In October 2022, Department Chair Steve Tait, Visiting Lecturer Eric McKenzie, and I had the pleasure of sitting down and meeting Dr. Armi Wanderley da Nóbrega (Ph.D. 1970) as he visited Bloomington on a lovely fall day. This was Dr. Nóbrega’s first visit to Bloomington in 52 years! Dr. Nóbrega came to IU in 1966 and wanted to work in the laboratory of then Assistant Professor Dennis Peters. Dr. Peters had recently purchased an electron microscope and asked Armi to learn how to use it and show how it help investigate the surfaces of electrodes during electrochemical reactions prior to formally taking Nóbrega as a student. By the time Dr. Nóbrega completed his studies, Prof. Peters’s group was about 10 members strong and Dr. Peters, recently promoted to Associate Professor, was headed to Australia for a sabbatical.
We talked briefly about some of the experiments Dr. Nóbrega performed at IU including studying the electrochemical reactions of ethylene on gold electrodes in sulfuric acid media as well as using electron microscopy to characterize the surface defects and modifications these reactions introduced. Dr. Nóbrega also talked about life in Bloomington during that very turbulent time. 1966-1970 featured many protests against the Vietnam War and the state of race relations. He distinctly recalled the unrest following the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. He also talked about making a lifelong friend in Eduardo Peixoto (Ph.D., 1968) who was a student in the research group of Professor Russell Bonham.
Although he enjoyed his busy time in Bloomington, Dr. Nóbrega wanted to return to his native Brazil and use his talents to improve lives there. Armi has enjoyed a widely varied career with positions in at three different universities, the national nuclear energy commission (CNEN), and the very prestigious Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ), a worldwide leader in public health research. One of his major professional efforts was supporting the Brazilian nuclear energy program and improving the public safety surrounding it. He described organizing the environmental control groups for two of Brazil’s nuclear power stations as well as efforts to improve the safety of uranium mining in the country. Later (1981-1985) he went to the National Institute of Quality Control and Health (INCQS) at FIOCRUZ, founded by Dr. Eduardo Peixoto. INCQS is similar to the US FDA and ensures the safety of food, cosmetics, medicines, and vaccines. He has been at FIOCRUZ continuously since 2001. Throughout his career he retained his desire to teach and oversaw 7 Ph.D. theses and 12 M.Sc. monographs. Dr. Nóbrega and Dr. Peixoto were two of the 64 founding members of the Brazilian Chemical Society (SBQ) in 1977 at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paolo.