Secondment in Brazil

Panos Kirmizakis, an ESR at Queen’s University Belfast, travelled with Dr Ulrich Ofterdinger to Sao Paulo for a secondment. Here are his thoughts on what seems like a very valuable experience!

The benefits of an overseas placement are numerous, including the opportunity to travel and develop your career simultaneously. Secondments to participants in our network give us the opportunity to gain skills in techniques and technologies not available to us in our host labs, ensure the multidisciplinary nature of our training, whilst also broadening our outlook and exposing us to other academic and non-academic environments to improve our employability.
I completed my first secondment at the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Sao Paulo, one of the leading academic and research centers in Brazil. Professor Carlos Alberto Mendonça kindly gave us the opportunity to connect with USP students working in applied geophysics and participating in the Geophysical Summer School on current topics in groundwater geophysics. The aim of my secondment, in collaboration with USP, was to start a pilot project with the Department of Environmental Engineering at the Piaget de Suzano Faculty. The project that is being developed in Suzano deals with methodologies for remediation of areas contaminated by organic compounds, with risks of contamination of groundwater or of methane generation and escape through soil. Circular experimental cells were installed on campus, with monitoring instrumentation, physical-chemical and biological analyses.


As well as that, Dr Ulrich Ofterndinger and I got the chance to present the REMEDIATE project and spoke with Piaget de Suzano students and professors.


Sao Paulo is incredibly diverse, boasting large communities from Portugal, Italy, Bolivia, and Japan (Sao Paulo has the world’s largest Japanese population outside of Japan) among many others. This makes Sao Paulo feel like dozens of cities rolled into one, meaning there is always something to suit everyone’s tastes. It follows that Sao Paulo would have a diverse and exciting nightlife. The richness of alternative culture in the city is hard to beat anywhere in the world, and one could go out every weekend for months in Sao Paulo without ever doing the same thing twice. Events take place each week that encapsulate different music styles, cultural scenes, themes and settings: there really is something for everyone.


I could not fail to mention the Carnival in Sao Paulo. The city’s Carnival may not have the same reputation as Rio but does know how to throw a party during the Carnival. Big events with samba schools, parties on the streets with many blocos or street parades.


After 30 fruitful days, I headed back towards Belfast, aware of having gained skills for continuing my work and a consolidated friendship with many people there.