Juliana Tavora: Graduate student from Brazil thrives on support, opportunities at UMaine

When Juliana Tavora came to the University of Maine from her native Brazil, one of her first stops on campus was the Intensive English Institute (IEI). The staff and instructors at IEI helped guide her through the challenges and complexities of taking classes in English for the first time.

“Everyone at IEI was excited to help me learn and grow. They have a team of super mentors, and for that I am grateful,” Tavora says.

As an undergrad in UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences, Tavora received a 2014 summer research and creative activities fellowship through the Center for Undergraduate Research. That project, “Satellite-measured bio-optical measurements of Lagoa dos Patos, Brazil,” became her capstone research, parts of which were published.

Tovora is back at UMaine, working toward a master’s degree in Oceanography in the School of Marine Sciences. She hopes to one day earn a Ph.D., and says UMaine has given her plenty of backing and experience to achieve that goal.

“UMaine is the place I learned a second language, where I got my first research proposal granted, and the institution where I returned for my master’s degree,” she says. “UMaine is very important for my academic career.”

Rio Grande, Brazil

Major and year in school:
Master’s student in Oceanography, School of Marine Sciences

Why UMaine and the IEI?
As an undergrad in Brazil, I got a scholarship to study abroad. My sponsor chose UMaine because of its excellent ESL department (IEI) and undergrad program in Marine Sciences.

What do you like about Maine/the area?
The area is safe, and people are friendly and willing to help. Maine is a very outdoorsy state with many options in any season.

How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?
It is great. There is a fascinating work/personal life balance at UMaine. You are motivated to work hard and to take time for yourself and what is important for you.

Have you worked with any professors or mentors who have made your UMaine experience better? If so, who and how?
My first contact with a mentor in the campus was at IEI. Everyone at IEI was very excited to share its experience with us, students. Becki Rand, Jim McCarthy, Erin-Kate Souza, Erin Wight, Chris Mares, Eleanor Kipping, and Gwen. Later in the School of Marine Science program, Dr. Andrew Thomas and I worked on a research proposal for a summer fellowship sponsored by the CUGR in 2014. Our project got funded and led to my capstone research and a journal publication. Currently, Dr. Emmanuel Boss is my mentor. I have been diving deep into ocean optics under his supervision and learning to become a more independent researcher.

How has your UMaine experience changed or shaped the way you see the world either academically or socially?
Other than showing the way to keep a good work/personal life balance, the relationship advisor-students and the collaboration/partnership among students are aspects of an academic environment I will take with me to the places I end up working.

Describe UMaine in one word.

What do you hope to do after graduation, and how has UMaine helped you reach those goals?
In the near future, I am aiming for a Ph.D. in Oceanography. A little later in life, I hope to be teaching in academia. UMaine gave and me the tools to develop more skills, both teaching lectures and doing research.

What is the most interesting, engaging, or helpful class you’ve taken at UMaine?
It is so hard to choose only one class. If I can choose one undergraduate level class and one graduate-level class I would say: Academic writing taught by Jim McCarthy and the Ocean Optics Class at the Darling Marine Center taught by a group of mentors from many places (NASA, UMaine, Bowdoin College, University of Florida and others)

Have you gained any hands-on or real-world experience through your coursework? If so, tell us about it:
Most classes I took were based on hands-on experience and lectures. That type of coursework is essential from my point of view, and it makes things more fun and exciting.

What difference has UMaine made in your life?
At UMaine, I have developed incredible professional relationships, networked with other departments with overlapping research, had the chance to interact with exceptional researchers, and gained skills I will be able to use in my personal and professional life. Most of the people became good friends; this is priceless. Sounds cheesy, but UMaine is, in fact, the college of our hearts.