Marcia Barbosa

Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Marcia BarbosaCandidate for International Councilor


Biographical Summary

Marcia Barbosa received her doctoral degree at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in 1988. In 1989 she was a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Michael Fisher at the University of Maryland. She returned to UFRGS as a professor in 1990, and has served as thesis advisor to 19 graduate students. With many of them she still collaborates, forming a network of scientists in Brazil. She is now the director of the UFRGS Physics Institute comprising 400 members. In 2000 she spent her sabbatical at Boston University, hosted by the group of Professor H. E. Stanley at Boston University, and has continued to collaborate with Stanley’s group for 12 years. In 2004 she initiated a long term collaboration in Germany with Professor C. Holm, University of Stutgart and in 2009 she began a funded international collaboration with Prof. Charusita Chakravarty of IIT Delhi. Throughout her career, she has been involved in a number of national and international commissions. Since 2011 she has been chair of the Committee for Physics at the grant agency CNPq. She is also a member of the National Council of Science and Technology that is chaired by the President of Brazil. Her international committees include the Grant Committee of the International Council for Science, the Grand Jury of the Descartes Prize of the European Commission, and the jury of the 500,000 USD L’Oreal-Unesco Women in Physics Prize. She has also been a leader in addressing gender equity issues. In 2000 she became the first chair of the Working Group in Women in Physics of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) where she was actively involved in the First IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics and chaired in Rio de Janeiro the Second International Conference on Women in Physics. For her contributions on this and other issues she was awarded the 2010 American Physical Society Nicholson Medal. Currently she is a leader also in science policy, and three years ago was elected Vice-President at large of IUPAP.

Research Interest

Marcia Barbosa’s research interests concern employing concepts and methods of modern statistical physics to elucidate the thermodynamic and dynamic behavior of complex fluids. After her doctoral degree she focused on the phase behavior of ternary systems such as water, oil and surfactant and found that these systems exhibit phase transitions in the same general class as other polymeric structures such as block and crosslinked copolymers. Then, she moved from neutral polymers to the study of the phase behavior of polyelectrolytes and charged colloids. Using both analytical and computational methods she found that colloidal and polyelectrolyte solutions in monovalent salt do not phase separate but might form complexes. This result led her to propose that the association of DNA and cationic surfactants form complexes with a small residue charge. This system attracted the interest of the virologists who now are applying her general ideas to build a genetic vaccine. Recognizing that water plays a key role in functioning biological systems, she is seeking to understand the biological relevance of the various anomalies present in liquid water. She is focused developing better models for the description not only of biological structures such as protein folding but on seeking new methods for producing and controlling systems in which water is present, such as oil recovery and ethanol production.

Candidate's Statement

I feel honored to be considered as a candidate for the position of APS International Councilor. The increasing internationalization of the American Physical Society reflects a key component of the physics community in America--a true melting pot of cultures. Acknowledging that the economic growth of certain developing countries has led science and particularly physics to gain momentum in these emerging countries, the APS has been establishing new connections with all of them and particularly with Brazil. I have been a frequent visitor to USA due to my research collaborations in this country and to participate in the annual APS March. In addition, I have also significant collaborations in a variety of other countries, such as Spain, Germany, and India This work provides me with a view of physics in different communities. Moreover, my experience at the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics both as the chair of the Working Group on Women in Physics and now as Vice-president at large gives me some understanding of the different obstacles for physics to become genuinely “without borders” In this direction, recently Brazil has launched a program to fund 100,000 undergraduate and graduate students to spend a period of one or two years studying abroad. A good connection between the US universities and the grant agencies CNPq and Capes offering this program will allow for US to host many of these students. I believe I can be useful in this endeavor, since I now serve in the CNPq grant committee for physics and in the National Council of Science and Technology.


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