New Rector Appointed at Brazil’s Biggest University

The new Rector, Vahan Agopyan, and Deputy Rector, Antonio Carlos Hernandes

The new Rector, Vahan Agopyan, and Deputy Rector, Antonio Carlos Hernandes

© USP/Cecília Bastos

(20.02.18) On 29 January, Prof. Vahan Agopyan and Prof. Antonio Carlos Hernandes were formally appointed to their new roles as Rector and Deputy Rector of the University of São Paulo (USP). The ceremony was held at the seat of the state government (the Palácio dos Bandeirantes), where the approximately 800 guests representing politics and academia included the Director of the DFG’s Latin America office, Dr. Kathrin Winkler.

At the election on 30 October, the majority of members of the University Council, 85% of which consists of professors, voted for the candidate pair of Agopyan and Hernandes. The Deputy Rector of USP at the time drew up a list of the three candidate pairs with the most votes, which, in accordance with the university’s regulations, was then submitted to the Governor of the State of São Paulo for a decision to be made. The pair at the top of the list is normally appointed, and this was the case here. On 13 November, the present Governor, Geraldo Alckmin, appointed Agopyan and Hernandes as Rector and Deputy Rector in line with the voting results.

During the ceremony, Agopyan emphasised the importance of research to the university and discussed some of the challenges associated with its considerable size. “Research plays an essential role at USP and this is reflected at all levels of teaching as well as in the cultural activities,” he said. “With over 80,000 students and around 6,000 teaching staff, spread over eight locations in various cities in the state of São Paulo, we are significantly larger than comparable respected institutions abroad. We also have no defined priority areas, instead investing in all areas of knowledge from agricultural science to zoology. Coincidentally, USP ranks among the top five universities worldwide in these two fields.”

Last November, with the support of USP, the DFG Office Latin America organised a workshop at the university on “Germany and the Academic Excellence Initiative”. Participants were welcomed by Prof. Agopyan, who also took part in the panel discussion. The event was also attended by researchers and lecturers from the university who wanted to learn about Germany’s excellence programme and the DFG’s experiences in connection with it. The two institutions intend to build on their cooperation through joint academic events, such as strategy workshops involving German researchers or Leibniz Lectures.

The new university leaders

Vahan Agopyan studied Engineering at the Polytechnic School of USP, where he also obtained a master’s degree in Urban Engineering and Construction. He earned his PhD from King’s College London. He became a professor at USP in 1975 and was promoted to full professor in 1994. He also served as Head of the Polytechnic School and between 2010 and 2014 as Vice-Rector for Postgraduate Studies before being appointed Deputy Rector of the university.

The new Deputy Rector, Antonio Carlos Hernandes, has held a full professorship at the Institute of Physics in São Carlos since 2008. His career began with a degree in Physics at the State University of Londrina (UEL). At USP, he earned his doctorate in Applied Physics, which also took him to Genoa (Italy) for a research visit. Before being appointed Deputy Rector, he served as Vice-Rector for Undergraduate Studies at USP.

Further information from Jornal da USP