Mayara Matos, PhD
AWIS member since 2016
“Don’t burn bridges.”
What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?
A good leader always treats their team with respect and fosters the continuous development of everyone’s abilities. I always try to apply that mentality to achieve a good teamwork environment. After all, “teamwork makes the dream work.”
What do you consider to be your most important career achievement or milestone?
I was converted from a postdoc to an employee at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just a few months ago. I believe that has been my most important career achievement so far. I’m looking forward to reaching further milestones in my research and my development as a staff member.
Describe an amazing opportunity in your STEM career.
In the final years of grad school, I had the opportunity to do an internship at the FDA. That experience helped me conclude some crucial experiments for my PhD dissertation, it started collaborations that ended up in scientific publications, and most importantly, it opened doors to a second internship and a postdoctoral fellowship that eventually transitioned to my current position at the Agency.
How was AWIS helped you professionally and/or personally?
By sharing the stories of so many inspiring women, AWIS helped me recognize that regardless of career stage, all of us must navigate similar obstacles to achieve our dreams. The seminars promoted by AWIS are also great learning experiences for different aspects of career development.
What is your favorite word? (only one word)
How do you define it?
To continue doing something despite all difficulties that appear during the journey; to not give up; to believe that you can do something even when nobody believes in you.
How has this word influenced or inspired your career?
That word has motivated my entire life. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college, and the only one so far to obtain a doctoral degree. Leaving my country (Brazil) and my family to come to the U.S. was a big challenge in several aspects, but persistence kept me going even when others (and many times myself) doubted that I could achieve such a milestone. I keep this word close to my heart whenever I face any challenges in my career.
What are you currently reading or listening to?
The Chemical Age, by Frank Von Hippel.
What do you consider the best professional or personal advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t burn bridges.” Navigating workplaces can be a difficult task, and it’s important we try to maintain a healthy, diplomatic balance to avoid severing professional relationships. That doesn’t mean one should jeopardize their self-respect and integrity to keep a connection or a job, but it’s important to assess the best way to keep or to leave a situation without causing any professional self-damage. It takes a much longer time to build a bridge than to burn one.
Mayara Patricia Viana de Matos, PhD, is a biologist in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. She received her bachelor’s, licentiate (licenciatura) and master’s degrees in Brazil, and her PhD in Biology from West Virginia University. Mayara’s work at the FDA focuses on the development of analytical methods to address seafood safety issues. She has been a member of AWIS since 2016 and is looking forward to building a successful career in the government while inspiring and supporting more Latinxs to pursue their dreams in STEM fields.