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From Structural Biology of Neglected Diseases to Brazilian Science

On Tuesday 7 May Professor Glaucius Oliva, Professor at the Institute of Physics of São Carlos, University of São Paulo and Director of Brazil’s prestigious Science without Borders programme, delivered the 2013 Bernal lecture at Birkbeck, University of London.

Professor Oliva is a Birkbeck alumnus, having studied for his PhD in the crystallography department in 1984. He began his lecture by saying that his time at Birkbeck had changed his life, and recalling the warm reception that he experienced at the College.

Introducing Professor Oliva, the Master of Birkbeck, Professor David Latchman, explained that Professor Oliva’s approach to science and the transformative effect that it can have on society was the perfect fit with J.D. Bernal’s work on the social function of science.

In the lecture, entitled “From structural biology of neglected diseases to Brazilian science”, Professor Oliva described the enormous changes that have taken place in Brazil as a result of investment in science and technology, particularly in the agriculture, oil and gas, and aerospace industries.

He went on to explain the work of his research group on infectious diseases, including Chagas disease and schistosomiasis, which are still a major global cause of illness, morbidity, long-term disability, and death, with severe medical and psychological consequences for millions of men, women and children, especially for the poor.

Professor Oliva closed the lecture by describing the Brazilian government’s ambitious Science without Borders initiative of which he is Director, which aims to send 100,000 Brazilian scientists on international fellowships at undergraduate and post-graduate level by 2014.

Birkbeck is part of the Science without Borders initiative and has already welcomed students to the College under the auspices of the scheme.

Professor Glaucius Oliva