Membership Q&A

Issue: Halting Epidemics

07 February 2017 article

This is a regular column to introduce our members. In this issue, we’re pleased to introduce Marilia Costa.

Where are you currently based?

University of Dundee in Scotland.

What is your area of specialism?

Molecular microbiology with an emphasis on gene regulation and protein secretion.

And more specifically?

Understanding the role of a post-transcriptional regulator, and an RNA-binding protein in the synthesis and secretion of chitinases by a Gram-negative bacterium.

Tell us about your education to date.

I obtained my BSc in Pharmacy from the Paraiba State University (2011) in Brazil. After that I did six months at the Intensive English as a Second Language course at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), USA, and a semester at the New Mexico State University (NMSU) to improve my English language skills (2012) to prepare for my postgraduate studies. I then took up a PhD scholarship at the University of Dundee to study Molecular Microbiology.

Where did your interest in microbiology come from?

During my undergraduate studies I learned about clinical microbiology and its use in quality control. Using this information I developed a pilot project to microbiologically test the water used to wash vegetables in a flea market in Brazil and won a prize for the project. I also worked as a pharmacy assistant for a university hospital to learn more about antibiotic therapy and antimicrobial resistance.

What are the professional challenges that present themselves, and how do you try to overcome them?

At a scientific level: I would say the use of new technologies and establishing collaborations. It is crucial to stay up-to-date and apply new methods. A more collaborative environment among scientists is also needed to facilitate implementation and speed up discoveries. The delay in publishing research also slows down progress and its application in society. 

At an educational level: the lack of scientists involved in science communication. It is extremely important to engage the public, not only to inspire the new generation but for people to understand the work scientists carry out with public funding. 

What is the best part about ‘doing science’?

I have no doubt that, for me, the best part of doing science is talking about it! I truly enjoy presenting my work. I am so excited about science and like to discuss and consider questions with my peers, and engage with the public at events. 

Who is your role model?

I have met so many amazing scientists along the way. I am inspired by clever and humble scientists that truly love science and are willing to help, discuss, and share their knowledge in an altruistic way. 

What do you do to relax?

I love doing yoga, playing indoor football, cycling and listening to music. Yoga is the best way to relax. 

What one record and luxury item would you take to a desert island?

It is not easy to choose a single record but I would choose Day & Age from The Killers. In regard to the luxury item, I would say a very comfortable pillow. 

Tell us one thing that your work colleagues won’t know about you.

I think my work colleges assume I am very expressive as I am from Brazil, but the truth is that it is mostly due to my drama classes. I have performed at local theatres and know circus tricks.

If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?

It would be a communications role, such as a journalist. However, I am very glad that I can combine this passion with my actual career and work in positions that require both skills, as part of science communication.

If you would like to be featured in this section or know someone who may, contact Paul Easton, Head of Membership Services, at