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Elson Longo

Elson Longo: The chemistry of partnerships

Ceramics researcher is one of the pioneers in Brazil in cooperative ventures between universities and companies

LÉO RAMOSA specialist in ceramics, an area that ranges from clay for dishes and handicrafts, through steel industry furnace linings, to flooring, tiles, sensors and semiconductors, Elson Longo has, first and foremost, broad foresight and the ability to manage projects resulting from partnerships between academia and the private sector. Able to identify the needs of both of these worlds, he has had an eclectic and often pioneering career in Brazil, especially in projects that take scientific and technological knowledge to large companies such as the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN), White Martins and Faber Castell, among others, in addition to groups of small and mid-sized companies in ceramic industry poles in cities in the state of São Paulo such as Porto Ferreira, Santa Gertrudes and Pedreira.

The flip side, according to Longo, is what he learns by keeping up with industrial practices, which then filters into the classroom and brings undergraduate, master’s, and PhD students and post-doctoral researchers closer to companies so that they understand how such companies operate. Currently he is the researcher responsible for the Center for Research and Development of Functional Materials, one of FAPESP’s Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDC), and coordinator of the National Institute of Science and Technology for Materials in Nanotechnology funded by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and by FAPESP. At age 73, he is professor emeritus at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) and teaches graduate classes at São Paulo State University (Unesp).

Age:
73
Specialty:
Ceramics
Educartion:
Unesp Chemistry Institute (undergraduate), USP Chemistry Institute (master’s and PhD)
Institutions:
Unesp and UFSCar
Scientific production:
915 scientific papers with more than 15,000 citations, advised 59 master’s and 70 PhD students and has 38 patents

Elson Longo’s life story is uncommon. In 1966 at the age of 24 he began his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the Araraquara School of Philosophy, Science and Language and Letters, now the Unesp Chemistry Institute (IQ). Born in the São Paulo neighborhood of Pari, he had begun working in a jewelry store at the age of 12. Afterwards, following his father, a member of the military cavalry in the old Public Security Forces, he moved to the city of Presidente Prudente, in the Western region of the state, where at 13 he began to answer telephones at Rádio Prudente. He soon became a reporter and one of the most sought-after journalists in the city, rising to become assistant editor of the newspaper O Imparcial. A political militant in the former Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), his journalism and political career was interrupted by the military coup of 1964, when he was 23. Following advice from his father, he returned to São Paulo, worked selling bananas at the São Paulo Municipal Market, and shortly thereafter began teaching science and mathematics at a state high school. He also ran into an old friend in São Paulo, José Arana Varela, with whom he had started a chemistry club during high school in Presidente Prudente. Longo established a strong academic partnership with Varela, who is now a professor at IQ-Unesp and director of FAPESP.

Later, in 1988, the two, Varela a professor in Araraquara and Longo a professor at UFSCar, set up the Interdisciplinary Electrochemistry and Ceramics Laboratory (LIEC) together with Professor Luiz Otávio Bulhões, based at both universities. It was the same joint laboratory that led them to undertake projects in partnership with companies, a rare practice at the time. Today there are 16 professors connected to LIEC, at the two universities, and about 110 researchers, including students at the undergraduate, master’s and PhD level and post-doctoral researchers.

Longo obtained his master’s degree at USP and began his PhD at the Centre de Mécanique Ondulatoire Appliquée in France in 1976, then completed it at USP in 1984, at age 43. In France, Longo studied together with his wife, the professor and sociologist Maria Aparecida de Moraes, from UFSCar, who completed her doctorate in sociology. The couple has two children: materials engineer Valéria Longo, a researcher at the USP Physics Institute in São Carlos, who participates actively in developing theoretical models at LIEC; and Elson Longo, who completed a degree in physics but preferred a career as a tennis instructor and is a consultant for the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Longo granted FAPESP this interview on a January afternoon at the LIEC offices at UFSCar.

You were one of the pioneers in projects based on partnerships between universities and companies. What do you think of this arrangement now?
It has improved 100%. Back when we started, Professor José Arana Varela and I, people perceived researchers at the university who interacted with industry as selling out the university. Those who did this were frowned upon. Science had to be pure.

Did this criticism come from the university?
Mainly from within the university. We were not seen as researchers. Over the years this idea has changed. Today, the State and large backers perceive interaction with industry in a completely different way because they understand that this can generate wealth for Brazil and also because it is very difficult to transform knowledge into wealth. You have to have a kind of learning that doesn’t exist at the university; it’s something that’s missing.

Something missing with respect to how companies work?
On how to talk to a company owner. Because he, obviously, is making a product and, as we are in a capitalist system, he will take this product, sell it and earn money. It’s linear. His language, from the beginning, is: “If I make any change in my product or produce a completely new product, how much will I earn?” The entrepreneur wants profits, he does not want to roll dice. He wants chance to be in his favor. I don’t think that’s wrong. Brazilian industry, at least for the most part, with small companies as an exception, has managed to obtain success through a lot of work. The hardest part is learning to talk the talk. It normally takes years to learn this, and you have to be sincere. Sometimes an entrepreneur says he saw a product abroad and wants to reproduce it here. He makes product X, but wants to make Y. He needs to purchase new equipment, make large investments. We say: what you want is possible, but you will need to spend “x” amount. “No, that won’t work,” he responds. Being upfront from the start creates a strong business relationship between the businessman and the laboratory and makes it easier for the researchers’ work to be successful. First we do an analysis to see if the project is viable or not.

That comment “university time is different than company time” is out of date now.
This point has not improved much. Entrepreneurs always ask: when can it be ready? We have to make it clear to them that we have short-term projects, which are not innovative, in which we carry out research in order to improve the product. Innovation is a more involved process. Most often it involves new equipment and adapting employees to new products. Understanding what kind of work the entrepreneur wants to do is essential. We have to discuss everything very well and make it clear that the university does not donate knowledge, companies have to pay for this growth.

What do the university, students and professors gain from these partnerships?
A lot. It is very simple, because it is worthwhile for an undergraduate student to have contact with industry. Normally, he will become a high school teacher or remain at the university for a master’s or PhD degree or work in industry. He knows that industry exists, but people are not adventurous, they don’t want to take chances. Now, if he has early contact with industry, he will see that it is not tremendously complicated. He participates in a project, gets to know the company and, often, the company likes him because of his attitude, his knowledge, and hires him. And one of the things we do at the university is pass on 100% of the knowledge. We don’t want a company tied to the university because we’re not a department of a company, an appendix. We’re a training center.

What type of generated knowledge do you disseminate? Patents too?
We pass everything on to them. There is a lot of discussion about this because the university wants to get something in return and, in the end, we have fewer partnerships with industry because of this detail. Some researchers can’t manage to establish partnerships at all because they start talking about patents and all that bureaucracy as early as the first day.

Businesspeople do not like this?
No, because they are capitalists and want profits. We need to understand that. It’s a characteristic of human beings: if they can take advantage, they will. We have also used this to our advantage to allow students to learn about industry, to study the types of improvements we can make in a given segment, for example. There is a give and take. The university wins because it provides better training for the student and the professor, who has a relationship with industry. He will teach more than just the material in the book and create expectations about how things really work in industry.

Back in the old days, they said that a patent was more prestigious academically.
I agree, I have 38 patents. And what happened? In the steel industry, for example, we changed steel processing several times, and that earned millions for the industry. With CSN, for example, I developed 47 or 48 processes, all functional. We implemented more than 30 of them. Implementing means functioning. In practice, our laboratory changed the design of refractories for steel manufacturing.

What year was that?
We were in Volta Redonda for the first time in 1982. There were a number of workplace accidents and technical problems. It was Varela and I who went. On that trip they paid our food and lodging, and we paid travel costs. So we ended up losing money. We solved a problem in which Japanese technicians wanted to destroy two ceramic burners. They said that there was a thermal shock problem. We did an analysis that showed that the air going into the burners contained a given quantity of iron oxide nanoparticles and reacted with the silicon, which was refractory, to form iron silicate and this was why the burner was spilling liquids, due to the fusion of this salt. The equipment had a huge corrosion problem. So we put in an air filter and that fixed the problem. Why didn’t the team from Japan solve the problem? They were high-level technicians, but unaccustomed to thinking like a researcher. We asked: why is the liquid spilling out? We took a sample, analyzed it and saw that it was iron silicate, that iron oxide was reacting with silica and destroying the refractory. Filtering the air would solve the problem. The CEO asked if we knew how much a filter cost. I said no and he responded: $1 million dollars. We said that, if he wanted to solve the problem, he needed to place a filter there. The CEO liked our confidence and ordered the equipment.

How long did that partnership last?
It is still ongoing. We are currently doing environmental projects, reusing about 80% of the steel mill waste. We have a team of researchers consulting for them, led by Professor Fernando Vernilli Junior [USP Lorena Engineering School].

Is there a cost for the university?
Yes. When we work on a project, CSN places this project under a foundation linked to the university and this money pays students, travel, equipment for the laboratory, maintenance of devices. In our laboratory, several technicians and secretaries are paid with money from these projects.

The university would be unable to pay these employees and purchase this equipment with its own money?
The university is a complex system. We have university technicians and they earn money from the foundation, as an incentive. I think it is wrong that everyone at the university earns the same salary. Those who work more should receive more; those who work less should receive less. I’m against the idea of a democracy of incompetence.

How do you measure work?
It’s easy. You take out a sheet of paper and ask: how many articles did she publish during the year? How many of her master’s and PhD students graduated? Which companies did she interact with? What results did she obtain? All of this fits on a sheet of paper. Most Brazilian researchers are serious people. However, some are unproductive.

With what other companies have you formed partnerships?
CSN was our number one company. There is 3M Brasil where—together with Professor Edson Leite [UFSCar]—we helped to build a varistor factory [a ceramic semiconductor that acts like a sensor and is capable of protecting a power transmission network against lightening] which, once operational, company managers implemented abroad. White Martins wanted to produce better glass, without defects in an oxygen atmosphere. What was the solution? Develop a new type of refractory to enable this technology, which produces glass without defects. Today, every glass factory has this technology.

Longo: "There is a lot in the literature and we are happy when we add a new line of research to it"

Léo RamosLongo: “There is a lot in the literature and we are happy when we add a new line of research to it”Léo Ramos

White Martins disseminated this to glass factories?
Of course, because it sells the oxygen. Similarly, we found that 12% to 13% of ceramic tiles had defects. What did we do? Together with Professor Carlos Paskocimas [Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte], we put oxygen in the furnaces, resulting in a much better tile. This technology, which we developed, is used all over the world. Another company, Faber Castell, had the following problem: the Japanese and Koreans were making much better graphite than it was. It tried to buy the technology, but was unsuccessful. Faber Castell came to our laboratory and, with professor Fenelon Pontes [Unesp] we created a better system for manufacturing graphite, and today it continues to be competitive and even has lower prices, because we developed a better performing low-cost technology. That’s why it’s important to invest in the university and have it as a real partner.

Is basic research behind all of these technologies?
The CSN example I used explains it well. There was a 20-story building with oxygen. There was a little reaction, iron oxide plus silicon oxide forming iron silicate. This is something students learn in the first year. This is what the university provides. It teaches people to think because the technician learns to do things using good techniques. A professor is not going to do the same thing as a well-trained technician. Now, that researcher’s result, with nuances, only he will arrive at and transform into knowledge. What is knowledge? It is that which is different from anything available in the literature. There is a lot in the literature and we are happy when we add a new line of research to it, which is not easy.

You once told me that you built a building here at UFSCar…
Together with CBMM [Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Metais], this building we are sitting in now.

How were you able to build a building within the university?
CBMM proposed a partnership for working with niobium. Brazil is one of the largest, if not the largest, producers in the world. And the product that most uses this mineral is niobium steel, which is a special steel. The special steel costs 20 times more than common steel and has very good mechanical properties. They came to talk to us and we agreed on an exchange. We would do the research and they would build a building for us. It was the first building built inside the university by a company. That was in 1987. Besides me, José Arana Varela and Luiz Bulhões [retired, now working at the Federal University of Santa Maria, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul] participated.

Was there a lot of opposition at the time?
Yes. People said that the company wanted to use the university, that construction of the building was equivalent to the company taking possession of that which belonged to the people. We are paid by the people and we need to give back to the Brazilian people. Generating wealth is the best return. Training human resources is fundamental, the main part of the university. But the university can do more.  It can establish spin-off firms, such as the six that came out of our laboratory and became companies like Nanox, a nanotechnology company.

What type of help did you provide?
We contributed with sensors, ceramic pigments, using niobium, which changes color, and also adding niobium to stabilize zirconium. Today they no longer use them, but it was a technology that we developed here in the laboratory. They were so happy that they didn’t even argue, they sent the plans and we chose the building company. Building began on a Friday and by the following Monday or Tuesday, when a university engineer arrived, the walls were already a meter high. It was already taking shape. It belongs to the university. In the beginning, the university complained about having to send over janitorial staff. For the first four years we had no janitorial services because they didn’t think the space was part of the university. Sometimes, you pay the price for innovation, for having new ideas.

What is it like now to see the impetus that you created towards increasing partnerships?
Today, we see that the seed we planted has borne fruit. The vast majority of researchers even say that they are not going to interact with industry, but think that interaction is important, that it will establish new technologies and that Brazil will come out ahead. But some people oppose this idea. There is a national consensus that it is important to develop new technologies, and that this is the way to eliminate our economic dependence on other countries. The university is not an ivory tower, a glass dome with enlightened beings. You shouldn’t just understand the laws of nature, but rather contribute to the social transformation of the world.

When did you start working with nanotechnology?
Every few years, a researcher has to surf an area of knowledge. What does this mean? We need to coolly analyze scientific fads when they begin to appear. We have already done this. When we increased the life of the crucible [a ceramic container that withstands high temperatures] in the blast furnace, with Sidney Nascimento Silva, of CSN, we added titanium oxide particles that react with calcium oxide to form calcium titanate, which is much more refractory than the crucible itself, which is made of carbon, and this eliminated corrosion of the equipment. That is how we increased its useful life. We added nanoparticles to the crucible. Did we know they were nano? We did not use the word nano, but they were nano. That was in 1991.

No one was talking about nanotubes yet…
Nanotubes did not exist yet, but it was around that time. Nanotechnology arose because we can see the structure of materials and create new materials. Nanotechnology exists only because of the advances in microscopy, otherwise it would be just ideas. Now we can see that what we imagined was true because we can see the image of the material and imagine the type of surface, if it is more reactive than another surface, etc. Nanotechnology has always existed, since the beginning of time, before the stained-glass windows in the Middle Ages. In ancient times, people diluted gold and administered it as medicine. They used nanometric particles of gold as medicine. Man has been dealing with nanoparticles for a long time, but didn’t call them that. All drugs are smaller than nanoparticles, they are molecular. The active ingredient in Aspirin is molecular. Who doesn’t like to put a little lemon on fish or pork? That’s citric acid. It’s molecular. All you have to do is use new terminology. When a researcher surfs that wave, he receives additional funding and uses it to improve the laboratory and conditions for carrying out research.

Many nanotechnology products are emerging…
I agree, but nanotechnology already existed. What is new is to take this knowledge and apply it, and use all of the properties correctly. This is being done because researchers know what is working, they see this. FAPESP gave us funds to buy a device that will allow us to select a nanoparticle, slice it and analyze it.

A particle measuring 10 nm, for example?
Or 5, or 8. We will be able to slice it and analyze it under a transmission electron microscope. We’ll be able to understand the structure of material even better. With this greater understanding we’ll be able to create new materials. We’ll do research, test, and see if there is a defect in the crystal structure and how it influences properties. It’s the story of the safe. There is one 5 meters high and another 30 centimeters high. They ask which one I want. The big one, I say. There was R$1000 in the big one and R$1 million in the small one. When we are able to see inside, we know what’s in there. If the guy could open the door to both safes, he would choose the smaller one, which is even more convenient to store. The biggest problem is manipulating nanometric objects, but a lot of solutions are beginning to emerge. There is a lot of creativity in manipulating nanoparticles.

Are there examples here?
Yes, of course. We developed bactericidal particles at Nanox, but there was no large-scale application. Now we are putting them in plastic. It’s the material wrapping the food. I have seen it working at home. I place a salad in this plastic container and three days later it is exactly the same, nothing has changed. Vegetables and fruits are preserved longer. The technology was developed here and exported to the United States.

LIEC also developed partnerships with ceramic centers in the cities of Porto Ferreira, Santa Gertrudes and Pedreira. How did they go?
They are small companies, in groups of 15 or 20. We went, analyzed costs, and they greatly improved their products. First, we went to Porto Ferreira and saw that all of the companies had electric furnaces. We said that they needed to switch to gas furnaces because electricity was expensive and not efficient. All of the companies that followed our advice and changed are still in business. Those that didn’t switch, because they didn’t have the money, went under. First we went to Porto Ferreira, and then to Pedreira, which makes artistic ceramics. Another thing we showed them was that Mother Nature can make excellent clay, as well as bad clay. And then there is the worthless clay, which contains a lot of organic matter. The bad clay contains a lot of sand, silica. And the good clay contains a good balance of organic material and silica. What did we teach them? You need to carry out a simple analysis to find out how much organic material, how much silica, is in the product.  Using our knowledge of the industry we taught them to have a standard. The owner treated the company as if it were his home. A company needs to have a standard to avoid losses and produce quality products. It’s not complicated, but the vast majority had learned to make pottery and put it in the oven from a friend, and didn’t even know why certain temperatures were used, casting, because sometimes casting worked out, other times it didn’t, technical details etc. We do not interfere in the creativity of the artisans. We’re not talking about design, but the ABCs of ceramics. When Professor Fernando Henrique Cardoso was President of Brazil, his wife, Professor Ruth Cardoso [founder of the Solidarity Community] encouraged our collaboration with potters in Jequitinhonha Valley [Minas Gerais] and in other regions of Brazil. It was an excellent partnership that led to important results for artisans because we passed on a bit of our knowledge of ceramics technology.

Do they make floor and wall tiles in Santa Gertrudes?
That was another story. It was José Octavio Armani Paschoal, who worked at IPEN [Nuclear and Energy Research Institute] who developed the project and worked with LIEC. He was the first to synthesize zirconium, which we use a lot here in the lab, and along with LIEC he created that which works today: he standardized the ceramic industry, transforming floor and wall tiles into quality products. And today Santa Gertrudes is the largest producer of ceramic floor and wall tiles in the world. I say the ‘world’ because we don’t know how much China produces.

Now I want to talk about your life as a researcher. Why did you start your undergraduate degree late and then wait to do a PhD?
My background is humble. I was born in the Pari neighborhood in the city of São Paulo. My father was in the military. We were a large family with six children. I began to work at a young age; at 11 I was already contributing to the family income. One day, I visited a goldsmith, Mr. Fortunato on Silva Teles Road, and he hired me. I swept, cleaned, organized, and melted silver and gold. Then my father was transferred to Presidente Prudente. He was in the old Public Security Forces, in the cavalry. I went with him, I was 12. One day, passing in front of Rádio Prudente, Mr. Hélio Cirino asked me if I was the son of the Chief of police, and if I would like to answer phones on the radio. He had some boys there to do that. So, I went there after school. I took a test, I knew how to write, and he said I had to note down exactly what the callers said. He showed me the journalists and radio hosts who worked there. I was almost 14 and he asked me to stop off at the police headquarters and give the police news. Then, one day, he said that I would be a rookie journalist. Back then, the first thing that the rookie had to do was carry the recorder. It was a heavy tape recorder. The reporter would go out to do an interview and I would go with him, carrying the recorder. Since I brought back police news well, I began to do the same for City Hall and the City Council. Suddenly, I was a radio reporter, at the age of 15. Later I went to Rádio Record in Presidente Prudente and they began to pay me twice as much. Then I went to Rádio Piratininga, and from there they asked me to write for the newspaper O Imparcial. It’s still the largest in the region. I climbed up to the second highest position, assistant editor of the newspaper.

Until what year?
The year of the military coup, 1964. At the time, we got a group together there and elected the youngest city councilman in the state of São Paulo. We were a strong party. The Brazilian Socialist Party, the PSB. I was secretary of the party.

You were second in command both in the party and at the newspaper? Wasn’t there a conflict?
There was. It didn’t work, because the owner of the newspaper was a capitalist and he didn’t even know what we were doing. And our people were at all of the radio stations and newspapers. Then, in 1964, everything ended. Everyone fled.

Because the military arrived?
No, because I had an advantage because my father was in the military and he told me to disappear because they were going to arrest everyone. I went to São Paulo, I think I was 23. I worked for a while at the Municipal Market, selling bananas. But I had finished teachers training in secondary school, passed the Cades exam [Campaign for Improvement and Dissemination of Secondary School] and could teach school. So I went to teach science and mathematics in a public school in the Alto do Mandaqui neighborhood, in the northern part of the city of São Paulo. I taught, continued studying and wanted to become a chemist. On the day I took the entrance exam I met Professor Waldemar Saffiotti, who changed the direction of my life. He went to the exam room and announced that not everyone would pass and get into USP, but that he had started a new chemistry program in Araraquara. So, I left São Paulo, took the entrance exam in Araraquara and studied chemistry at what was then the School of Philosophy, Science and Language and Letters of Araraquara, and is now Unesp.

Did you leave politics behind?
No, I was so involved with politics that I was President of the Araraquara Chemistry Club and we held several meetings during the military regime, including a state conference at USP, where everyone was afraid because they had heard that all the students would be arrested. I was a member of Polop [Revolutionary Marxist Workers Organization, formed by ex-PSB members].

You were not arrested?
No, because I was not one of the leaders of the academic center, who were arrested in Ibiúna [a city in the state of São Paulo where the National Student Union (UNE) held a conference in 1968]. I was also president of the Prudente Chemistry Club, the first chemistry laboratory outside the capital that Varela, I and others built with Professor Elias Nahum Rahal. We built a building, a laboratory, because we felt we could only learn chemistry by doing it. Since I was a journalist, I had good contacts, we had special movie sessions to raise money and build the two-story building for the Chemistry Club.

So you liked constructing buildings ever since you were young…
It was a club to promote the study of chemistry, to encourage others. I was a journalist and was good in chemistry in high school. Varela also participated and we have known each other since that time, in Prudente. When I came to São Paulo, where he was also teaching, we got back in touch.

Were you already thinking about teaching at a university?
When I finished my degree in chemistry, I came here to São Carlos to teach in the USP Academic Center entrance exam preparatory course. I taught all of the chemistry topics for the preparatory course. I began a master’s degree under Professor Ivone Mascarenhas, in crystallography, in proteins, at USP São Carlos. When I was just figuring out the structure of a protein, a colleague came to talk to me and said that Ivone had said that I was doing good work and asked to see it. He had long hair and it hit the experiment and knocked the crystal over. It was clearly an accident. I had spent six months aligning the material. That was when I decided to change my research topic. I decided to become a theoretician. I studied quantum mechanics, did a master’s degree with Professor Carlos Frederico Bunge, who is still one of the great theorists, and I got along very well with the theoreticians and went to France, to the Louis de Broglie laboratory, to work with Professor Raimund Daudel at the Applied Wave Mechanics Center. There were two great theoretical laboratories in the world, the one in Paris and another in Stockholm.

You went to France with your wife, Professor Maria Aparecida, who also studied there?
I met her during the famous strikes we held in Araraquara. She was studying social sciences, and was two years ahead of me. I met her and we had the same political views, she was in the sociology department, an excellent social scientist, and researched rural issues. So we became close while students and have been together ever since. She earned a PhD at the Sorbonne, Paris 1.

When did your academic partnership with Professor Varela begin? LIEC is here at Unesp and at UFSCar?
There is just one LIEC, in both São Carlos and Araraquara. Look at our example. Based on an unbiased analysis, our center works well. Those who work here don’t compete with each other. If I can help someone at the center, I do and vice-versa. And not only here in São Paulo. We have researchers at universities in 12 states.

How are these partnerships formed?
If you look, there are eight or ten professors who were our students and are now at universities. Each has a laboratory, but they are our research partners. Our support is there. You cannot do quality scientific research without people working together, questioning and stoking knowledge. We also have good interactions with researchers abroad, in Argentina, Colombia, France, Portugal, the United States, Canada and Japan, for example. Our biggest partner is in Spain, Professor Juan Andres, at Jaime I University. They did a survey of interactions with their group, and the largest number is with LIEC. We’ve produced 90 articles together. The partnership has lasted 25 years. Internationalization has been a part of our work for a long time, and I only consider an interaction international when the first article is published.

How do you choose students to do research?
I give equal opportunities to everyone. Anyone who wants to can come, and for those who work well we request a scholarship. We have to be very careful and responsible. We are a poor people and we need to demand results in order to improve society. So, if we professors are not responsible, who will be? If the funding agency is spending money, then the student has to do a good job, be diligent. It is teaching, a pedagogical practice aimed at managing public resources in an ethical way.

And Brazil, is it important in ceramics?
It’s one of the world’s leading ceramic producers. But it’s still in its infancy in terms of semiconductor ceramics. We are very strong in traditional ceramics, but in semiconductors, which have higher returns to society because they are used in mobile phones and computers, no.

Do we have any chance of getting into this segment?
That depends on whether the federal and state governments decide to invest and want to create favorable conditions. Without this political will, there’s no way. They say that the new minister, Aldo Rebelo, is not a scientist yet he chose Professor Hernan Chaimovich to be the president of the CNPq, and that was an excellent choice. CSN was going bankrupt and we helped transform it into a model plant for producing steel anywhere in the world. The issue is this: knowledge generates wealth. Politicians have not yet understood this in relation to Brazil. But I believe that Brazil is viable.

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