School in SP offers housing and food for those who want to be a scientist


Registration for Ilum Escola de Ciência, in Campinas, in the interior of São Paulo, is open until the 16th of this month. Created by CNPEM (National Center for Research in Energy and Materials) to encourage the training of researchers, the faculty offers a free bachelor’s degree course in science and technology and subsidies for housing and food.

To participate in the selection process, interested parties must fill out a form indicating their enrollment number in the Enem (National High School Examination) and the reasons why they want to study there.

Based on the forms, the evaluation committee will pre-select up to 200 candidates, who will be invited for individual interviews. After the interviews, those selected who will occupy the 40 vacancies will be defined, 20 of them destined to public school students.

The idea for the school, which has just completed its first year of classes, arose from the need to train scientists adapted to interdisciplinarity.

“Today, the major research topics are interdisciplinary, and students who enter traditional physics, chemistry and biology courses see very specific topics”, says the school’s director, Adalberto Fazzio. “Today, a biologist has to understand mathematics, image processing”, he exemplifies.

The proposal is also to accelerate the training of talents. Fazzio says that, in the traditional model, it takes ten or 11 years to train a researcher, considering undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees. At Ilum, adds the director, students work with research since the beginning of graduation and, after three years, they are mature enough to try a direct doctorate. In this case, training takes place over seven years.

“Our young people are becoming independent for research very late and see very specific themes, they are unable to see the whole”, criticizes Fazzio, who was dean of the Federal University of ABC and has accumulated decades of teaching and research in physics.

For this, classes are full-time, from 8 am to 6 pm, with an optional English course in the evening. In addition, since the first year, students have contact with the structure of CNPEM —the center brings together national biosciences, biorenewables and nanotechnology laboratories, in addition to the synchrotron light laboratory— and with projects developed on site.

The teaching model is also different. The course content is grouped in the areas of mathematical languages, data sciences, matter sciences, life sciences and humanities, interconnected in practical projects designed from current scientific problems.

To support the student in this journey, the school provides a laptop, pays for the rent of a kitchenette, offers food vouchers and transportation vouchers, and provides psychological support. If the student is from another state and cannot afford the airfare or the costs of furnishing the apartment, the college subsidizes this cost.

With this formula, Ilum countered in its first year what is observed in public universities. While they are dealing with graduate dropouts, the class lost only 1 of 40 students. “He was a brilliant student. Microsoft came and took him,” says Fazzio.

“The evasion in science, physics, mathematics courses is very high, it is a great waste, and at Ilum we are keeping students. Here, they see the image of a virus with artificial intelligence, while in the traditional course they are sitting in the chair listening the teacher. We believe that the class has to be dynamic”, argues the director.

Despite the good indicator, Fazzio is cautious when considering expanding the model, possible thanks to funding from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. For him, the traditional structure of universities could hinder the dynamics of the proposal. It would be more feasible to think about replicating it in other research centers, but there is still no project in this direction.

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