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Physics road trip through the north-east of Brazil

The new IIP building in Natal

Susan Curtis (left), Sarah Andrieu (centre) and Alvaro Ferraz admire the new IIP building in Natal.

By Susan Curtis

This week, several of us from IOP Publishing have been visiting the north-east of Brazil. Our prime focus has been the annual meeting of the Brazilian Materials Research Society in João Pessoa, where we launched a new Science Impact report highlighting materials research in Brazil. But during the week I travelled to Natal with my colleague Sarah Andrieu to visit Alvaro Ferraz, director of the International Institute of Physics (IIP).

Natal is 200 km along the coast from João Pessoa on an extremely bumpy road, and two hours into the journey it seemed like a bad idea. But we were soon glad we made the trip, as Ferraz treated us to a guided tour of a soon-to-be-completed building that in March will become the new home of the IIP.

Ferraz established the IIP five years ago with the ambition of creating a research centre for theoretical physics that would attract visiting scientists from all over the world. The new building – which is sited on the campus of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte – will take that ambition to a new level, since it will be able to accommodate many more visiting scientists and has plenty of meeting spaces and discussion rooms to stimulate collaborative working.

Even in its half-built state, it’s clear that the sleek new building will provide a completely different environment to the IIP’s current abode, which is a converted house complete with swimming pool in the garden, offices with en-suite facilities, and (whisper it) an unofficial catering operation that provides the IIP’s researchers with simple but tasty home-cooked food.

But what won’t change is the warm welcome extended to all visitors, including Sarah and me – and even our taxi driver Flavio. While we were talking with Ferraz about physics, new buildings and the upcoming Brazilian elections, Flavio made lots of new friends and enjoyed his fair share of the IIP’s delicious catering. We all left with smiles on our faces and the ride back to João Pessoa seemed much quicker – or maybe Flavio was just keen to get home.

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