online course with webinars. Self-paced option available.
Duration: Estimated 6 weeks
Time commitment: 2-3 hours/week (including webinars)
Cost: Free
Eligibility: Open to all M.Sc. and PhD students or postdoctoral fellows

Program description

The Peer Career Discovery Groups (PCDG) program exists to guide trainees in their career exploration and preparation. Career exploration is an iterative process. In the PCDG program, trainees conduct self-assessments and engage in self-reflection with the goal of gaining insight into their strengths, interests, and career preferences. Defining professional skills and interests not only helps trainees gain insight into their professional identity and relevant experiences, but also helps them identify goals and career path(s) that will be their “best fit.” While the program introduces trainees to the world of work outside academia, the group discussions are equally relevant for trainees considering faculty careers. Near the end of the program, the focus shifts toward supporting trainees in deepening their career planning with the creation of effective documents (e.g., CVs, cover letters) for the job search.

In the Peer Career Discovery Groups (PCDG) program, trainees will:

  • Explore their career options: The PCDG program consists of a series of six (6) free online webinars
  • Plan for their future career:  Through an in-depth look at the variety of careers in the life sciences
  • Learn job search tactics:  Through a series of independent activities designed to broaden job-hunting strategies
  • Strengthen their CVs:  By learning how to tailor their CV to the job role and sector
  • Improve networking skills: Through exclusive networking events and career panels, trainees can meet with professionals working in the field
  • Develop interviewing skills: Either by meeting with our career educator or through instructor-led activities with fellow peers

Online course with instructor-led webinars

The PCDG program has been converted into an online course. Using the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre’s (RI-MUHC's) new online learning management system, TalentLMS, participants can now access the program content online, follow their individual learning path, earn badges, and gain a certificate of completion.

Trainees who want to join the program but are unable to attend some or all of the webinars can opt to follow the program at their own pace.

Program registration

The PCDG program is available through registration only. The program runs twice a year in the spring (March-May) and fall (September-November). Registration will be broadcast by the Desjardins Centre of Advanced Training (DCAT) through the Trainee Newsletter.

Contact us to learn how to register or to sign up for the newsletter.

Note: All seminars are currently planned to be held online until further notice.

Pathfinders Mentorship Program

Program overview

Format: Online, in-person
Duration: 4 months
Time commitment: Approximately 2-5 hours per month. (Time commitment may vary and will be determined by the mentor and mentoree)
Cost: Free
Eligibility: All RI-MUHC M.Sc. and PhD students or postdoctoral fellows

Program description

The Pathfinders Mentorship Program is designed to connect RI-MUHC trainees (i.e., graduate students, postdoctoral and clinical fellows) with professionals in the life sciences sector (both academic and non-academic), creating opportunities for trainees to explore their career options and receive career development advice. The Pathfinders Mentorship Program is a structured four-month mentorship that runs year-round.

How to become a mentoree

  • Step 1:
    Select a mentor
  • Step 2:
    Apply for mentorship
    through DCAT
  • Step 3:
    Your application
    is reviewed by
    selected mentor
  • Step 4:
    If selected, contact
    mentor and start

Step 1: Potential mentorees can access the pool of available mentors by contacting the Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT). The mentor pool will include basic information on each mentor, such as job title, work sector and industry, daily functions, and top transferable skills. We encourage potential mentorees to choose a mentor based on their career goals and/or a skill they want to learn or enhance. With access to the mentor pool, a program application form will be issued.

Step 2: Once a mentor has been chosen, the potential mentoree must submit the following documents to DCAT:

  • A completed application form and mentor selection
  • A one-page letter of intent addressed to the mentor
  • An updated professional CV

Step 3: DCAT will send the documents to the chosen mentor. The mentor will analyse the documents and determine whether they are a good fit for mentorship.

Step 4: If chosen, the mentoree will be provided more information on their mentor as well as a Pathfinders workbook. The mentoree should evaluate the mentorship goals and contact the mentor to begin the four-month cooperation. If the mentor does not choose to pursue a collaboration, the program coordinator will contact the mentoree with further instructions.

Interested in becoming a mentoree? Contact us to gain access to the pool of mentors.

Become a mentor

The duty of the mentor is to support the mentoree and to share what they've learned from their own experiences. Both the mentor and the mentoree must put in time, effort, and commitment. One-on-one meetings, follow-ups, and regular goal reviews are all required for effective mentoring. Depending on the parameters of the mentoree's career path, the focus of mentoring can be broadened, allowing the mentoree to explore new possibilities for future prospects.

Mentoring isn't like a long job interview. Mentors are not headhunters and are not required to find a position for their mentoree within their company; however, they are urged to assist their mentorees in becoming job-ready, creating valuable contacts, and expanding their networks.

Becoming a mentor represents a unique opportunity to inspire and be inspired.

Contact us to learn how to become a mentor.

How does it work?

Step 1: Register to become a mentor.

Register with the Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) of the RI-MUHC to become a mentor. A censored version of your profile (devoid of personal information) will be made available to potential mentorees in an online mentor pool.

Step 2: Accept requests to mentor.

If a potential mentoree chooses you, DCAT will send you the mentoree's one-page letter of intent, current CV, and basic information. You will have the opportunity to determine if you and the potential mentoree are a good match. If you accept a mentoree, they will obtain your contact information and introduce themselves to you.

Step 3: Begin a four-month mentoring relationship with an RI-MUHC trainee.

The mentorship will span at least four months and include at least four face-to-face or virtual encounters. At the end of the term, both the mentor and the mentoree will get an assessment form that will be used to help the program improve.

Step 4: Begin afresh with a new mentoree.

After finishing a mentorship, you can choose to rejoin or leave the mentor pool.

Please note that the Pathfinders Mentor Pool is a secure website where you can view our mentors' censored profiles. This site is only accessible to potential mentorees who have been given the weblink.

Contact us to learn more about becoming a mentor.

The Clinical and Regulatory (C&RA) Experience Training Program

Program overview

Format: Online course with seminars. Self-, peer- and experiential learning
Duration: Estimated 6 months
Time commitment: 4-6 hours/week
Cost: Free for McGill students
Eligibility: Open to all M.Sc. and PhD students or postdoctoral fellows from McGill University and other Canadian universities

Program description

This program is aimed at preparing trainees for a career as a CRA, CRC, MSL, regulatory affairs specialist, scientific evaluator, and more.

Some of the tangible outcomes of this program for trainees are:

  • Completion of certifications in Good Clinical Practice (ICH) and Health Canada Division 5
  • Knowledge of the regulations and practices around clinical research, interventional trials, sponsor-initiated trials, and drug development for adult and pediatric patients
  • Access to a network of clinical trials professionals and past alumni of the program
  • Practical onsite experience in a busy academic clinical trials centre (Centre for Innovative Medicine [CIM] of the RI-MUHC; for McGill Students only)

The C&RA Experience training program involves theoretical learning and a practical externship in the clinical trials environment, with the following objectives:

  • Knowledge of drug development, clinical trial design and regulatory processes relevant to the management and operations of clinical trials
  • Awareness of the different roles of the clinical and regulatory affairs team
  • Training in essential skills (hard and soft) that are required for a career in the industry
  • Hands-on experience in clinical and regulatory affairs in the context of clinical trials (for McGill trainees only)

Program enrollment

IMPORTANT NOTE: This program is reserved for trainees currently enrolled in a graduate program or postdoctoral fellowship at the RI-MUHC, McGill or a Canadian institution. No exceptions will be made.

Eligibility to apply

  1. The applicant is actively pursuing a graduate degree (M.Sc., PhD) or is currently a postdoctoral fellow, in the field of the life sciences.
  2. The applicant is affiliated with the RI-MUHC, McGill University or another Canadian university.
  3. The applicant has the support of their graduate or postdoctoral supervisor to participate in the program.

Application requirements

  1. Online application for the program
  2. One-page (maximum 500-word) personal statement
  3. A signed letter of support from your current PI or supervisor using the template provided
  4. CV (academic or non-academic style)

The C&RA Experience training program (2021-2022) is funded by a Career Guidance for Trainees grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Contact us for more information.

Graduate Certificate in Business Administration (GCBA)

(Offered in collaboration with the John Molson School of Business, Concordia University)

In collaboration with the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) at Concordia University, we provide trainees with a unique opportunity to develop business administration skills alongside their scientific training.

Why a GCBA?

  • Get the skills employers are looking for.
  • Expand the range of your career opportunities.
  • Develop business communication and presentation skills.
  • Gain practical skills that are transferable to disciplines other than your field of expertise.
  • Learn business fundamentals to better manage your staff, budget and all aspects of a lab beyond science-related matters.
  • Follow a flexible part-time or full-time schedule.
  • No prior work experience is needed.
  • No GMAT is required.
  • Choose from two application/admissions deadlines per year.

Info Sessions and Application Deadlines
Join us for a free pizza lunch in the spring to learn about the benefits of enrolling in the GCBA.
Admission possible for Fall or Winter Semester
Contact us for more information.

Career-oriented events

Career Half-Day

This unique opportunity allows RI-MUHC trainees the chance to network with life sciences professionals and learn about their individual career paths and job roles. In the morning, participants will attend a career focused workshop or a series of talks given by industry professionals. Participants are encouraged to attend the networking lunch where they will have the chance to move between tables at 20-25 minute intervals and speak with professionals from the life sciences sector such as medical writers, consultants, entrepreneurs, scientists and more.

When: Every Fall
Where: Glen Site 1001 Decarie Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H4A 3J1, Block E.
Room: Drs. Sylvia and Richard Cruess Amphitheatre

RI-MUHC Summer Student Research Day

Open to undergraduate students and visiting summer students who are currently conducting research with an RI-MUHC researcher.

Look, listen and learn about the research achieved by the summer research students and current trainees. In collaboration with the eight research programs of the RI-MUHC, this day offers summer students the opportunity to present a poster or an oral talk about their research, showcasing the diverse and exciting scientific research that happens every day at the RI-MUHC.

When: Every summer
Where: Glen Site 1001 Decarie Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H4A 3J1, Block E.
Room: Drs. Sylvia and Richard Cruess Amphitheatre

RI-MUHC Summer Student Workshops

Open to current and incoming graduate students and undergraduate trainees. The Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training offers a special training module for RI-MUHC trainees. Six weeks of weekly workshops on the topics of Research Ethics and Integrity and Presentation Skills are intended for undergraduate students, new graduate students and visiting research students. These weekly workshops are offered at no cost to summer students.

When: Every summer
Where: Glen Site 1001 Decarie Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H4A 3J1, Block E.
Room: TBD