Career Interview: Guy Rouleau, MD, PhD

McGill University

ASHG: If you had a choice, would you teach more or spend more time on your research? Why?

Dr. Rouleau: While I enjoy teaching, I find it rather sterile in that I am speaking to a group of people describing something known.

There are two things that I love of research. The first is that is I have direct contact with students/postdocs and we have active, stimulating, and interesting exchanges. I learn much – in fact I think that all the ideas I had that were innovative or exciting were the result of such interactions. It is this mixing of thoughts of different people that, in my mind, generates new ideas.

Second, it is exciting to think of new things, speculate on what is going on, and find ways to test these ideas. It is exploration, like the navigators of the past.

ASHG: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?

Dr. Rouleau: My favorite parts of my job is interacting with students, the thrill of discovery, and writing grants. Yes, writing grants. For me, when writing a grant, I stop everything and think about the problem, think of ways to address the problem, read the literature, and draft a plan on paper. It is the time I focus most on some problems; I exchange with students, postdocs, technicians, and other scientists. Usually a detailed plan is produced and almost always it is what we end up doing.

I also like to get invited to give talks on subjects where I am a bit out of date. Same process as above. It is very satisfying for me to dig deep into a problem and try to understand.

The least favorite part of my job is the Human Resources activity. I have no training for this. People are complicated and have many different things happening in their lives. There are lots of rules. Very difficult.

ASHG: Can you describe your transition from trainee to working professional? How did you land your first “real” job?

Dr. Rouleau: When I was finishing my training I looked for jobs in different places. In the end, my mentor offered me a position and I accepted it with no hesitation. I probably should have negotiated for a better start up package!

The best thing I did was actively write grants while finishing my postdoc. When I arrived at my new position, I already had one major grant and the lab was launched rapidly. I was also very fortunate that another postdoc who was with me in Boston followed me to my first job in Montreal. She was tremendously helpful to get the lab running well. She has since had a stellar career and I am proud that she spent a few years with me. My most difficult challenge was finding good students. I had some early disasters as well as some great students.

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