UdeM astrophysicist named one of Canada's young tech stars

Nathalie Nguyen-Quoc Ouellette

Nathalie Nguyen-Quoc Ouellette

Credit: Amélie Philibert, Université de Montréal

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Nathalie Nguyen-Quoc Ouellette is among 31 technology experts honoured by business news site The Peak in its list of 2024 emerging leaders. Guillaume Dumas also gets a nod, in the healthcare category.

Université de Montreal astrophysicist Nathalie Nguyen-Quoc Ouellette has been named an emerging leader in technology by The Peak, an online business news site owned by Toronto-based ZoomerMedia.

Deputy Director of UdeM's Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) and of the Mont-Mégantic Observatory, Ouellette is among 31 young leaders honoured in the tech category.

Overall, The Peak's jury members chose 327 young Canadians across 13 categories ranging from healthcare to finance to entertainment. Sponsored by CIBC, the list honours "the up-and-coming young leaders shaping Canada's economy, culture, and society in 2024."

"It's always a pleasure and an honour to receive recognition from my community like this, but I especially appreciate the opportunity to highlight the incredible work of my team and of Canada as a whole in the field of astrophysics," said Ouellette, 36, a science communicator engaged in astronomy outreach and research at UdeM, focusing on galaxy formation and evolution.

Last year, Ouellette was named by the Toronto-based Women's Executive Network as one of Canada’s 100 "most powerful women."

With a B.Sc. in physics from McGill University and an M.Sc. and Ph.D. from Queen’s University, Ouellette began her professional career spearheading educational programs and winning awards for her outreach efforts at Queen's Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute.

Joining iREx in 2018, Ouellette expanded her role to include leadership and management responsibilities and went on to become the sole Canadian Outreach Scientist for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

"In these roles," The Peak jury wrote, "she oversees a team of astronomers, educators and support staff and manages operations for two world-class research institutions while continuing her extensive science communication efforts through media interviews (over 400 to date), public talks, and advocacy for increased funding for space science.

"Her ultimate goal is to encourage curiosity and critical thought in youth and the public through the wonders of the cosmos and to promote scientific literacy in society."

Guillaume Dumas also named to the list

Guillaume Dumas

Guillaume Dumas

Credit: Stéphane Dedelis, CHU Sainte-Justine

Besides Ouellette, another UdeM academic – associate professor of computational psychiatry Guillaume Dumas – has also made The Peak's list of emerging leaders.

Named along with 22 others in the list's healthcare category, the 39-year-old researcher is  principal investigator of the precision psychiatry and social physiology laboratory at the UdeM-affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center.

He also holds the IVADO professorship for “AI in Mental Health," a Junior 1 research scholarship  in “AI and Digital Health”of the Fonds de recherche du Québec,  and is an academic member of Mila – Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute.

In 2023, Dumas was recognized as a CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar in the “Brain, Mind, and Consciousness” program and nominated as a Future Leader in Canadian Brain Research by the Brain Canada Foundation.

Of being named to The Peak's list, Dumas said: "I am deeply honoured to receive this nomination as an emerging leader in healthcare. To find myself among such inspiring figures, each contributing significantly to Canada's future, is truly humbling."

Dumas was previously a research fellow in neuroscience and computational biology at the Institut Pasteur, in Paris, in his native France. Before that, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, at Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton. 

He took up his new posts in Montreal in the fall of 2020.

"The support I've received since joining Université de Montréal has been overwhelming, and I am incredibly thankful for it," he said. "The Peak's recognition is a testament to the collaborative efforts and the spirit of innovation that define our community.”

In his research, Dumas focuses on the neural foundations of human social cognition, looking at the biological, psychological, and social facets of the human mind. Combining computational psychiatry, precision medicine and neuro-inspired artificial intelligence, he hopes to develop a more personalized and predictive approach to psychiatry and mental health.

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