By Susan Curtis in São Carlos
Sitting in one of São Paulo’s famous traffic jams as part of the Physics World fact-finding mission, we slowly turned into a road named after Order e Progresso (Order and Progress), the motto that forms a key element of the Brazilian national flag. I couldn’t help smiling, because there wasn’t much order on the roads, and precious little progress either.
The crazy traffic in Brazil’s largest city is just one reason why many physicists prefer to be stationed in the University of São Paulo (USP)’s science and engineering campus in São Carlos, some 200 km north-east of the mega-city.
I was in São Carlos to meet Roberto Faria, a polymer physicist who is currently the president of the Brazilian Materials Research Society, and he clearly relished the relative tranquility of this much smaller city.
With just 230,000 inhabitants, São Carlos has more than its fair share of top-notch research institutions. In the centre of the city is USP’s science campus, which includes departments for physics, mathematics, chemistry and a number of engineering disciplines. Continued expansion has forced USP to create a new campus on the outskirts of the city, and Faria gave me a tour of the developing site.
Already in place are new buildings housing extensions of the physics and chemistry departments, alongside new departments focusing on engineering materials and aeronautics. Plenty more are under construction, and Faria says that many others are planned.
Just a short drive away is the Federal University of São Carlos (UFScar), a large and green campus that boasts good science and engineering departments as well as a full range of other academic subjects. And just for good measure, São Carlos is home to one of the technical institutes of Embrapa, Brazil’s agricultural research organization. With perhaps the most graduates of any Brazilian city, the genteel atmosphere in São Carlos offers a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the streets of São Paulo.