- Area of Study Cell and Molecular Biology
My scientific career started when my father wisely advised me to “forget about a career as a ballet dancer and go pursue a real profession”. He had nothing against dancing – he was actually very supportive about it. But he was right on advising me to pursue a more intellectually challenging career. I was then just starting my last year in High-School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where one must choose which major to study even before applying to college. This situation got me thinking about my interests and about what I would like to do for the rest of my life – hard questions to answer when you are only 17. I liked most of my classes in school but Biology was one of the most fascinating. So I did some research and discovered that the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) offered a major in Microbiology and Immunology. I had no idea what that meant, until I visited a research institution, talked to some microbiologists and I saw beautiful spiral microbes under the microscope. It was decided: I was going to be a microbiologist and uncover the mysteries of life invisible to the naked eye.
By the end of my undergrad, I was in love with microbes. I was working on halophiles (bacteria that live in high salt concentrations) at Prof. Lucy Seldin’s lab, while reading papers to write my honors thesis, I came across some reviews written by Dr. Aharon Oren, a professor on the other side of the world, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Coincidence – or fate – gave me the opportunity to visit Israel on that same year, twice! The light bulb turned on in my head: I contacted Aharon, visited his lab, and one year later, found myself in Israel doing a Masters in Biotechnology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, studying the extreme halophiles of the Dead Sea.
Even more in love with microbes, after characterizing a novel pink halophile bacterium called Salisaeta longa, I decided to broaden my horizons and shift from environmental microbiology to host-microbe interactions. I found a cool Brazilian researcher studying the interactions of the even cooler obligatory endosymbiont Wolbachia with its hosts, the Drosophila fly and the Culex mosquito. Wolbachia can affect the host biology in several ways, including manipulating the sex of the host and preventing mosquitos from transmitting diseases such as Dengue and malaria. So today you can find me at the Frydman lab, studying how Wolbachia modulates the gut microbiome its hosts and how that may play a role in the interesting phenotypes we observe. The supportive and collaborative environment at BU, especially at the Biology department, reassures me that I did the right choice. As a bonus, Boston is an amazing city and I am definitely having a great time.