Brazil undergraduate a student without borders

    Visiting South American student part of international research internship experience

    By Bernie Poitras on May 2, 2017

    Daniela Amaral is a student without borders.

    Amaral is from Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo (USP) and became the first pharmacy student enrolled in the UAlberta Research Experience (UARE) exchange program.

    The program is a 12-week research internship program allowing top senior undergraduate students from key international partner universities to conduct research at UAlberta under the supervision of faculty members who are experts in their field.

    It’s not her first  international learning experience, however.  

    In 2014, she spent a year studying in the US at the University of Toledo in Ohio and received course credits towards her five-year pharmacy degree.

    For the next three months here, Amaral will work as a research assistant for Dr. Raimar Löbenberg in biopharmaceutics, the study that looks at what happens to medication as it enters a person’s body.  

    “I really like research,” says Amaral, who comes from Poços de Caldas in the state of Minas Gerais, in southeast Brazil. “I visited an information booth about the pharmaceutical sciences at USP, I was convinced this was what I wanted to do.”

    When faced with deciding between pursuing a pharmacy practice or research, she says the choice was easy. “Pharmacy research was just a better profile for me,” says Amaral. “I tried pharmacy practice but it wasn’t for me.”

    Amaral said a chance meeting helped her get the UAlberta exchange position. She was conducting research using software that models and simulates how drugs are absorbed in the body.  

    Dr Löbenberg, a professor in the Pharmaceutical Sciences division at the UAlberta who happened to be visiting USP, met Amaral through a mutual colleague. They realized they both shared a keen interest for biopharmaceutics and used the same software for research.

    “I was already in an internship at Johnson & Johnson (pharmaceutical manufacturer) at the time, so I couldn’t apply for the UAlberta position,” says Amaral. “By the time I applied for the UAlberta position, I was done my internship and the timing was perfect to come to the University of Alberta.”

    “Daniela will be working in predicting drug dissolution (drugs dissolving in the body) and she has expertise in computer simulations, which will be very helpful in our lab,” says professor Löbenberg. “She will help conduct this important work with a post-doctoral student and graduate student on an industry sponsored project.”

    One of two girls in a family of four, Amaral was drawn to chemical engineering at first but a career fair at USP convinced her to change paths.

    “After researching the pharmacy field, I decided it was the way to go,” she says. “I like the biology aspect of the field and sciences have always come very easy to me.”  

    “I love it. I don’t regret it at all”

    Amaral will graduate in November 2017, completing a degree in both pharmacy practice and pharmacy sciences.The USP pharmacy degree program is five years compared to four years here at  UAlberta.

    While she’s in Edmonton, Amaral says she want to experience the city and take a trip to the Rocky Mountains.  But first she wants to see a hockey game – good thing she came during the NHL playoffs.

    Still getting settled in her new temporary home, Amaral says she finds it easy to get around Edmonton and likes the atmosphere of the university.

    Amaral is the second student from Brazil to work in Löbenberg’s lab this year. In September 2016, USP graduate student Lis Monteiro came to UAlberta as part of a dual degree exchange program between the two universities.