A Tribute to Michele Auger

We are deeply saddened by the news that Prof. Michèle Auger of Université Laval passed away on October 29, 2018, at the age of 55.  Michèle was a dear friend and highly respected colleague of many ISMAR members.  Together with Isabelle Marcotte and David Bryce, Michèle was the Chair and main organizer of the 20th ISMAR Conference, which took place in Québec City in July 2017, and which was greatly enjoyed by all participants.  Michèle also served ISMAR as a member of the Council since 2013.  Her premature passing, after a battle with cancer that began before 2017, is a tremendous loss to ISMAR, to the chemistry and biophysics communities of Canada, and to the entire field of magnetic resonance.

The following tribute to Michèle Auger was written by Prof. Normand Voyer of Université Laval:

Michèle Auger was born in Grand-Mère, Quebec and raised in Trois-Rivières. As a bright and dynamic teenager, Michèle enrolled first in biophysics at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, only to later transfer to chemistry. After obtaining her B. Sc. in 1985, Michèle joined the group of Dr. Ian Smith at the University of Ottawa to pursue her Ph. D. studies in biophysics. It is here where she developed her great passion for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and its use in the study of biological systems. After graduating from the University of Ottawa in 1990, Michèle continued research as a postdoctoral fellow in the group of Dr. Robert G. Griffin at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the Griffin group, she got interested in the use of solid-state NMR to study biological membranes.

As a bright, talented and highly promising scientist, Michèle Auger received several offers, but it is at Université Laval that she decided to pursue her academic career. She joined the Department of Chemistry at Laval in July 1991 as an Assistant Professor and recipient of an NSERC Women’s Faculty Award. Highly successful, she was promoted to Associated Professor in 1996, then Full Professor in 2000. Michèle Auger's academic career is nothing but exceptional in all aspects.

Right from the start, Michèle Auger established a research program at the forefront of biophysics, exploiting solid-state NMR and other state-of-the-art techniques to study membrane interactions with proteins, peptides and drugs, as well as to study biopolymers such as spider silk. Her research projects were supported by substantial and continuous funding from several agencies. Her research achievements have received worldwide recognition, appearing in over 125 publications in peer-reviewed journals and presented on more than 500 occasions at various meetings around the world. For the quality and innovative character of her work, Michèle received several distinctions, including the Barringer Award from the Spectroscopy Society of Canada in 2002, the Clara-Benson Award from the Canadian Society for Chemistry in 2007, and was nominated Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada in 2010.

As an educator, Michèle Auger was outstanding. She developed and taught numerous courses and, as an exceptional professor, received only the highest ratings from students. Her excellence in teaching was recognised on numerous occasions with “Professeure Étoile” Teaching Awards from the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering at Laval. Michèle Auger was also a fantastic mentor. During her career, she trained over one hundred undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Gifted with superb interpersonal skills, she was able to adapt to the individual needs of each of the trainees she supervised to ensure their success. She always cared greatly for her students.

Michèle Auger was also very dedicated to making Université Laval a better place to study. She served as program director in Chemistry, either at the undergraduate and graduate level, for over 12 years. Her impact at the undergraduate level was particularly significant, with the elaboration of four innovative B.Sc. specialisations, four international exchange programs and the creation of a year-long industrial internship. In 2012, her exceptional contributions as Program director were recognised by Universitè Laval with the “Prix d’excellence en enseignement – catérogie Direction de programme”. Michèle Auger was particularly proud of the Communication for Chemists course that she created from scratch. Anyone who knew Michèle knew how close she was to students and how much she cared about them. She was part of the University Suicide Prevention Committee and designated “Sentinelle” for the Department of Chemistry. Her door was always open to students. In 2006, she co-founded a unique initiative: “Les 24 heures de la chimie” designed to promote chemistry and strengthen the sense of community in the Department of Chemistry.

Michèle Auger's involvement in the larger scientific community is also remarkable. Over the years, she served on numerous grant selection committees, notably at the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. She served for many years in the Chemistry Evaluation group, as member and as chair. Michèle Auger also dedicated countless hours of service to the Biophysical Society of Canada, and in recognition of her contribution, the Society created the Michèle Auger Award for Exceptional Service in 2016, of which she was the first recipient. She also organized various conferences and symposia, including the Meeting of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance (ISMAR) in Quebec City in 2017.

Finally, Michèle Auger was very engaged in promoting chemistry and sciences to the general public. Her passion for outreach started in 2007 with the organisation of an exhibit on the Chemistry of odours at the Science Pavillon of ExpoQuebec. She established an interactive activity on perfume fabrication and a very popular lecture entitled "The Chemistry of Odours: From Skunks to Chanel", which she continued to deliver until very recently. Without doubt, her most notable contribution to scientific outreach started in 2011 for the International Year of Chemistry, when she co-founded “Attraction Chimique”, a series of interactive activities to promote chemistry to school children and the general public. To date, “Attraction Chimique” has initiated chemistry to over 400 000 persons, mostly teenagers. She was particularly proud of her perfume making activity, extremely popular among kids, especially girls.

Brilliant, creative, dedicated to the scientific and academic communities, Michèle Auger embodied the perfect example of an accomplished university professor by all standards: professional, ethical and in leadership. Michèle Auger was a woman of values and great empathy, involved, passionate for books, sports, music and science. But most of all, she was an inspiring person. Everyone that crossed paths with Michèle will remember her as a model to follow, an exceptional woman that passed away too soon.

Michèle is survived by her spouse Jean Larose, her greatest pride and joy, her daughter Frédérique, her mother, her sister and other family members. She will be sorely missed by many friends, former and present members of the Department of Chemistry of Université Laval and the Canadian scientific community.