The scientist who takes inspiration from princesses – basic research

By Saulo Pereira Guimarães

Gabriela Leal is the first Brazilian woman to have reached the final of the “World Championship” in scientific communication

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Gabriela Ramos Leal lives a fairy tale. At 34, she became the first woman to win the Brazilian leg of FameLab, the World Science Communication Championship, and the first person to represent the country in the final phase of the international phase of the dispute, the outcome of which was announced this Thursday becomes. November 26th. Using videos on veterinary medicine, the researcher has proven that the three-minute limit per presentation is enough to clearly translate topics that many consider difficult to understand.

The Carioca is able to break a mug to answer her cell phone. He speaks contagiously and has a fun way of conquering the interlocutor. In front of the camera, however, she becomes a movie star. Expressive diction combines with charisma, Kamala Harris smiles and it becomes impossible not to hear what Leal is saying. This was the case at all stages of FameLab 2020, the 15th edition of the competition launched in England, where scientists from 32 countries presented their research topics in videos streamed over the internet of up to 90 seconds and, by content, clarity and charisma were judged presentations. These are fundamental qualities for a teacher, a skill she has enjoyed since childhood and which she now trains in veterinary embryology classes at Castelo Branco University in Rio de Janeiro.

The relationship between the current scientist and her subjects of study began in childhood. She was born in Quintino in the northern zone of Rio and grew up in a building that was forbidden to enter. Because of this, her love for animals was just platonic in her early childhood. Gabi moved in at the age of 11 and won her first dog, who was 18 years old and died in 2016. It was then that, as a trained veterinarian, she discovered a new passion: scientific research. Living with the fauna taught her to admire the loyalty of dogs and even the rare displays of affection from cats, which she regards as “good judges of character”. “We can be much more human when we are in contact with animals,” she says.

As a fan of princesses, Leal has 15 pieces in her room related to the Disney universe. But she is far from playing the little princess genre. When criticism arose in August of the appointment of a veterinarian to command the National Immunization Program, she defended the specialist’s choice. He recalled that his colleagues have an important role in disease control so that sectors such as the inspection of products of animal origin can only work with veterinarians. “We are living in a pandemic that started because someone in Wuhan, China came into contact with untested wild animal meat. Here in Brazil there is health surveillance in place to prevent such situations, ”she explains.

At FameLab, the scientist won over the public by talking about genetically engineered animals used to make substances that help treat diseases, such as insulin, which is made in cow’s milk (the presentation can be seen here from 47:20) . Now she is looking forward to the result of the competition, which can have a special meaning not only for her.

As the daughter of a black mother and white father, she was slow to accept her hair, she was the only black woman in her elementary school class and to this day she has only seen one black speaker at the conventions she attended. In her care at the veterinary clinic where she works, animal trainers have already questioned her health. The researcher identifies these and other situations as side effects of so-called structural racism.

His successes show that in this story the happy ending can be the least important. “I am aware that my work is important in order to inspire other people to go further,” summarizes the vet.

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Saulo Pereira Guimarães is a journalist.

This article is the second in a series of three articles from the Ciência Fundamental blog in honor of Black Awareness Month.

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