I started my academic life in Brazil, as an undergraduate in psychology, with the goal of becoming a psychotherapist, heavily influenced by earlier readings of Sigmund Freud. After becoming acquainted with the history of the field and its proper scientific approaches, I quickly learned the errors of my ways. Unfortunately the school and the local psychology community remained dominated by psychoanalysis and other non-scientific positions, something which eventually led me to move to the UK and pursue a degree in mathematics. But before that, and still in my first year of psychology, I had a brief stint as an undergrad research worker* in Iván Izquierdo Lab, one of the greatest scientists and humanists of latin america, and then went on to the Cognitive Processes Lab headed by Milton Madeira, where I worked for about two years with models of categorization.
I then moved to the UK and a relatively long academic break followed, imposed by the need to obtain the residency years required to enrol at university as a home student. These intervening years were spent working in as many jobs as I could find, from sandwich delivery man to waiter, to call centre and office worker. I re-entered academia in 2004, after being accepted at the University of Edinburgh, and went on to receive a BSc in mathematics.
My current research focus is on models of interval timing, which I began working on while a postgrad at the University of São Paulo – Ribeirão Preto. The capacity to discriminate different intervals of time can be seen as a type of perception, and as such many tools of psychophysics can be used to study it. But timing also underlies much of the learning that occurs in classical and operant conditioning, and so may be crucial to a unified theory of learning.
I am also an advocate for the application of skepticism and critical thinking, which science itself is a product of, in every aspect of life.
* Called iniciação científica in portuguese, this is a program, as far as I know unique to the Brazilian higher education system, in which an undergrad can work part-time in a research lab, either voluntarily or with a scholarship granted by one of the national science funding agencies. Depending on the lab, the work may involve anything from collecting to analysing data, helping to make or even deliver presentations at science meetings. I once heard Miguel Nicolelis say that 99% of research work can be done by an undergrad, which I agree, and he probably had iniciação científica in mind. It is also a great way to encourage young students to become scientists, and Brazilian science, for all its flaws and deficiencies, would no doubt be worse off without it.