As a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis, the native of Recife, Brazil, who came to Florida at the age of 15, learned that in the United States, Latino immigrants are rare among scientific researchers. But there he was, pursuing his dreams to become a neuroscientist. The realization inspired him to lead a Latin American student group at WashU and to conduct outreach activities including creating bilingual curricula for local students.
“I was so privileged to be in a top tier graduate program pursuing my interest,” he said. “How many people get to pursue an interest? We live in a world where you have to earn money and you have to feed your family.”
And now he’s a new postdoc at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory in the lab of Institute director Li-Huei Tsai with a prestigious fellowship that will support his career development for the next eight years. Having met other deserving postdocs who competed for the honor, he said he’s deeply grateful and humbled to be named to the HHMI program. It is designed to support accomplished life scientists from underrepresented backgrounds who can become leaders in academic research and inspire future generations to see that science could be for them, too.
Victor certainly has all that potential, Tsai said.
“I am impressed by Matheus Victor, not only by his tremendous accomplishments as a young scientist, his curiosity about science, and his courage to address the most challenging scientific questions, but also his generosity, maturity and leadership quality,” she said.
In Tsai’s lab, where he arrived in May, Victor will study the role of specific cell types in brain aging and cognitive decline. The research is part of Tsai’s efforts to combat neurodegeneration as part of MIT’s Aging Brain Initiative.