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Research and Creation Award

The Research and Creation Prize recognizes the original nature of the recipient’s research or innovation work and aims to highlight a discovery, scientific publication, or significant creation work they have published during the calendar year preceding the competition.

Three prizes are awarded each year to UdeS professors. These prizes may be awarded to an individual or a team.

2021 Recipients

Julie Achim

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Supporting children in difficulty and teaching their parents to “mentalize”

A large proportion of children in child psychiatry find it difficult to identify and express their experiences, and their ability to use words and symbolic play to do so is limited. Many of them and their parents demonstrate significant difficulties in “mentalizing.” This concept refers to a person’s ability to take their internal world into account as well as that of others, and to use it to base their thinking about their own behaviour, that of others, and the nature of the connections between them.

How can we help children who do not have adequate abilities in symbolization and language to benefit from so-called traditional psychotherapy? By bringing together experienced contributors in the collective work Mentaliser en contexte pédopsychiatrique : Interventions thérapeutiques (mentalizing in child psychiatry: therapeutic interventions), Professor Julie Achim proposes the first French book on an international scale devoted to the therapeutic applications of mentalization for children in child psychiatry and their families. The result: A major publication that uses diverse and complementary expertise to help many children with severe emotional and relational difficulties, as well as their parents.

The book provides an introduction to the concept of mentalization and its clinical applications in a child psychiatry context. In addition to identifying criteria for assessing the ability of children in child psychiatry and their parents to mentalize, the book presents observable clinical manifestations of mentalization and its weaknesses and suggests various evaluative and therapeutic methods. Adaptations for other clinical settings and populations are possible and relevant, for example in child protection with children and adolescents who have less severe difficulties.

Published in October 2020 by De Boeck Supérieur, in the Carrefour des psychothérapies collection, the book is considered by experts as an indispensable contribution and has been distributed internationally.

François Michel Boisvert and Xavier Roucou

Medicine and Health Sciences

A protein that hides others

Protein degradation is part of the cellular functions which are essential to life. It allows cells to maintain balance by eliminating excess or defective proteins. One of the main mechanisms responsible for protein degradation in cells is the ubiquitin-proteasome system, which adds a small protein known as ubiquitin to targeted proteins. A problem until now was that scientists believed ubiquitin was a single protein.

The discovery of several variants of ubiquitin by the team of professors François-Michel Boisvert and Xavier Roucou has completely changed the game, paving the way to discover regulation mechanisms for these new ubiquitins and potentially new treatments against cancer.

Cancer cells are strongly dependent on the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, therefore providing an interesting therapeutic target. However, the general inhibitors of protein degradation are toxic and associated with neurodegenerative disease. The development of more specific inhibitors based on new ubiquitin variants may thus be a potential avenue for cancer.

Such a discovery has an enormous impact, demonstrating why the prestigious journal Nature Communications published the scientific article of the team of professors François-Michel Boisvert and Xavier Roucou in March 2020.

The Université de Sherbrooke is pleased to present them with the Research and Creation Award in the Medicine and Health Sciences category.

Michel Pioro-Ladrière

Engineering and Natural Sciences

One degree, a revolution in quantum research

Millions of qubits are needed to attain the maximum potential of quantum computers, machines of the future that promise to perform in mere seconds calculations which currently take years. Millions of qubits means major heat!

Quantum research is confronted with the persistent challenge of cooling devices to near zero kelvin (-273.15 degrees Celsius) to prevent miscalculations. However, Professor Michel Pioro-Ladrière and his then PhD student, Julien Camirand-Lemyre, with the help of colleagues at University of New South Wales in Australia, combined two quantum technologies to achieve a breathtaking achievement:  Purified silicon-based micromagnets and chips that make it possible to use qubits at higher temperatures, i.e. 1.5 kelvin.

While this small change of just over one degree may seem insignificant, it makes a world of difference, as we now have the potential to bring together the control electronics and processor in the cryogenic refrigerator, which was not previously possible as the electronics could not operate close to absolute zero and had to remain outside the refrigerator and be wired to the processor. For a quantum computer worthy of such a name, this infrastructure would take gigantic proportions. The discovery by professors Pioro-Ladrière and Julien Camirand-Lemyre has finally opened the door to miniaturizing installations, thanks to the exceptional collaboration among research teams.

This breakthrough was published on April 15, 2020, in the prestigious journal Nature and was one of the 10 discoveries of the year 2020 for the magazine Québec Science. In April 2021, it even won a Prix Mérite estrien.

The Université de Sherbrooke is honoured to present Professor Pioro-Ladrière with the Research and Creation Award in the Engineering and Natural Sciences category.

Maxime St-Hilaire

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Legal positivism in all aspects

While positivism is one of the richest traditions in the philosophy of science, it also applies to the philosophy of law. This family of theories focuses on the “factual” or “definitive” nature of law, i.e. on the many attempts to understand the law that rely on observing facts or analyzing existing, identified, and ordered norms. Shifting from scientific positivism to legal positivism was not an obvious path. However, as there is no unanimous definition of legal positivism, Professor Maxime St-Hilaire set out to understand all its meanings and explain them to us.

In his book Les positivismes juridiques au XXe siècle, Normativismes, sociologismes, réalismes, published in August 2020 in the prestigious Diké collection of the Presses de l’Université Laval, Professor St-Hilaire successfully transmits, in under one hundred pages, the fruit of over ten years of reading, reflection, and work, and thus introduces the reader to the current status of the debate on this concept while demonstrating a high degree of erudition. A tour de force given the astonishing multitude of works under study.

The result: A tool for understanding the philosophy of law, well beyond the particularly dense period on which it focuses, that allows for both reconnecting with original debates and shining new light on many of today’s debates. It evokes most of the great lawyers from the last century and analyzes the greatest trends and perspectives of positivism, by decompartmentalizing legal cultures and jurisdictions.

Already widely distributed in Canada, Europe, and even Asia, the book has been quickly integrated into the teaching of the Rule of Law in Quebec’s law faculties.

The Université de Sherbrooke is pleased to present Professor Maxime St-Hilaire with the Research and Creation Award in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences category.