Back in 2014, Carleara Rosa, a PhD candidate and research assistant at the State University of New York at Buffalo, headed to New York City for a PUB-NY meeting — and on her way out, it occurred to her that although regional groups like PUB-NY do a great job connecting Brazilian graduate students in the U.S., the students’ needs often go unmet after graduation.
The government-supported Brazil Scientific Mobility Program (formerly known as Science Without Borders), which grants scholarships for graduate-level studies in STEM fields, requires students to return to Brazil after completion of the program, and after that they’re on their own.
“How are they going to enter the job market after going back to Brazil?” asked Rosa during a recent interview. The solution she and like-minded collaborators came up with was to launch an event that would connect Brazilian students in the U.S. with U.S.-based companies operating in Brazil.
The first Brazilian Graduate Students Conference (BRASCON) is being held at Harvard University on March 12-13. Although some Brazilian government agencies have nominally signed on as partners, the conference is essentially DIY, organized by Rosa and a team of volunteers spread across the country (including Brazilophiles collaborator Luana Teles). “We work on weekends, at 5 a.m., whatever it takes,” joked Rosa.
The four speakers slated to present at BRASCON are shining examples of Brazilian accomplishment in academia and entrepreneurship: Marcelo Gleiser, a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College; Miguel Nicolelis, professor of neurobiology and biomedical engineering at Duke University and a co-founder and scientific director of the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute for Neuroscience in Natal, Brazil; Ana Lopes, a board member of SciBr Foundation, a nonprofit promoting cooperation between the U.S. and Brazil in education, science, innovation and research; and Leonardo Maestri Teixeira, whose work in nanobiotechnology at Cornell University led to the founding of GeneWEAVE, a startup that was sold to Roche in 2015.
Students who register for BRASCON are welcome to showcase their work by submitting abstracts until Feb. 1. Ten abstracts will be selected for oral presentation, while 60 others will be selected for poster presentation. Abstracts must be in English, between 200 and 300 words; submission is open to students in Brazil and elsewhere, but students outside the U.S. who wish to attend the conference are responsible for their own travel costs.
The key challenge facing the BRASCON team is to get the attention of potential employers, particularly U.S. pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies that conduct R&D in Brazil — and the timing couldn’t be better, since new legislation will facilitate R&D partnerships between industry and academia across the country.