Mariana Rocha de Souza – Marine Biology


3.) What obstacles have you overcome in your career/college journey?

I am the first one in my family to decide to go to graduate school, and to decide I wanted to study abroad. Doing something that is out of the norm, required fighting some prejudices and uncertainty and working even harder to get what I wanted. As graduate school was not something known, many were afraid I would be wasting time, and advised me to get a small stable job in my home town.

The expectations around me are that women should get married, have a less important job than their husbands, and live in the same home town they grew up, or follow their partner.  I had to stand up to show family and friends that I wanted to build my own career, and that it was really important to me.   Now I feel they admire and respect my decision.

I do have a partner, and I want to get married and have a family. He understands how important my career is to me, and he accepts to have a long distance relationship (he lives in Brazil, I live in Hawaii).

I really want to encourage other girls coming from the same background as me, that if they want to follow a career in STEM, it is possible! There are many scholarships out there, and it is possible to do something different from what people expects from you.

4.) What do you enjoy the most about your STEM career/field?

I love my work, so I never get bored! Biological research is very dynamic, from sampling, writing, molecular work, morphological work to conferences…. There is almost never a routine. And I really enjoy it! I also like to think that my research will contribute a little bit to know more about corals and how to preserve them.

Plus, I get to go to beautiful places to do research: I did some projects in Brazil, coast of California, in Palau, France, and I currently do research in Hawaii.

1)What is your chosen STEM field?

I am a marine biologist. I am currently a PhD student in University of Hawaii at Manoa and I study corals reefs and zooxanthellae (the algae that lives inside corals).

2.) Why did you choose this field?

I have always been fascinated by the ocean, since I was a kid! I come from Brazil, and every summer my family would spend some days at the beach. One time, they took me to the Institute of Marine Biology of University of Sao Paulo, in a program for kids. I loved it, and by the end of the day I told my parents that I wanted to be a marine biologist. And years later I did my undergraduate at this university.

I still keep the same fascination by the ocean and marine organisms. The underwater is a very unique world and there is still so much to be discovered!

I also feel the motivation to contribute to protect this amazing system! Corals are one of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystem on Earth, but they have been threatened by climate change. It is important to study corals now to understand how corals will respond to water higher temperatures caused by climate change and what mechanisms corals have to resist it.

One thought on “Mariana Rocha de Souza – Marine Biology”

  1. Mariana, I have a friend who knows your mother in Mogi, and she keeps telling me that we have to meet sometime. I might have a similar background to yours – my brother was especially insistent that I should work at the local bank in my home town and never leave. I work in environmental conservation and have been developing the field of invasive alien species in Brazil. I founded an NGO in 2002, the Horus Institute for Environmental Conservation and Development (, and became an Ashoka Fellow. Congratulations on your persistence – and I hope we do get to meet at some point! Best to you. Silvia Ziller

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