Brazil | University of Oxford
A view of Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

Brazil

Oxford’s links with Brazil are swiftly expanding, with an ever growing number of Brazilian students and staff across a widening range of disciplines. Work with and on Brazil takes place in the Brazilian Studies Programme, in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, in the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests and through individual collaborations across all of the University’s divisions.

As a reflection of the central role that Oxford’s vibrant Brazilian community plays in university life, the University holds an annual Brazil Week offering students, academics and local residents a wide range of cultural activities to raise awareness of the richness and diversity of Brazilian culture. Highlights of the annual Brazil Week includes seminars, talks, and film screenings with prominent Brazilian guests.

Just as Brazilian culture has a strong place in Oxford, Oxford also has a notable presence in Brazil itself. Oxford University Press (OUP) has a branch office in Brazil, based in São Paulo, and English Language Teaching (ELT) offices in other parts of the country (e.g., Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba). In recent years OUP Brazil has been particularly focused on the development of projects which deliver educational solutions to meet specific needs, and to help teachers and students achieve the best results in the classroom. Programa Múlitplo de Educacão, to be launched this year, comprises print and digital cross-curricular materials for the 9 grades of Ensino Fundamental, and a package of services with a continuing development programme to support schools.

The key importance of the University’s relationship with Brazil was also affirmed in recent years by the trips made to Brazil by the previous Vice Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, most recently in July 2014. The 2014 trip resulted in a collaboration between Oxford and FAPESP to co-fund the initial stages of joint research projects, as part of FAPESP’s SPRINT funding programme.

Studying

The Latin American Centre (LAC), part of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, has a dynamic and vibrant Brazilian Studies Programme. It promotes a greater understanding of Brazil’s history, society, culture, politics, economy, ecology, and international relations through lectures, seminars, workshops and conferences, research projects, and publications. It extends and strengthens academic links between Oxford, various universities and research institutions in Brazil, and other centres of Brazilian studies around the world. The current Brazilian Studies programme is a successor to the Centre for Brazilian Studies that played a major role in the development of Brazilian Studies from 1997 to 2007 under the leadership of Professor Leslie Bethell.  Each year the Brazilian Studies Programme hosts a number of visiting academics, including junior postdoctoral researchers and senior scholars. The four major research clusters within the Brazilian Studies Programme are International Relations, Comparative Politics, Language and Culture, and Environmental Studies. The LAC offers multidisciplinary MSc and MPhil programmes in Latin American Studies, DPhil support and the Oxford 1+1 MBA, a unique, two-year postgraduate experience which offers the opportunity to combine the specialised, one-year MSc with the breadth of Saïd Business School’s top-ranking, one-year MBA.

The study of Portuguese language at Oxford goes back to 1933 and Oxford is one of the only UK universities where students can study Portuguese at undergraduate level in combination with any other language that Oxford offers, or in the Joint Schools with English, History, Modern Middle Eastern Languages, Philosophy, or Classics. In Oxford, Portuguese is taught in a small, but growing sub-faculty. Students have language classes, lectures, and tutorials with their peers studying Portuguese from across the university. The Sub-Faculty of Portuguese has more than 50 students and has two permanent lecturerships in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. The members of the Sub-Faculty have distinct but complementary areas of expertise which allow it to offer graduate courses and graduate research across the broadest spectrum, from modern literature (including modern women’s writing, Brazilian and African writers, and cinema) through sixteenth-century poetry and drama to medieval literature and Linguistics. The Sub-Faculty welcomes Visiting Professors nominated by the Brazilian Academy and a steady stream of Brazilian academics on sabbatical leave, with reciprocal visits by Oxford academics.

Research

In addition to research within the Latin American Centre, and the Sub-Faculty of Portuguese, research into Brazil goes on across the University. This includes the research highlighted below.

Research on Brazil at the Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology focuses mainly on the comparative study of indigenous Amerindian societies and lifecycles, particularly through its teaching and research programme on Amazonian anthropology. In particular, current anthropological research focuses on indigenous conceptions of personhood and social identity, the interrelatedness of people and their environments, and relations between the material and social world. The Institute has hosted visiting scholars and students from the University of São Paulo as well as the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

Global Brazil, based within The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, is an interdisciplinary network encompassing Brazilian economics, politics, culture and the Brazilian population itself. The world’s fifth largest country by both population and area, Brazil stands at the centre of critical discussions on indigenous politics, income inequality, migration, race, violence, poverty, social movements, the globalization of culture and sport, experimental art, television programme syndication, political ecology, the organ trade, public health policy, and much more. A core objective of the Global Brazil network is to both take heed of these discussions and, indeed, to make a vital contribution to them.

Jason Stanyek is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Faculty of Music. As an ethnographer, his research focuses principally on music and dance in Brazilian immigrant communities in the United States and he has also done long-term fieldwork in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. At the Faculty of Music he has given a graduate seminar on the history of bossa nova in the United States (based on a forthcoming book with Oxford University Press) and one section of his undergraduate course on “global hip hop” looks at the politics of hip hop in São Paulo. He is currently completing an ethnographic monograph on Brazilian diasporic performance and has produced an hour-long radio show for Public Radio International on the subject.

Libraries and Museums

Students, researchers and academics interested in Brazil have at their disposal an extensive range of items housed in the University’s museum and library collections.

The Taylor Institute Library is the University’s centre for the study of modern European languages and literatures. The library houses a teaching collection which includes a range of texts and a growing collection of Portuguese films. It also has a research collection of Portuguese language and Luso-Brazilian literature and has particular strengths in the medieval and contemporary periods.

Examples of Brazilian artefacts at the Pitt Rivers Museum include the South American Tropical Forest collections, a collection of 19th century costumbrismo watercolours from a naval surgeon in Brazil, and the manuscripts of Darrell Posey, ethnographer of Brazil.

Medical Sciences

A $4.3 million (USD) grant from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) plus an in-kind contribution of US$ 1.9 million by the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), and US$1.3 million by the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) totalling US$ 7.5 million – announced in March 2015 – established Brazil’s first open-access research facility, the Protein Kinase Chemical Biology Centre at the UNICAMP in Brazil.

The centre, led by Professor Paulo Arruda of UNICAMP, examines the protein kinases in the human genome that are key regulators of RNA biology and epigenetics and explores the application of the new discoveries to plant research. The centre advances unrestricted discovery as a member of the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) — a public-private partnership that supports the discovery of new medicines through open access research — with six additional labs across the World and founded at the Universities of Oxford and Toronto.

The initiative was led by Oxford academic and UNICAMP alumni Dr Wen Hwa Lee; his Oxford colleagues Prof Opher Gileadi and Dr Jon Elkins have both contributed by serving as Chief Scientific Officers for the Centre. The Centre is now fully operational with 27 staff members and is spearheading a new drug discovery ecosystem with public agencies and private Brazilian pharmaceutical companies – leveraging US$4.6M in further investments.

Scientists from the Oxford's Jenner Institute, the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and Brazilian colleagues from the Research Center Aggeu Magalhães at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Pernambuco, Brazil are carrying out world-leading research into the Zika virus outbreak, which has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation. The virus has gained global notoriety since late 2015 due to its rapid spread through the Americas and its potential link with microcephaly which causes birth defects in infants. The main objective is to study the presence and epidemiology of the Zika virus in Brazil and to understand the impacts of infection on the immune system. Genetic techniques will be used to improve our understanding of the biology of Zika virus during infection and to support diagnostics - with the ultimate aim being the development of a vaccine. 

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

Oxford-FAPESP SPRINT collaborative funding supports researchers from Oxford working in partnership with researchers from the state of São Paulo, Brazil, with the aim of encouraging long-lasting academic collaborations going forward. Oxford and the University of São Paulo are collaborating on several projects funded by the Oxford-FAPESP SPRINT collaborative funding. Oxford's Department of Chemistry is part of a project titled Plasmonic Nanoparticles Supported on Semiconductors and Its Applications in Photocatalysis; the Department of Engineering Science is undertaking two joint projects, The Development of Renewable Energy: Gas, Air and Water and Recovery and Storage of Renewable Energy from Biorefinery Wastewater, and the Department of Plant Sciences is working on the Improving the Efficiency of Water and Nitrogene Use by Crop Plants project. In addition, the Department of Chemistry, the Federal University of São Paulo and the Instituto Adolfo Lutz are collaborating on a project entitled Brazilian Biodiversity as a Source for Novel Drug Scaffolds against Neglected Protozoan Diseases.

The BRAHMS database, developed in Oxford, is a powerful data management system designed for botanical researchers and herbaria. The database integrates data and images from specimens, botanical surveys, field observations, living collections, seed banks and literature. The database is currently being used at one of the three largest herbaria in Amazonian Brazil (Herbário IAN, Belém), and by botanists working on the plant biodiversity of the Brazilian Amazon.

Professor Marina Galano, Associate Professor of Materials Science, leads a research group developing light weight alloys and metal matrix composites. They focus on Al based systems, rapid solidification processes, study of phase transformations and alloy/ composites development enhancing mechanical behaviour. Professor Galano works in collaboration with the staff of the Departamento de Engenharia de Materiais (DEMa) of the Universidade Federal de São Carlos. The collaborative group focuses on light weight nanostructured alloys development and the work extends towards areas of development, processing and mechanical and microstructural characterisation.

The University’s Department of Earth Sciences continues to collaborate with Petrobras in a growing partnership. As well as fully sponsoring one of its staff members on a doctoral programme for a DPhil in Earth Sciences at Oxford, the Brazilian energy giant is supporting several small-scale collaborative projects, as well as visits between the Petrobras Chemostratigraphy Group and colleagues in the Earth Sciences Department.

Social Sciences

The Lemann Foundation Partnership is a five year partnership, starting from 2014/15 until 2019/20, between the Lemann Foundation and the Blavatnik School of Government to support students and practitioners from Brazil to study and spend time in Oxford. In addition, Dr Pérsio Arida, former Governor of the Central Bank of Brazil, is on the BSG International Advisory Board.

State Violence in Brazil: A Study of Crimes of May 2006 in Transitional Justice and Forensic Anthropology Perspectives is collaboration between the Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology Centre (CAAF) of the Federal University of São Paulo and the University of Oxford’s Latin American Centre. The project will examine the 43 homicides in Baixada Santista (São Paulo) in May 12-20, 2006. Despite numerous demonstrations by the victims' families and human rights advocacy organizations, they have not received information on the events and the main suspects (state officials) have not faced conviction. The aim of the project is to reveal the continued state violence and persistent impunity long after the end of the dictatorship and to consider pathways for reducing them. The project is supported by the British Council Newton Fund Institutional Links Grant Agreement.

The University of Oxford has a number of staff and research projects that focus on environmental issues in Brazil. The greatest concentration of researchers is associated with the tropical forest programme, coordinated from the Environmental Change Institute and the School of Geography and the Environment, which has a high-profile international reputation for research on the future of the Amazon forest. In collaboration with Brazilian scientists at the Goeldi Museum (Belem), the National Amazon Research Institute (Manaus), and several Brazilian universities, the Oxford team maintains a number of unique long-term forest research sites across the Brazilian Amazon, a part of a Global Ecosystems Monitoring Network (GEM) coordinated by Oxford.

Interdisciplinary

In addition to their work on the Amazon, the tropical forests group collaborates closely with the Brazilian National Space Research Agency (INPE) in the monitoring of fire, deforestation and carbon emissions in the Amazon. Every year a number of senior Brazilian scientists are hosted on sabbatical visits in Oxford. Other staff and postgraduates in ECI, Geography, Development Studies, Zoology and Plant Sciences also conduct research in Brazil, including work on climate policy and greenhouse gas emissions, water resources, birds, palms, and indigenous resource management.

Gardens, Libraries and Museums

Oxford's Museum of Natural History is collaborating with the University of São Paulo and the Museu de Zoologia in Brazil to research the systematic biology of crustaceans, and arrange work exchange visits for museum staff involved in curation, conservation and education, including loan of display material and bilateral workshops on public engagement in university museums.

See also

Students

Oxford is currently home to over 75 students from Brazil, the university's largest source of South American students. The majority are studying at postgraduate level, with more than half of all Brazilian students being research students. Taught postgraduates are heavily concentrated in the Saïd Business School's prestigious MBA and Executive MBA programmes; amongst Brazilian postgraduate research students, the DPhil in Engineering Science is notably popular.

Scholarships

Brazilian students applying to Oxford have access to a range of scholarship opportunities to support their studies, particularly at graduate level. The Clarendon Fund provides over a hundred fully funded scholarships to academically outstanding students each year. Recent Brazilian Clarendon Scholars have studied a range of subjects from Plant Sciences to Medieval and Modern Languages. Oxford also actively participates in well-known scholarship programmes (such as the British Government’s flagship Chevening Scholarships) and hosts a wide variety of post-doctoral Research Fellowships. At undergraduate level, Brazilian students studying for an Oxford degree are eligible to apply for the Reach Oxford Scholarships, which cover university and college fees, living expenses and annual return flights.

Societies

The Oxford-Latin American Society is a hub for all the academic, social and cultural activities that involve Latin American themes and topics in Oxford. The Oxford Latin American Society aims to increase knowledge and raise interest in Latin America amongst the Oxford University students and Oxford community in general.

Brazil Week is an annual event to raise awareness about the richness and diversity of Brazilian culture and to facilitate interaction between the University and the public – including the approximately 4,000 Brazilians living in Oxford.

Academics

Oxford currently has 20 members of research and academic staff from Brazil, of whom half are in Medical Sciences, with the remainder split between the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences and the Social Sciences divisions. In addition, Oxford frequently welcomes a considerable number of visiting academics and scholars across its divisions.

Professor Anna Christina Nobre

Anna Christina (Kia) Nobre directs the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity, a state-of-the-art facility for scientists investigating the neural dynamics that underpin human cognition and the neural deficits in psychiatric and neurological disorders. Professor Nobre is a world leader in cognitive neuroscience, widely recognised for her innovative and rigorous approach to fundamental questions about the human brain. Professor Nobre is a Delegate for the Oxford University Press (OUP), advisor to the James S. McDonnell Foundation Program in Understanding Human Cognition, member of the Wellcome Trust Neuroscience and Mental Health Expert Review Group, and serves on the editorial board of several journals.

Professor Nobre grew up in Rio de Janeiro and then completed her university education in the United States, where she obtained her PhD from Yale University. She first moved to Oxford in 1994 to take up a Lectureship in Cognitive Neuroscience and a Junior Research Fellowship at New College.

Dr Wen Hwa Lee

Dr Wen Hwa Lee is currently Scientific Coordinator at the Structural Genomics Consortium at the University of Oxford. The Structural Genomics Consortium is an international public-private partnership that supports the discovery of new medicines through an innovative and pioneering open access research model. Presently the SGC is funded by charities, government agencies and six major pharmaceutical companies. Under the SGC’s main ethos of Open Access and Pre-Competitive Research, Lee has been involved in the planning of strategies, collaborations and alliances with external partners at institutional level to promote the discovery of new medicines and therapies through basic research.

Lee has a BSc and MSc in Molecular Biology from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil. Subsequently Lee obtained his PhD at the Laboratório Nacional de Luz Síncrotron (LNLS - Brazilian National Laboratory of Synchrotron Light) and UNICAMP. His training included Biology, Molecular and Structural Biology, Protein Crystallography, Computational Biology and Drug Discovery, gathered in places as diverse as Brazil, USA (The Scripps Research Institute), France (Université Paris V) and UK (Oxford).

Alumni

Oxford currently has around 550 alumni in Brazil. Oxford alumni of all nationalities who now live in Brazil and neighbouring countries can link with each other via the Oxford University Society alumni group in Brazil which holds an annual Oxford & Cambridge Dinner for Oxbridge alumni in the region to meet and socialise. In addition, an Oxford Business Alumni chapter was launched in São Paulo in August 2012, in the presence of former Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Hamilton.

Oxford’s famous Brazilian alumni include Marcus Vinícius da Cruz e Mello Moraes (also known as Vinícius de Moraes and nicknamed O Poetinha (the little poet)) who was a poet, essayist, playwright, lyricist, and a seminal figure in contemporary Brazilian music.

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