Student of the Month: Mariana Desiree Reale Batista

Hometown: Salvador, Brazil

Major: Materials Science and Engineering

Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D. candidate, Mariana Batista, came to Michigan State in 2014 from Salvador, Brazil after working as an engineer for the Ford Motor Company. Following her interests in the automotive industry, Mariana has taken full advantage of the university’s proximity to the Motor City.thumbnail_picture_mariana_batista

In the summer of 2016, she received a position as a visiting scientist at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn where she immediately felt at home. In July 2016, Mariana was awarded one of five nationally competitive scholarships at the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) in Troy, Michigan. The SPE ACCE Scholarship is sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and supports continued research in the field of automotive composite materials. The award also provides Mariana with the opportunity to present her research topic, Hybrid Cellulose Composites: Lightweight Materials for Automotive Applications, at the conference next September.

The goal of Mariana’s research is to reduce the amount of traditional fibers (such as carbon and glass) used in vehicle production and to replace them with cheaper, more environmentally sustainable cellulose fibers. These renewable fibers benefit the environment by making cars lighter and capable of better fuel economy. The technology has not been implemented yet, but Mariana is hopeful that the next time you buy a new car, it will include components of her research.

Mariana is also a participant in the MSU Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) Program, which works to develop professional skills and experiences among graduate students. Mariana recommends the program to other international graduate students because it is a great way to get exposure to alternative fields that they may not have otherwise known about. The program also includes exposure talks by current science professionals and externship experiences with participating employers such as The State of Michigan, MSU Technologies Office, Amway, Neogen and IBM.

To international students who think their goals are too big to accomplish, Mariana says that “it is always possible. If 99 percent of people fail, there is still 1 percent that succeeds, so it might as well be you. Why not?” She acknowledges that studying abroad can be a difficult experience for many international students, but she suggests being confident in yourself and taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible. “Many international students are scared to step out of their comfort zone, but if you want to pursue your dreams just try and it can happen. Be positive!”

Another suggestion Mariana offers is to balance research and school with social life. She encourages other students to take advantage of the free fitness opportunities on campus to meet new people and to help to maintain a healthy body and mind. Mariana loves spending time with her friends, playing sand volleyball, jogging along the river trail and tailgating during football seasons. She also likes to try foods from different cultures while in East Lansing. Right now, her favorite international cuisine is Thai, but nothing beats her mother’s homemade Moqueca – which she admits will be the first thing she will eat when she returns to Brazil.

Enjoy your time in East Lansing and make the most of it. Learn about other cultures, get involved in social activities and make new friends. Your parents and family are supporting you and are proud of you. The difficulties of living apart from them will get better with time, and as Mariana has proved, “it will all be worth it.”

 Mariana was interviewed by Dustin Rice, a senior at Michigan State and the OISS Sponsored Student Program intern. Dustin studies International Relations with an emphasis on German, Eastern European and Russian relations with the United States. He has studied in Brussels, Belgium and enjoys showing international students around MSU and East Lansing where he was born and raised.