Today we interview a truly exceptional young PhD student, a true expert in various ancient arts (e.g., origami and brewing beer), Flávio Venâncio Nakadi, a PhD student at the Universidade de São Paulo, working under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Márcia A.M.S. da Veiga.
Flávio in his lab in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
Q: Who or what inspired you to become a scientist?
A: I believe the first time I said “I want to be a scientist” I was 7 years old. I was always curious about how everything works: from nature to technology. I used to watch a TV show called “Beakman’s World”, which showed many chemical and physical phenomena and explained them in an easy way that a child could “comprehend”. It fascinated me! Later, my mother gave me a chemistry kit when I was 10 years old, which was the first step into my career.
During Analytical Chemistry classes, after my first contact with equipment, in particular spectrometers, I knew that I would study in this area. I had the opportunity to begin my master’s degree with my supervisor, Prof. Dr. da Veiga with atomic absorption spectrometry and, since 2009, I am working in AAS.
Q: Why did you choose your research group/University and what factors influenced your choice?
A: The University of São Paulo is one of the best Universities in Latin America; therefore, the choice was natural. However, I chose it because it is located in the city where I live. When I started my studies in Chemistry, I knew I made the right choice. Before working with atomic spectrometry, I tried electrochemistry and inorganic chemistry. Both areas were great, but they were not exactly what I was looking for. I realized what I wanted to do during analytical chemistry classes: to work with analytical instruments. Prof. Dr. da Veiga was new in our department and the only researcher who worked with elemental analysis (AAS). I could work with her and see her laboratory and research group grow, and I am very grateful that I could share this experience with all of them.
Q: Can you explain a bit the purpose of your current research activities?
A: High-resolution continuum source molecular absorption spectrometry (HR CS MAS) is a technique that still shows new possibilities for elemental analysis. The determination of non-metals by monitoring the absorbance of diatomic molecules with an AAS instrument has brought new possibilities to the field. I have studied mainly the determination of sulfur via CS molecule in coal and diesel samples, the latter as direct analysis with Pd nanoparticles as chemical modifier.
Furrthermore, a new methodology that I have developed in the lab of Prof. Dr. Resano has enabled isotopic analysis with HR CS MAS. There is always a wavelength shift between the atomic lines of different isotopes, but it is generally too small for detection (less than 1 pm). However, diatomic molecules show larger isotopic shifts due to vibrational transitions, enough to be detected by a high-resolution spectrometer. In this way, it was possible to evaluate the chlorine isotopes as Al35Cl and Al37Cl with HR CS MAS.
Q: How is a typical day in your lab?
A: The first “experiment” of the day is coffee brewing. I usually organize everything that I need one day after, because we have two spectrometers for 10 people. When I use the instrument, I begin at 8 a.m. and there is no limit to end: sometimes at 5 p.m., sometimes at 10 p.m. I collect my data and process it the next day. We generally have lunch around 12 p.m. and use our free time to talk about everything, mostly nonsense subjects. Occasionally, I am responsible to do the maintenance of the spectrometers. Once in a month, we discuss our results with our supervisor.
Q: What common activities are organized in your research group?
A: We organize birthday parties in our laboratory, with junk food, soda, beer, and a cake. There are two barbecues each year: at the end of the year and at our supervisor birthday. We go out when someone publishes a paper, and the first author decide where the celebration is going to take place. In my case, always a bar.
Q: What app/programs do you typically use?
A: I usually write with Microsoft Word, although I also use LaTeX for some academic purposes. I like Microsoft Excel for data evaluation and/or processing, but Origin is my main choice for plotting graphs and spectra. Finally, but no less important, I use Microsoft PowerPoint for presentations.
Q: How do you search for scientific information? How do you manage your bibliography?
A: I search in Web of Science, Scopus, Science Direct, and Google Scholar. Sometimes I look directly in the journal sites, such as JAAS. I prefer to organize my bibliography in my computer folders, although I am beginning to use Mendeley to help me.
Q: What are your views on JAAS? Which type of articles do you prefer? Do you miss some content?
A: I have learned with Dr. da Veiga that JAAS is our first option for publication in atomic spectrometry. I always find interesting papers about this field, where my preferred ones are AAS and ICP techniques. I really like JAAS reviews, which are complete and straightforward to the subject.
Q: What do you like and dislike the most about your work?
A: I love working with analytical equipment and understanding their components. I want to know what they really can do and explore all the possibilities. It is funny because we usually do not have all the tools required; therefore, this topic is barely an option! I like my research group, in which I can talk about academic issues as well as tell jokes. I believe good relations are key to move the research forward. Finally, I enjoy when there are problems to be fixed, because I always learn something new while I try to fix them. However, I do not like them when they appear at 7 p.m. I feel disappointed when I work with people that does not want to learn.
Q: What do you expect to be doing in 5 years time?
A: That is a difficult question! I do not usually think too much in the future, because it is unpredictable. Generally, I prefer to stay focused on the present time and then I see which doors will be open. Although there are possibilities in large companies, I prefer academic research. Therefore, I would like to be a university researcher.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you are not in the lab?
A: Everything related to beer, from brewing to drinking it. I have to learn much more about this beautiful and elegant beverage, therefore I am always trying to read about it or talk with people who knows this art. Origami (paper folding) has a special place in my hobbies, although I would like to practice it more than I usually do. I also like videogames and TV shows.
Surely, Breaking Bad. Thanks a lot, Flávio!
Have a look at Flávio recent articles in JAAS: