Alexandre Bergantini de Souza, a mathematician with a degree from the University of Vale do Paraíba, surprisingly began his academic career in the social sciences. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in physics and astronomy at the same university. Souza has held visiting research fellowships at The Open University in the United Kingdom and the University of Hawaii in the United States. The mathematician also completed two postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Hawaii. His research focuses on replicating molecules found in the interstellar medium and reproducing their exposure to solar radiation. Souza, a motorcycle fanatic, contemplates philosophy and astrophysics while riding. Souza, a teacher at the Celso Suckow da Fonseca Federal Technological Education Center in Rio de Janeiro, is also a skilled pizza maker who shares his day-to-day with a wise feline.
What complex organic molecules are found in the interstellar medium, how are they synthesized and why does it matter? The interstellar medium is the space between the stars of a galaxy, which is not empty, as it contains low-density gases, frozen dust grains – which collect solid water, methanol, carbon monoxide, ammonia and other rarer species – in addition to raditaion in the form of photons and other radiation in the form of photons and particles emitted by stellar particles, supermassive black holes, etc. My research thus aims to recreate frozen dust grains and observe how they react to ionizing radiation and related phenomena. We know that such reactions, predating the formation of the Solar System, when it was merely a molecular cloud lost in the vastness of space, led to life on Earth.