I was born/grew up in: Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil
I now live in: London, Ontario
What I do at work
A typical day at work for me involves a bit of routine and a bit of unknown. This can range from computer-based analyses and administrative tasks to bench work. My days always start with a cup of coffee! I review what I have done and set a plan of what needs to be done that day. There is also a bit of maintenance necessary to keep my research running.
The unknown part refers to the results collected from prior experiments. These results will help inform my next steps. For example, if something works well the first time, then great! If not, I need to try to understand why and find another way to address that challenge.
My project is about bacteria, so I use microbiological techniques to study these microbes and how they interact with gut cells. Research also involves all kinds of problem-solving. This can involve lab-based challenges to field trials (which, believe me, are called ‘trials’ for more reasons than one!). The key to dealing with the unknown is to focus on the big picture. It is important to not get caught up on the little things. I find that keeping challenges in perspective helps me find better solutions. It also reminds me that I am here to learn, sometimes the hard way.
When decisions need to be made, I first remind myself of the overall goal of my research. Then I evaluate the available options, and consider the pros and cons of each. This allow me to make a good decision. A STEM background provides me with a framework for developing an evidence-based judgement process. In essence, science is only possible due to effective critical thinking and logic. My work is mostly independent, though I communicate collaborate with lab mates on occasion. It is perhaps equally important to be independent and a good team player in science. You can’t get very far without a good dose of both.
My career path is
When I was in high school, research was not on my radar. At that time, I was not aware of the possibilities and opportunities of a career in this field. I completed a bachelor’s degree in biology with an honour’s specialization in genetics and biochemistry. I am now nearing the end of my Master of Science in microbiology and immunology, both at Western University (go mustangs!). I was also heavily involved in student-led research groups. This fueled a passion for research, teaching, mentorship, and outreach.
I was bit by the ‘research bug’ in my first year of undergrad! As a result, the prospect of graduate school was very exciting. I wanted to carry out meaningful research under the supervision of a talented scientist. I wanted to be trained to think critically and be an effective communicator. My graduate program has helped me achieve these goals.
One of the most influential people in my career early on was my high school chemistry teacher. He was not only a great teacher, but also his passion for science captivated me. He opened up my eyes to the beauty and joy of scientific inquiry. I have encountered several other amazing scientists that helped fan the flames of this passion. I am so happy they took a chance to teach and train me. Challenges and failures are a part of any endeavor. This is very true of work in the sciences. Doing research means to ‘re-search’ and to learn from each attempt. With this mindset, challenges and failures are reframed into a positive light by thinking in terms of lessons learned. While at times I did doubt myself, I believe the answer lies in pressing on, showing up, and not giving up on yourself and your dreams.
I am motivated by
The ability to work at the cutting-edge of knowledge, to discover things not known to people, and to contribute to the betterment of society and the world as a whole is exhilarating. Science can be a rigorous and demanding type of work. However, I have found there to be lots of space for creativity and innovation. Scientists are unique in terms of their own fields of interest, skillset, and personality. This unique mix of enthusiasm and drive creates an exciting community for learning and collaboration.
In my career so far, I have developed highly specialized skills, and spearheaded several initiatives to create learning opportunities in SynBio. I have met some fantastic colleagues-turned-friends along the way. To me, the most rewarding part of my role as a scientist is being able to inspire others to follow their curiosity and scientific creativity. I get great joy from seeing the spark in the eyes of some of my mentees once they begin to experience the wonder of scientific exploration. It is a great feeling to see them realize that they, too, have the skills and knowledge to make a difference.
How I affect peoples’ lives
For me, science is about helping people and the environment. This means understanding and applying knowledge to solve challenges in the world. My career matters because of those that came before me and those that will come after me. Being able to contribute to this pool of knowledge means I am helping to improve lives. Currently, the work that I produce is setting the foundation for a better understanding of the interactions that happen between microbes and their host in fish. This will help us improve the production chain in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
Outside of work I
Outside of work, I enjoy being outdoors as much as possible! Endurance activities such as running, cycling, and hiking are some of my favourites. By having these activities in my lifestyle, I have found that I am more productive and clear-minded to tackle complex challenges. I also enjoy playing music with friends, reading, and cooking. These are some of my favourite ways to relax (in addition to puppy cuddles, of course). I also volunteer at a community church outside of town. I am one of the lead singers in the music group and help coordinate activities with the kids and youth in the community.
My advice to others
Perhaps one of the most meaningful lessons that I learned through my career path thus far is to not be afraid of taking the road less traveled. It can be scary and the trail might be rugged. However, if you keep your values and morals in front, you can reach places you may never have imagined. In a fast-changing world, use these guiding principles to find your way in the night.