Our research mentors

Whatever their methodology, investigators who supervise graduate students and research fellows at the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH) have at least one thing in common. They are committed to forming the next generation of child health researchers. Here, some outstanding supervisors share their thoughts on becoming a researcher and mentoring others.


Caroline Quach, MD, M.Sc.

“We have all worked very hard to be where we’re at, but most of us got lucky. At some point, we met the right person who sparked our interest for research and sciences, and someone allowed us to have our first success.”  

Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiologist, Montreal Children’s Hospital

  • Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University

Research program: Dr. Quach conducts epidemiological studies of risk factors leading to infections, both healthcare-associated and vaccine-preventable. Her research team has studied the risks of infections associated with Emergency Department visits and is now working on the prevention of gastroenteritis, the impact of the new rotavirus vaccine, and the prevention of infection in the neonatal intensive care unit.

 Q: How did you become interested in research and in mentoring research trainees?

Dr. Quach: I can’t say exactly when my passion for science and research was born. I never tried to dissect frogs for fun when I was little, or blow up my room while trying to fathom the creation of the universe. I was always curious, and liked to learn – especially about science, because it’s fascinating to understand. But my passion for research crept up on me later, without making much noise, until one day I realised that it was part of my life and I just couldn’t do without it, despite long work hours and setbacks on that path.

I think it’s the creativity and absence of routine in research that light the way for me and allow me to overcome the disappointments. Even more, it’s meeting extraordinary people I would never have met otherwise. It’s also the satisfaction of building something – building local or international teams, building knowledge – and the joy that comes with the ability to help form the next generation.

I’m writing about this on a plane trip back from the Netherlands, after attending the defense of my student’s doctoral dissertation. What pleasure and pride it brings to take part in the crowning event of years of study, knowing that our students are ready to take to their wings and fly, brilliantly, on their own. And knowing that, sometimes, we sparked their interest!

I hope that every trainee crosses paths with an extraordinary mentor: generous, committed, and able to transmit a passion for science that will catalyse theirs. To all trainees, in whatever domain you employ your talent for science, may that passion always be yours.


Constantin Polychronakos, MD

“Detecting the flame”

Director, Pediatric Endocrinology, Montreal Children’s Hospital

Professor of Pediatrics, McGill University

Research program: Dr. Polychronakos’ research is focused on the genetic basis of diabetes. His internationally recognized program has resulted in the discovery of several new genes related to type 1 and type 2 diabetes. With colleagues at the University of California at San Francisco, he discovered a new gene essential for the regeneration of the insulin-producing pancreatic islets, offering new hope for a diabetes cure. Dr. Polychronakos is working toward personalized treatment based on individual genetic profiles.

 Q: What does it take to become a research scientist?

Dr. Polychronakos:  Making research a career focus is a major investment in hard work and long years of training. When I reflect on what drives so many people to take this arduous path, two answers come to mind. One is about satisfying intellectual curiosity, the relentless desire to know. The other is about sharing this satisfaction with junior colleagues—infecting them, so to speak, with the same “bug.”

Over the decades since I was myself a research fellow at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, I have had the good fortune to guide many bright young men and women through a career in the health sciences and to learn, perhaps as much as I have taught.

The first thing I tell aspiring young scientists is that there is only one reason to pursue research. You don’t do this for the money—there are easier ways to make a living. Not for the glory either, as most successful scientists remain known only to colleagues in their field. Altruism and the desire to help the suffering are noble motives, but what will really keep you hacking on long evenings and weekends (only when you have to, hopefully) is the desire to know something no one has known to date, to do something that hasn’t been done. Detecting this flame early in a student’s career is a challenge every good mentor should master.