Cell Biology in Brazil

Cell Biology is a dynamic field that goes much beyond the idea of a scientist poring over a microscope, an image that easily comes to our minds when we tell our students how the cell was first studied. To be a cell biologist today means to be aware of new conceptual and methodological approaches, which involve live cell imaging, ultrastructure, molecular biology, nanotechnology, genetics, biochemistry, computational biology among others, and that end up to blur the frontiers and result in the integration of areas.
In Brazil, Cell Biology research and teaching is largely developed inside public Universities and Research Institutes; being mainly funded by governmental agencies, which means applying for grants and fellowships most of time. For many years, the Brazilian political and socio-economical conditions have brought many disadvantages to Cell Biology, especially because excellent researchers left the country, the budget was low, and consequently, equipments, supplies and well prepared personnel were scarce. However, efforts have been made to increase support and improve the quality of research and training. In that way, the funding coming from CNPq, CAPES, FINEP, and state foundations (FAPs) as FAPESP and FAPERJ has substantially augmented in the last two decades. Recently, new private research institutes have started to contribute to Cell Biology production and education as well. Though cell biologists are more concentrated in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, young teams are being formed from the south to north of the country, and the Brazilian Society for Cell Biology (SBBC) gathers these scientists during its own congresses, symposia and courses or during meetings of the Brazilian Federation for Experimental Biology (FESBE) and the Brazilian Society for Science Progress (SBPC).

The Brazilian Society for Cell Biology (Sociedade Brasileira de Biologia Celular SBBC)

SBBC was founded in 1978 by Professor Luiz Carlos U. Junqueira, who planned the first Cell Biology meeting. Since that time, 20 other symposia and congresses have been organized, and those first hundred cell biologists turned out to be more than 2000 affiliated in 30 years. In 1990, Prof. Gregorio Montes made an effort to make SBBC exist as a non-profitable entity that would be able to apply for governmental funding and represent the community. Under the leadership of Professors Eduardo Katchburian and Estela Bevilacqua, SBBC bylaws were revised and rewritten to catch up with a society that needed to be more integrative and could be considered a forum for cell biology in research, education and ethics. The next step would be to insert the Brazilian Society in the international scenario and that task was accomplished by the 21st century presidents, Luiz Eurico Nasciutti, Estela Bevilacqua, Hernandes F Carvalho, Vilma Martins and Wilson Savino. Under their guidance, excellent biennial meetings have been organized, creating the opportunity to put together lively groups of students, the best cell biologists in the world and great scientists that built the concepts of cell biology in Brazil.
Currently, SBBC board is working hard to represent the community at different instances of discussion that involve governmental policies; to increase the collaboration among Brazilian cell biologists from distant areas in the country; to stimulate the multidisciplinary approach through activities during the meetings. Finally, the SBBC has spared no efforts in connecting the Brazilian Cell Biology researchers with the international community. A reflection of that was the success of this year´s International Cell Biology Congress. This meeting was a joint venue between the SBBC and the International Federation of Cell Biology and was held in the panoramic city of Rio de Janeiro.
Based on these premises and on the fact that Cell Biology in Brazil will be able grow much faster than in the last 30 years, we believe that young cell biologists will face the challenge of answering old and new questions with modern techniques in a science without borders.

E-mail contact: sbbc@icb.usp.br

International Exchange Opportunities

In the recent years, research funding agencies have emphasized the need and the importance of international exchange. As a consequence, several fellowships were launched with the specific purpose of encouraging international cooperation. These fellowships cover different levels of training, and more details can be obtained at their respective websites.
The major funding institutions that have fellowships for international researchers are:

  • Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Level -or Education- Personnel (CAPES) http://www.capes.gov.br
  • National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) http://www.cnpq.br/
  • State funding agencies (Fundações de Amparo à Pesquisa Estadual FAPs)
    These are funded and managed by each State of the Federative Republic. A comprehensive list can be found at: http://www.confap.org.br/asfaps.php

In particular, the CNPq and CAPES agencies have joined efforts in the Science Without Frontiers Program aimed at promoting international exchange and mobility. These fellowships cover 12-36 months visit and include stipend, grant money, airline fees and accommodation aid. Application details and deadlines can be found at: http://www.cienciasemfronteiras.gov.br/web/csf-eng/motivation

Some State Funding Agencies also have their own Visiting Research Fellow Grants that will cover the costs of an extended visit from a foreign researcher with a PhD for a period of one year. Application details and deadline vary for each State Funding Agency. Examples of these fellowships for some States:

Finally, some Universities also provide short duration fellowships for visiting researchers and professors. Most of the above require the sponsorship of a Brazilian researcher, but the extent of the co-sponsor´s responsabilities will vary depending on the fellowship.

Written by the SBBC Board of Directors.