Brazilian woman, Marcelle Soares Santos, from the state of Espírito Santo, wins a $70,000 grant from foundation that produced 47 Nobel Prize winners

Marcelle Soares Santos
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Marcelle Soares Santos

Note from BW of Brazil: It’s stories such as this that we will continue to demand equal opportunity for a black population that, for the most part has been excluded from the realization its full potential and all that their country has to offer. While perhaps tens of thousands of young, black Brazilian boys grow up kicking around a soccer ball, dreaming of being the next Pelé, Ronaldinho or Neymar, and black girls see themselves in the beautiful passistas that we see parade and gyrate during Carnaval season, such as the one that just ended, how many black role models do they have that are judges and scientists? I don’t write these words as a slight to any of the incredible Brazilian futebol players or the graceful Carnaval dancers that keep us glued to the action during games or Carnaval processions, I am simply saying that our children must also see people such as Marcelle Soares Santos, featured in today’s article, to know that possibilities are endless if they put their minds to it and Brazil makes the path of fulfilling such goals reachable for ALL of its citizens rather than a certain parcel. Marcelle Soares Santos defied so many odds placed in front of her to get to where she is, a professor of Physics at Brandeis University in the United States. But how many more Marcelle’s could there be with more ample opportunities and fewer obstacles to get there?


Brazilian woman, Marcelle Soares Santos, from the state of Espírito Santo, wins a $70,000 grant from foundation that produced 47 Nobel Prize winners

The award goes to researchers early in their careers who show an exceptional promise

By Laila Magesk with information from Brandeis University

Astrophysics professor Marcelle Soares Santos

Astrophysics professor, Marcelle Soares Santos, from the state of Espírito Santo, won one of the most competitive and prestigious awards available to early-stage researchers, a research grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, based in New York, United States.

The information was published on February 19 by Brandeis University, where the scientist coordinates a research that seeks to explain the cause of the accelerated expansion of the universe using data from some of the most powerful telescopes ever built.

According to the publication, Sloan former scholarship recipients include 47 Nobel Prize winners, including physicists Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann.

“It is an honor to receive the Sloan Research Scholarship,” said the Santos in an interview with the university where she works. “Meeting the prominent people who have been recognized over the years is what makes me proud of this award.”

Marcelle spoke of the joy of receiving this scholarship.

I am very proud and happy to be recognized by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as a leader in academia. I believe that all my collaborators and ex-teachers, in Brazil and abroad, can today feel recognized for this achievement

Marcelle Soares Santos, recipient of a $70,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Adam F. Falk, president of the foundation, described Sloan scholarship winners as “the best young scientists working today.”

According to information from Brandeis University, the 126 fellows nominated this year by the foundation will receive a two-year scholarship and $ 70,000 to deepen their research. “The funds can be spent in any way that the researcher thinks will best advance his or her work,” the text said.

Candidates are nominated by their peers and the winners are selected by independent panels of senior academics based on the achievements of research, creativity and potential to become a leader in their field of research.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a non-profit philanthropic institution based in New York. Founded in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then president and chief executive officer of General Motors Corporation, the Foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics.


Many friends and colleagues used social networks to congratulate Santos. Among them, the page “Astronomia USP Brasil” (Astronomy USP Brazil). Marcelle holds a PhD in Astrophysics from USP (Universidade de São Paulo).


A trajectory of success. Born in Vitória, Marcelle Soares Santos, 36, always wanted to understand the world around her. The curiosity of childhood became a study and today she coordinates  research at Brandeis University in the Boston, Massachusetts region that seeks to explain the cause of the accelerated expansion of the universe.

According to Marcelle, the desire to study physics began at school when she was in fifth or sixth grade, and it was gaining space in the life of the then teenager when she attended high school at the former Escola Técnica Federal  (currently Ifes). In the 2000s, Marcelle entered Ufes.


“The period at the university was great. In addition to studying the topics that fascinated me, I started to do research (a scientific initiation project, with CNPq scholarship) and also worked in scientific outreach programs, with the support of Capes (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel) aimed at students and teachers of Elementary and Middle School,” she says.

With a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Ufes, she took a test for the post-graduation program in Astronomy at USP in 2004. “When I joined the program, I already wanted to study Cosmology* – I had an introduction to the topic during my scientific initiation research. As I learned more, I had a chance to shift my focus to observational cosmology, using data from large surveys such as the Dark Energy Survey,” she explains.


A PhD in Astrophysics from the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences at USP, Santos became a university professor in the physics department at Brandeis University, USA. From Boston, she talked to the Gazeta Online team on the internet and spoke of the goals of her current research, if she faced prejudice because she was a woman and a black in a male-dominated area, among other things.

In a simple way, what does your research represent for the world?

I study the origin and evolution of our universe using telescopes that produce images of millions of distant galaxies and also capture very bright and ephemeral bursts that occur when certain types of stars undergo a collision

You already have many professional achievements. What are your plans for the future?

I intend to continue this line of research, strengthening my research group and forming a new generation of physicists and astrophysicists.

You are accustomed to coming to Victória, do you have relatives here?

Yes. My parents and my sister live in Victória. I visit whenever I can.

In your childhood did you live outside of the state?

I lived from 4 to 14 years in Serra dos Carajás, in (the state of) Pará. My family returned to Vitória, Jardim Camburi, in the 1990s.

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Astrophysics professor Marcelle Soares Santos

Did you have the encouragement of your parents to enter this area?

Yes. My parents have always supported both me and my siblings in our trajectories.

A lot of people have to ask that question, but there’s no way we can avoid it. Physics is a course where traditionally men predominate. Is it still like this?


Have you faced any kind of prejudice for being a black woman in this area?

Although the lack of representativeness of certain groups in the various areas of academic research is a serious and global problem, there have been advances in recent years and certainly my experience has been much better than that of professors one or two generations ago.

What do you suggest to young people who wish to have a career similar to yours? Do you have any aptitude that reveals a taste for physics?

I think the most important thing is to be curious about the processes that occur in nature. If one cultivates this curiosity, a taste for physics is a direct consequence.

How did you become interested in your area of expertise?

Physics was close to my heart before I could articulate the word. I was a very curious child, and when I grew up and started studying math and science, it became my passion. The fact that I was terrible at all forms of sports at school could also have something to do with it.

I was always the slowest student in Physical Education classes, and I never developed talent with the ball, but if you gave me a math problem or a puzzle, I would be one of the first to find a solution. The focus on Cosmology, in particular, began when I was in college. There was a colloquium on this subject, and when I learned that 95% of matter and energy in the universe are unknown, I knew that this was a puzzle that I had to help solve.

In addition to studying space, what do you like to do?

I like to read science fiction stories. It is wonderful to see the laws of physics temporarily “suspended” and embark on such imaginative and fantastic stories.

* Branch of astronomy that studies the structure and evolution of the universe as a whole, worrying as much about its origin as about its evolution.

Source: Gazeta Online

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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