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Talented But Underfunded: Brazil's Future Scientists

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Science  03 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6009, pp. 1311
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6009.1311

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Twenty-five-year-old Reinaldo Sousa dos Santos is a Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and a resident of Parque União, a crowded favela where residents live under the thumb of a drug gang. Dos Santos owes his journey from shantytown to lab bench to his mentor, Leopoldo de Meis, a 72-year-old professor of biochemistry at UFRJ. In 1985, de Meis began offering a hands-on science course for low-income adolescents called Young Talents. Dos Santos enrolled when he was 14, a year after his father died, leaving him orphaned. Brazil must write thousands more stories like Dos Santos's if it is to overcome deep social divisions and achieve its dream of becoming a major player in scientific research. Many say the task must begin with improving public schools, where poorly paid teachers offer rote lessons.