Science Without Borders Sparks New Partnerships in Brazil

By Nadia Macias

UTEP News Service

By 2014, the Brazilian government will have given out some 101,000 fellowships to Brazilian students, postdoctoral researchers and senior investigators to study the sciences at the best universities and research centers around the world, including The University of Texas at El Paso.

“For us this represents a great opportunity to recruit Brazilian students coming to UTEP as undergraduates or graduates,” said Benjamin Flores, Ph.D., dean of The University of Texas at El Paso’s Graduate School.UTEP President Diana Natalicio, left, recently signed memorandums of understanding with five Brazilian universities, including the Federal University of Triangulo Mineiro (UFTM). Pictured from left to right are President Natalicio, UFTM President Virmondes Rodrigues, and UFTM Vice President Silvana Rodrigues de Souza. Photo courtesy of Rosa Meguerian-Faria.UTEP President Diana Natalicio, left, recently signed memorandums of understanding with five Brazilian universities, including the Federal University of Triangulo Mineiro (UFTM). Pictured from left to right are President Natalicio, UFTM President Virmondes Rodrigues, and UFTM Vice President Silvana Rodrigues de Souza. Photo courtesy of Rosa Meguerian-Faria.

The program, which will cost the Brazilian government at least $2 billion, has been titled Science Without Borders and is aimed to expand Brazilian education in the areas of science, technology, innovation and competitiveness by providing opportunities for international study to undergraduate and graduate students and researchers. 

Flores was part of a recent team that included UTEP President Diana Natalicio that journeyed to Brazil to sign memorandums of understanding (MOU) with five universities in the country: The University of Brasilia; the Federal University of Uberlandia; the Federal University of Triangulo Mineiro; The Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology; and The Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás.

The signed MOUs established agreements to exchange students, collaborate on research, and begin dual programs where students can start at one school and finish at the other.

“We are very pleased to have formalized these partnerships between UTEP and Brazilian universities in anticipation of the research and education opportunities they will offer to our students and faculty researchers and theirs, especially in science and engineering,” President Natalicio said. “We look forward to welcoming additional Brazilian students to our campus, creating opportunities for UTEP students to study in Brazil, and expanding collaborations between UTEP researchers and colleagues in Brazil."

In addition to signing the agreements, Natalicio spoke of UTEP’s mission of access and excellence at the fourth annual conference of the Coimbra Group of Brazilian Universities. She was the only representative of an American institution invited to speak at the conference.

President Natalicio was the only speaker from an American institution invited to talk at the fourth annual Coimbra Group of Brazilian Universities. Photo courtesy of Rosa Meguerian-Faria.President Natalicio was the only speaker from an American institution invited to talk at the fourth annual Coimbra Group of Brazilian Universities. Photo courtesy of Rosa Meguerian-Faria.The Brazilian government recently passed a law that mandates public universities begin filling 50 percent of their available slots for admission with minorities.

“Brazil is involved in a social mobility effort nationwide that is trying to democratize higher education,” Flores said. “So in a sense, UTEP becomes a model to them because of how we’ve focused so much on the idea of access to education. Many of these universities are looking for such a model that they can look to, study and try to adopt. Dr. Natalicio was able to showcase what she had been doing for the past 20 years successfully.”

“This is the start of a coordinated effort between us,” said Rosa Meguerian-Faria, who is originally from Brazil and is the manager of international recruitment at UTEP.

According to Meguerian-Faria, seven students at UTEP hold Science Without Border fellowships – six undergraduates and one postdoctoral researcher. 

Of the 101,000 students who will receive Science Without Borders fellowships, 50,000 to 60,000 are expected to study in the United States.

The Science Without Borders program offers multiple opportunities, including fully funding master's and doctoral students abroad, and paying for visiting researchers to work at institutions in Brazil.

Marcos Vinicios Gomes dos Reis, who is originally from Goiania, Brazil, is currently receiving a Science Without Borders scholarship to take four courses at UTEP.

“My experience has been great, and I can say that I do not have enough words to describe how much I am learning here – not just in the classes that I am taking this semester, but from everyone that I have met,” said Gomes dos Reis, who is enrolled as a computer engineering undergraduate. “This University has given a lot of options that I can choose from. I am glad to be here and I think that I could not have chosen a better place to study.”