Dr. Émilie Larocque – Audio Transcript
Today we are speaking with Émilie Larocque, a Virologist at Saint-Hyacinthe Laboratory. Émilie, thank you for joining us today to talk about your role at the CFIA and why you love the field of science.
Can you tell us more about your role as a Virologist at the CFIA?
Yes, my role is mainly to research activities in the field of Food Safety. Most of us know that foodborne illnesses can be caused by bacteria and parasites but they can also be caused by viruses. Viruses are actually responsible for most of these illnesses. Concretely my work consists in developing methods for the detection and identification of these viruses, in particular noroviruses and Hepatitis A virus in food samples. Food samples can be anything from lettuce, herbs, fresh fruits, frozen fruits or anything like that, and our ultimate goal is to enhance [CFIA's Food Virology Diagnostic Lab] capacity and support public health agencies during foodborne outbreak investigations.
That sounds quite, quite significant. When did you know you wanted to work in Science?
Well, I remember when I was little – maybe when I was 6 or 7 years old – when people would ask me the big question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I would answer "a Marine Biologist." I always loved biology class growing up and I had good grades in my science classes. I'm not a Marine Biologist today, but I do have a Bachelor's in Biology.
So you have a Bachelor's in Biology, you wanted to be a Marine Biologist and today you're a Virologist. Was there any other field in Science that you studied?
Actually, yes. During my Bachelor's I did a specialization in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and then I went on into graduate school and I did a basic research in molecular virology, more specifically Human Retroviruses.
So, you study obviously a lot when it comes to humans and to food viruses. What do you love about science?
I'd have to say that I love the entire scientific method, starting from asking a big or small question to reviewing everything that's out there on the subject, formulating my own hypothesis and then coming up with an experimental design to test that hypothesis. And obviously follow up and do the experiments and analyze the data to finally give an explanation. I also love the fact that the process leads to new knowledge and this is what makes science so thrilling.
With all things that you studied and obviously your love of science, what would you say is the coolest fact you know?
I think that the coolest fact that I know is that retroviruses integrated the genome of primates over 25 million years ago and now about 8% of the human genome contains these ancestral retrovirus sequences. So although these sequences are actually inactive some can actually still produce proteins and be beneficial for us.
When I hear you, I totally realise how much you love science and how much it's always been a part of who you are and what you've studied. What would you tell girls and young women today to encourage them to choose science as well?
Well, I think I would tell them to most importantly just to "stay true to yourself." If you're passionate about science and if that's what makes you happy and makes you proud then you should just go for it and nothing should stop you!
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Émilie. We're very happy that you joined us today.
It was my pleasure.
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