Dreaming about a PhD and France

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

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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