Memorial Lecture “Joaquim da Costa Ribeiro” for Prof. Eloisa Biasotto Mano.

Since 2011, every year, SBPMat (the Brazilian Materials Research Society) has been granting awards to researchers with outstanding work in the field of Materials.  Such researchers have the opportunity to make a lecture during the SBPMat annual meeting. The name of the award is Memorial Lecture “Joaquim da Costa Ribeiro”, in honor of Prof. Costa Ribeiro, a pioneer in Materials experimental research in Brazil. In 2015, the SBPMat award will be delivered to Eloisa Biasotto Mano, professor emeritus of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), during the opening of the XIV SBPMat Meeting, on September 27 at 19 pm in the SulAmérica Convention Center (Rio de Janeiro). During such event, in addition to receiving the award, Professor Biasotto Mano will speak of the importance of macromolecular materials.

Eloisa Biasotto Mano was born on October 24, 1924 in Rio de Janeiro. By 13 years of age, she did not know what science was, neither did she know what a scientist’s work was about, as these subjects were little present and were inaccessible to the public in Brazil at that time, when there was not even television in the country. However, there were books, and Eloisa had access to many of them in the printing house where her uncle worked as an editor. The girl, who was very serious and responsible, had been assigned to review the proofs of works translated from French. And behold, Eloisa had to read “Madame Curie”, the biography of that scientist woman, born in Poland, who had won two Nobel Prizes, and who had died a few years ago. “I found it great for someone to be so interested in something and have the life she’d had,” recalls Eloisa in an interview in the documentary “Eloisa Mano”. This is how Eloisa discovered the word “chemistry” and began to take an interest in this field of knowledge.

At 20 years of age, Eloisa Mano was admitted into the National School of Chemistry of the University of Brazil (UB), currently UFRJ, to carry out her studies. This occurred in the 1940’s, when less than 40% of women (and less than 50% of men) were literate in the country. Higher education was just beginning; institutions could be counted with the hands´fingers. But Eloisa graduated in Industrial Chemistry in 1947. In 1955 she also obtained the degree of the newly established course of Chemical Engineering. In 1949, she specialized in rubber technology at the National Institute of Technology, also in Rio de Janeiro, one of the few institutions, which, at the time, had infrastructure for experimental research. Given her good performance, she was invited to remain in the institution as a technology chemist, which allowed her to acquire experience in polymer technology.

At that point, Eloisa had higher education degrees, but she felt she could learn more. She thought that there should be a good option abroad and that she could somehow arrange her means to travel, since she could not afford the expenses herself. She then went to the US Embassy and was given great news: there was a scholarship for someone with her profile. Thus, between 1956 and 1957, she was able to study polymer science at the University of Illinois, USA, under the advisory of Professor Carl Shipp Marvel – considered a great scientist and a pioneer in the field of organic chemistry/polymers.

After her experience abroad, Eloisa returned to the National School of Chemistry at UB and worked in Industrial Microbiology for 5 years. In that period, she learned a lot with her mentor, Professor Raymundo Augusto de Castro Moniz de Aragão. Aragão was one of the instigators of the creation of a UB Chemistry Institute, dedicated to research and graduate studies, which happened in 1959. Later, Professor Aragão became the dean of the university and minister of Education and Culture of Brazil.

In 1960, Eloisa Mano obtained her PhD degree from UB with a dissertation in organic chemistry. In 1962, she was admitted into the Chemistry Institute of the UB after a highly competitive selection process, and obtained the chair of organic chemistry. That same year, the Chemistry Institute became one of the first institutions in the country to offer graduate courses and began accepting applications for Masters studies in organic chemistry and biochemistry.

In 1964, Eloisa left Brazil for her second training in polymer science, this time at the University of Birmingham (England), with Professor J.C. Bevington. The following year, Eloisa came back to Brazil and to the university, whose name had changed in 1965 to UFRJ, as it is currently. In 1968, Prof. Eloisa created the first research group in polymers in Brazil, initially composed of 9 master students advised by her, who worked on the UFRJ campus at Praia Vermelha. The Polymer Group gained a good reputation constantly attracting new members, but the physical infrastructure did not grow along with the group.

In 1972, the group managed to obtain financing from government agencies for the construction of a new building at the UFRJ campus at Fundão Island. The group then was named “Macromolecular Center”. Eloisa personally took care of the building’s project, and continued taking great care of her workplace after the building was constructed, in 1978.

In 1976, the center was transformed into the Institute of Macromolecules (IMA), and professor Eloisa became its first director, a position she held until her mandatory retirement in 1994. That year, IMA was renamed to Professor Eloisa Mano Institute of Macromolecules. In 1995 Eloisa was named UFRJ professor emeritus.

Along with her work at IMA, professor Eloisa engaged in international activities that contributed to internationalizing the IMA, generating opportunities abroad for students of the institute. Besides being part of the editorial board of several national and international journals in the field of polymers, Eloisa was a visiting researcher/ professor at universities and research institutes from the Netherlands, Norway and Spain (1972), Germany (1976), Mexico and the United States (1977), Argentina (1978), Japan (1979), Chile (1983), France (1989), among others.

In over half a century dedicated to research, Eloisa Mano advised about 50 masters and doctorate theses, and published 17 books, 4 book chapters and over 200 papers in national and international scientific journals. In these publications, she collaborated with about 250 co-authors.

Her performance was recognized through awards and distinctions by many different entities such as the American Chemical Society (ACS), Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), Society of Polymer Science, Brazilian Chemical Society (SBQ), Brazilian Association of Chemistry (ABQ), Brazilian Association of Polymers (ABPol), Regional Chemistry Council, Rio de Janeiro Government, Presidency of Brazil and industry federations of Rio de Janeiro.