Order of the White Rose

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Liane Bernstein, winner of the 2016 Order of the White Rose scholarship: Climbing to even greater heights

Engineering physics graduate Liane Bernstein is accustomed to aiming for the top. After all, competitive climbing is among the favourite hobbies of this young woman who, in addition to maintaining an almost-perfect academic average, is the recent winner of the first Student Award of Merit from the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, as well as many other study and research scholarships. “The climbing competitions teach me discipline and perseverance and stimulate me to excel,” says the 24-year-old Quebecer, who has been practising the sport competitively for a few years.

Brilliant and curious, the 2016 laureate of the Order of the White Rose scholarship completed a research internship in 2011 on the subject of photonics in a medical imaging laboratory before even beginning her undergraduate studies at Polytechnique. This woman who, as a teen, was interested in everything BUT the sciences, took to the discipline like a fish in water under the direction of Professor Caroline Boudoux, using a tomography technique to study zebrafish that have scoliosis. She fell immediately in love with research, and now another summit stands before her: a career in optics and imaging to diagnose and treat disease. “What more can you ask for than to conduct fascinating research in physics that has positive and immediate benefits for society?” says Liane, who is also an accomplished musician.

Liane shone in the field of photonics throughout her bachelor’s studies at Polytechnique. During her research and development internships, she took advantage of her broad spectrum of skills in the development of probes allowing the use of various imaging techniques for the detection of brain tumours or pulmonary inflammation. Her remarkable contribution to research propelled her to the top, bringing her, with the help of her supervising professors, many honours, scholarships and scientific publication opportunities.

This sensitive student with a passion for studying light patterns does, however, perceive some shadows around the edge of the engineering profession: relatively few women have embarked on this career so far. During her work internship in the summer of 2015, she found out that there was only one female engineer among some 15 men. Worse, the laser company where she did her integrative project had none. When she received the Excelle Science prize from the Ministère de l'Éducation et de l'Enseignement supérieur du Québec for her drive to practise a traditionally masculine profession, she was touched by the testimonials of the other award winners. She then fully realized the difficulty of integrating into a male-dominated workplace. It gave her the impulse to get involved in a mentoring program, accompanying a younger student and encouraging her to continue her studies.

Now, Liane Bernstein has started her ascent toward even greater heights: a PhD program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. As bright as she has shown herself to be, there’s no doubt that she will continue to be a beacon in her field.

Video Interview

Liane Bernstein: Order of the White Rose Scholarship 2016 Recipient (French with English subtitles)