SBPMat´s community people: interview with Marcelo Knobel.


Marcelo Knobel. Credits: Antonio Scarpinetti – Ascom – Unicamp.

Scientific research, magnetic materials, scientific dissemination and higher education would be perhaps the biggest expressions in a cloud of tags to represent Professor Marcelo Knobel.

Born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1968, Marcelo Knobel came to live in Brazil, more specifically in Campinas (SP), by the age of 8 years-old, following his parents, the psychologist Clara Freud de Knobel and the psychiatrist Maurício Knobel. The family was escaping from the coup d’etat that had just established in Argentina a military dictatorship that fired Maurício from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). In Brazil, which was also governed by a military dictatorship, Maurício had been contracted for the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).

Ten years after the arrival in Campinas, Marcelo Knobel joined Unicamp to a graduation in Physics. In parallel to the studies, he started to do research on magnetic properties of materials. After he obtained the bachelor´s degree, Knobel remained in Unicamp for the doctorate in the same area, receiving the diploma of doctor in Physics when he defended his dissertation on magnetism and structure of nanocrystalline materials in 1992. After that, he went to Europe, where he conducted two postdoctoral internships; one at Istituto Elettrotecnico Nazionale Galileo Ferraris, Italy, and the other at the Instituto de Magnetismo Aplicado, Spain.

Returning to Brazil and to Unicamp, in 1995, Marcelo Knobel started his career of professor and researcher of the Institute of Physics Gleb Wataghin (IFGW). From 1999 to 2009 he was the coordinator of the Laboratory of Materials and Low Temperatures, where he acts as researcher until the present moment, always investigating magnetism and magnetic materials. Together with his collaborators of the laboratory, Knobel have carried pioneering works in the study of the giant magnetoresistance and magnetoimpedance in certain materials – two different concepts that are related to the opposition that a material offers to the passage of the electricity in consequence of the application of an external magnetic field. In 2008, Knobel became Full Professor of the Department of Condensed Matter Physics at IFGW.

In the area of scientific dissemination, Marcelo Knobel started in the year 2000 to perform education and research activities at the Laboratory of Advanced Studies in Journalism (LABJOR) of Unicamp. Moreover, Knobel was one of the creators of NanoAventura, an interactive and itinerary exposition on nanotechnology that started in 2005 and was visited by more than 50 thousand people, mainly children, until now. NanoAventura received honorable mentions at Scientific Cine and Video Festival of Mercosur (2006) and at Mercosur Science and Technology Award (2015), as well as an award in 2009, from the Latin American and Caribbean Network for the Popularization of Science and Technology (RedPOP). From 2006 to 2008, Knobel was the first director of the Exploratory Museum of Science, linked to Unicamp. In 2008, he became editor in chief of the magazine Ciência & Cultura of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC), position that he occupies until now. In the publishing field, Knobel coordinates a collection of science dissemination books of the Unicamp Publisher, called Meio de Cultura, released in 2008.

In 2007 Marcelo Knobel received the Young Scientist Prize from the TWAS-ROLAC (office of Latin America and the Caribbean of the The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries), an awars for young scientists of the region. In the same year, he was selected, together with about 50 people of different professional areas and several countries of the world, to participate of the program Eisenhower Fellowships, which aims to strengthen the leadership potential of its fellows. The group travelled for the United States during 7 weeks complying with a schedule of meetings and seminars. In 2009, he was chosen as a fellow of John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, receiving resources for research.

From 2009 to 2013, he was Vice-President for Undergraduate Programs of Unicamp. In this position, he was responsible for the implantation of the Interdisciplinary Program of Higher Education (ProFIS). ProFIS is a higher education course of 4 semesters that provides a general, multidisciplinary and critical formation, and makes possible to its alumni (former students of public schools chosen by their good grades in the Brazilian National Exam of the Secondary School (ENEM) that they enter graduation courses at Unicamp without passing for Brazilian admission university exam). The program was distinguished in 2013 with the Prize Péter Murányi – Education, destined to actions that increase well-being of populations of the south hemisphere.

In 2010, with 42 years-old, Knobel was honored with the title of Commendatore of the Order of the Scientific Merit by the Brazilian Presidency of the Republic.

Holder of a productivity scholarship 1A (the highest) at CNPq, Marcelo Knobel has published about 300 scientific articles in peer-review international journals and 15 chapters of books on magnetic materials and properties, popularization of science, public perception of science and higher education. Also he is the author of articles about science and education published in diverse medias. He has 6.370 citations, according to Google Scholar.

Marcelo Knobel had just assumed, in August 3rd, the position of director of the Brazilian National Laboratory of Nanotechnology (LNNano), of the National Center of Research in Energy and Materiais (CNPEM).

Here follows a brief interview with the scientist.

SBPMat newsletter: – Tell us what made you become a researcher and work in the field of Materials.

Marcelo Knobel: – I chose the area of Physics because of the curiosity, without knowing exactly what this meant. But already in the first semester I realized that it was what I wanted for my life, to try to understand the nature. Early in the beginning of the graduation, I had a laboratory class with professor Reiko Sato, who later invited me to do scientific initiation in her laboratory. She worked with magnetic properties of amorphous metals, and that was the subject of my research. Later, I went to the doctorate also with her, already working with nanocrystals, and later I followed the postdoctoral in the same area.

SBPMat newsletter: – Which are, in your own evaluation, your main contributions to the field of Materials?

Marcelo Knobel: – I am acting in nanoscopic magnetic systems, mainly investigating dipole interactions in magnetic nanosystems, using several experimental techniques, theoretical models and computational simulations. These systems, beyond the interest in basic research, have many possible applications, mainly in systems of magnetic record and nanomedicine. The research group that I helped to consolidate develops new nanocrystalline materials and carries studies through the development of new magnetic, structural and transport techniques. In the scope of these researches, we were pioneer in the study of giant magnetoresistance in granular systems and in the research of giant magnetoimpedance in amorphous and nanocrystalline wires and ribbons. But I have also been dedicating myself to scientific dissemination, being one of the responsible for the creation of the Exploratory Museum of Sciences of Unicamp.  I was the coordinator of NanoAventura project, which is an interactive and itinerary exhibit on nanoscience and nanotechnology for children and adolescents. I still work in research in the area of public perception of science, I coordinate the series “Meio de Cultura” of Unicamp Publisher and I act as an editor in chief of the magazine Ciência & Cultura, of SBPC. Recently, I was Vice-President for Undergraduate Programs of Unicamp, where I highlight the implantation of the Interdisciplinary Program of Higher Education (ProFIS). Currently, I am initiating a new challenge, as Director of the National Laboratory of Nanotechnology (LNNano).

SBPMat newsletter: – You have an especially strong performance in dissemination of science and scientific culture. Comment with our readers, students and researchers, which is, for you, the importance to carry through this type of activity.

Marcelo Knobel: – I became a scientist after reading books and magazines of dissemination and visiting museums of sciences. I believe that we must stimulate the new generations to think critically, to have curiosity, to search to unmask the mysteries that surround them. For Brazil it is basic to stimulate young talents for science. Without them we will not have a future… Moreover, it is our obligation to give account to the society, which is the financer of the scientific research in public universities and research institutes. It is important to show the science that is done in our country, and the importance to follow investing, more and more, in science and technology.

SBPMat newsletter: – If you want, you can leave a message for the readers that are initiating their scientific careers.

Marcelo Knobel: – I do not have doubts that it is the passion that must guide the careers of everybody, and mainly of the scientists. But beyond the passion, a solid formation is necessary, not only in the specific content, but also in personal abilities, as work in team, communication (including Portuguese and English, scientific writing) and general knowledge. The scientific activity demands effort and devotion, but we are rewarded, I guess, with a life full of new challenges and opportunities.