Sergio Amancio: "Research is my passion"
Sergio de Traglia Amancio Filho
Illustration: Luca Candotti, photo: private
Sergio de Traglia Amancio Filho - it's an unusual sounding name to German ears. That's because the materials engineer is a native Brazilian.
The Assistant Professor and Helmholtz group leader for young university scientists researches plastic-metal joining technology at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht. The research can be utilised in the future, for example, in producing even lighter aircraft and automobiles. To carry out his research on friction stir welding at a leading global institution, the 38-year-old left his homeland in 2001. Together with his wife Gisele Amancio, who also works at the HZG, he braved a new start in Geesthacht.
Assistant Professor Sergio Amancio walks the last few steps to Building 31, where the HZG joining specialists work. He looks up at the sky, grey and overcast: "Yeah, that was a huge change for us," he says openly. "The lack of sunlight has mainly been a serious challenge," he elaborates, pointing to his arms which look lightly tanned in his Polo shirt. "I'm sure I used to be three shades darker. I'm actually a summer person."
A side door leads from the building, via a paved pathway, to a steel hall. The hall measures a total of three hundred square metres. The structure was just inaugurated at the end of last year and houses modern research facilities that assist the HZG scientists in further developing joining methods or implementing and testing new ideas. While still working on his doctorate in 2007, Amancio had applied for his first patent - for what is known as friction riveting, an unknown joining method at the time.
This alone led to honours, prizes and worldwide recognition in his field for the young materials researcher:
“We believed in this idea from the beginning, but you don’t think that something you develop yourself could lead so quickly to a patent,”
mancio says, reﬂecting on the start of his scientiﬁc career.
Yet another of the Brazilian’s ideas, Friction Spot Joining, followed shortly thereafter as well as several other developments. Most have been meanwhile patented or are in the application process. The number of his patents thus amounts to twenty-one at present. “I have a knack for new ideas,” says Amancio, a kind of “Gyro Gearloose” of the Department for Solid State Joining Processes, as he searches for an explanation. Given the work he has accomplished, this sounds considerably modest. Perhaps this modesty can be explained by his personal approach to life:
"I really always knew that I wanted to be a scientist. Other than that, a lot relied on coincidence."
The road leading to Geesthacht, the prizes and promotions: "I didn't plan everything that way." Amancio sees it rather as a chain of fortuitous events that led to his position as Assistant Professor. "It's not some special ambition," he assures us. "Research is simply my passion, and my ideas can be realised almost one hundred percent here in Geesthacht."
He and his wife faced a wide range of changes when they came to Germany about thirteen years ago. The relocation came with some drastic transitions. "Over twenty-one million people live in the Sao Paolo metropolitan region," Amancio explains. "Hamburg is rather a city of medium size for us." And the district of Lauenburg, where the couple work and live - how did they feel about that change? From the insane traffic to the 30-kmh zones, from the high crime rate to a sense of safety, from the urban masses to the expansive landscape. "In terms of speed, it was like going from 100 to 0 for us," the 38-year-old says, describing his first impressions.
In the meantime, the two have adjusted to their adopted country and live in an apartment in Börnsen. "We've settled in nicely," says Amancio. They spend their free time going to the movies or restaurants and are active outdoors. Sergio Amancio also plays basketball weekly with a group at the HZG. An important anchor in the couple's life is their church community, where the 38-year-old plays violin and cello:
"It serves as a tremendous support for us. Faith in God helped the two of us greatly in focussing our life in Germany."
And the offcial sign that the Amancios have settled here? They became German citizens in 2012.
Author: Vanessa Barth
Portrait from in2science #1 (December 2014)