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Professors wanted

According to the high school students who signed up for USP’s Knowledge and Opportunities Competition, encouragement from teachers is an important source of recognition. The prizes included additional preparatory training for university entrance exams and for many students, the offer of a place in public higher education.

Taxidermist Paulo César Balduíno, who has prepared thousands of animals for display in museums and scientific collections, also mentioned the importance of his teachers in this month’s Research Itineraries section (page 94). Such praise is common when the topic of education and professional careers is raised, reflecting the unequivocal importance of teachers and their impact on students’ lives.

There is, however, a gap between the undisputed importance of teachers and the allure of the career. Studies by Brazil’s National Institute for Educational Studies and Research (INEP), linked to the Ministry of Education, show that enrollment on teaching degrees has fallen, as has the number of teachers graduating. Data from the institution also shows that only a third of graduates will go on to work as teachers.

A shortage of teachers is not just a concern for the future — it is already a reality. According to INEP, only around 60% of middle school teaching jobs were occupied by teachers with qualifications in the corresponding field in 2022. This issue’s cover story presents the data needed for urgent reflection on primary education in Brazil, which has been making progress in recent years but could suffer major setbacks due to a lack of specialized professionals.

It is rare for this magazine to publish a double interview, but this month there was good reason for us to bring two interviewees together: meteorologists Pedro Leite and Maria Assunção Dias have been married for 50 years and carry out research in two very closely related fields. Leite specializes in climate modeling in the tropics, while Dias studies how the climate affects the Amazon rainforest (page 20). In the interview, they talk about how studies conducted in the Amazon have lent weight to Brazilian climate research.

Covering a wide range of fields of knowledge is one of the cornerstones of Pesquisa FAPESP. Every month, the team searches for topics that provide thematic diversity, with a range of specificities and complexities. In this issue, the most recent episodes in the pursuit of superconducting materials take on the feel of a streaming series in the narrative of editor Marcos Pivetta. In this new season, the story of a scientific objective that has been sought after for more than 100 years contains adventure and drama, explained clearly so that readers only joining now can also follow the story.

And to close, the funny story of an orchid that fools the flies that pollinate it. Attracted by the false promise of food — the so-called slipper orchids appear to offer an abundance of aphids, but it is nothing more than an optical illusion, say researchers from the Federal University of Uberlândia — the insects end up slipping into the flower. Spoiler alert: they are able to escape.