After graduating in industrial design in Brazil, Marilia de Souza was admitted to UTC in 1996 for a DEA. She went on to obtain her PhD in 2001. Here is the portrait of a determined young woman.
Marilia de Souza was born in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, second last of 7 children. What do you remember most about your childhood? “One Sunday evening, like every Sunday evening, we were watching TV in the evening. I was 10 years old and that evening it was a programme about education in Brazil. One figure struck me: only 0.01% of women had a PhD. And that’s when I told myself that in the future I would be one of those women. As a child, I also had a dream of France; I found the language and the country very beautiful,” she says.
Determined, Marilia de Souza joined the University of Industrial Design and it was in her 5th year, in 1993, that her luck changed. A young PhD graduate, Jairo Drummond Câmara, who had graduated in France, arrived at the university and offered to help her fulfil her wish to do a PhD thesis in France. “He introduced me to Pierre-Henri Dejean, who had come to Brazil for an international conference and agreed, after an interview, to become my future thesis director,” she says.
Faced with an obstacle course to obtain a grant, she never doubted that she would succeed and, anticipating her departure to France, she began to learn French. “I started my classes at 6 am before going to work. I was lucky that a French teacher agreed to take me at such an early hour,” she adds.
In 1995, after two years of proceedings, the sky cleared for Marilia with the award of a scholarship to study abroad. “During those two years, I took part in various competitions, won prizes, published scientific articles and worked at the university as an assistant professor. All this must have counted in the examination of my file by CAPES, the institution in charge of scholarships. I managed to get one of the only two grants awarded that year in design in Brazil. Funding was granted on condition that I returned to Brazil after my studies to do a service period for the country,” she says.
This is how she found herself, in 1996, at UTC in the TSH (Technology & Humanities) department, first for a DEA whose thesis was on “the cultural differences between France and Brazil” followed by a thesis.
The theme of the thesis? “It dealt with the problems of interculturality, design and globalisation. We wanted to understand the role of culture in the development of products in a globalised world,” she says.
During this period, luck smiled on her again. “ UTC, which has long-standing links with Brazil, provided technical missions for Brazilian partners. That’s how, during one of these missions, I met Sergio Asinelli, Director of the Elvaldo Lodi Institute, in the national confederation of industries of Brazil based in Brasilia, who hired me at the end of my PhD in 2001”, explains Marilia de Souza.
There she was, in February 2001, in the capital of Brazil with the ambition “to work on the technological development of the country”, she says. She was never to leave the world of industry.
In 2004, she joined the Federation of Industries of the State of Paraná, whose role is to support the development of industry in the territory. Marilia’s role? It was to create the Industry Observatory dedicated to strategic forecasting and economic intelligence of national and international markets,” she says.
Marilia, who is in charge of this unit, which has 70 staff including 50 researchers, is proud of this institutional innovation, which has since spread to many states in Brazil.
1996: arrival in France for a DEA at UTC
2000: defended her PhD thesis in the department of mechanical systems engineering
2004: creation of the Industry Observatory within the Federation of Industries of the State of Paraná, Brazil