#2: Fabiana de Andrade Melo Sterza from Brazil

Prof. Dr. Fabiana de Andrade Melo Sterza appreciates the excellent research infrastructure at FBN - here in the Dummerstorf cytometry laboratory working on a laser scanning microscope. Photo: FBN/Pöhland

Return to Germany as visiting professor

Since July 2019, Professor Dr. Fabiana de Andrade Melo Sterza from Brazil has been a visiting scientist at FBN Dummerstorf in the Institute of Reproductive Biology. Together with Leibniz scientists, she is investigating the influence of heat stress in cattle breeding and energy metabolism in oocytes and early embryos. But her story at FBN began long before that.

The 43-year-old gained her first experience in and with Germany immediately after graduating as a veterinary surgeon in 1999 from the State University of Londrina in her home country Brazil. After an internship at the Rinder Union Baden-Württemberg, which at that time was still located in Herbertingen under the name Besamungsverein Baden-Württemberg-Süd, she did her doctorate on the topic "Untersuchungen zur zytoplasmatischen Reifung von Eizellen des Rindes: Analyse der Regulation der Translation während der meiotischen Endreifung ". She was supervised by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, the Institute of Reproductive Biology at FBN Dummerstorf and the Insemination Center Neustadt an der Aisch. In Dummerstorf, Dr. Wolfgang Tomek in particular promoted the scientific career of the young woman. 

"Already my first years in Germany were very instructive. I wanted to use this knowledge to help optimize our domestic cattle production", says the veterinarian, who was born and raised in Maringá, southern Brazil. Agriculture is one of the most important economic sectors in Brazil.

In 2003, after successfully completing her doctorate, Dr. Fabiana de Andrade Melo Sterza returned to Brazil and taught as a professor at the veterinary college of the private university UNOPAR (Universidade Norte do Paraná) in Arapongas until 2008. She had two daughters, now 13 and 16 years old, and continued her career and research with great determination. Further stations were from 2008 on the State University of Londrina (UEL) and the transfer as professor and scientist to her current place of work, the State University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UEMS) in Aquidauana, where she researches and works at the University of Agricultural Sciences.

In 2011, Professor Dr. Fabiana de Andrade Melo Sterza took advantage of a several-month guest stay at FBN to establish a new cooperation with the Leibniz Institute together with FBN scientist Dr. Ralf Pöhland. "Since then, we have initiated and implemented various projects on the influence of heat stress on oocyte and embryonic development and energy metabolism in oocytes and early embryos", says the professor. "During this time, we have also gradually organized a meanwhile very intensive exchange of scientists and students, financed by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Catholic Academic Exchange Service (KAAD) and the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Higher Education (CAPES). These international experiences have also brought a new perspective to the development of regional research in Brazil and have fostered the enthusiasm and networking of Brazilian students and young researchers for scientific research".

Just over a year ago, Dr. Fabiana de Andrade Melo Sterza returned to the Dummerstofer Leibniz Institute as a guest researcher to push ahead with joint research. "The FBN is very close to my heart because I started my scientific career there. I appreciate the pleasant working atmosphere, the excellent research infrastructure and well thought-out organization. Another plus are the laboratory assistants, who are excellently trained and who support us scientists very dedicatedly."

However, she also admits that despite the excellent working conditions on site, she naturally lacks family members and friends, but also her students. "We are in very active contact via the Internet," says the visiting scientist, who is also concerned about the current difficult corona situation in her home country. "Fortunately, my two daughters and my husband are also with me during my guest professorship in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. We feel very comfortable in Northern Germany, even though we first had to get used to the sometimes rough wind". Her favourite places are Warnemünde and the Hohe Düne. Joint walks on the beach are a regular part of their leisure time program. And what does the Brazilian scientist love most about her host country? "The spring with its infinite number of bright colors, the beautifully maintained flowering gardens and the delicious cakes."

When Fabiana de Andrade Melo Sterza returns to her university in Brazil, she will take a lot with her from Germany. "I can already say that the time here will bring me a lot, because I have developed many new technologies, especially in the laboratory, that will help us in our research. A partnership like ours is very valuable for the development of international research because we combine the strengths of each country to achieve results. This is not just about publishing scientific articles, but about practical knowledge that we can apply effectively in animal production. In our case, we combine the availability of animals in larger quantities and with many basic questions still to be answered in Brazil and the expertise of FBN researchers in the basic biology of reproduction in an excellent research structure. We will continue to pursue promising approaches that have emerged from almost ten years of German-Brazilian research cooperation".