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Shooting for BBC Future, scientific expedition and the Cannes Short Film Festival all career highlights for alumna

Cristiane Duarte

I chose Brunel for many practical reasons. The access to great equipment, experienced professors and a lot of interesting challenges as exercises and tests validated my choice.

Cristiane, Alumni, Postgraduate

Communications Officer, Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM)

Documentary Practice MA - 2016

From Brazil

Previous Institution

State University of Campinas - MSc Science Communication

Tell us about your educational and/or career journey since you graduated from Brunel?

After my MA in Documentary Practice at Brunel, I returned to Brazil in 2017 and by the end of the year, joined one of the biggest adventures of my life as an Education and Outreach Officer onboard the scientific vessel JOIDES Resolution; a ship from a consortium of 22 nations with scientific questions to be answered in specific maritime expeditions. In my case, I sailed for two months non-stop on the Indian Ocean, between Perth and Tasmania in Australia with the expedition “369 - Australia Cretaceous Climate and Tectonic”, and shot two short documentaries for BBC Future: “A World at Sea” and “Secrets Hidden Below the Seabed”. Back on earth and in my birth town, in 2018, I joined the Communications team at the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials, house of Sirius, currently the shiniest 4th generation synchrotron light source in the world, and a giant scientific tool to investigate all sorts and scales of matter. Although it's not an adventurous position, it feeds my curiosity about the world and its secrets every day.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

A typical day for me? It starts with a habit I got in the UK - a nice cup of tea! I then go to the office or work from home (during the pandemic these things became more flexible). I live close to work, so I’ve been trying to ride a bike there. I produce a magazine for the Center, with a lot of stories about the current research going on within the labs and testimonies from the scientists, so I spend the day talking to many people, taking photos and producing videos. The hardest part, and the one I like the most, is reading complex papers and writing releases about them for the press or the stakeholders. It almost feels like translating or creating rainbows out of grey clouds. I am basically a bridge, between the scientific environment and the social one.

What’s been the highlight of your career journey so far?

It is hard to talk about the highlight of my career. Being part of an international scientific expedition and shooting for BBC Future could get this trophy. But then I also achieved so much previously, shooting a documentary here in Brazil, which had taken me to the Cannes Short Film Festival. I am sure it was one of the reasons I got the Chevening Scholarship to study at Brunel, another top achievement. I see the highlights as reaching places or having a life and work opportunities I never thought I would. In this sense, even something small and unimportant but unique and rich is, for me, a highlight. Having the courage to approach strangers for interviews or the scientists every day are each a highlight. The grumpy ones are worth two! I hope the highlight of my career is yet to come. And I am sure all my experiences will have a part in it.

How would you say your Brunel experience has helped you to get where you are today?

My experience at Brunel helped me be where I am now for many reasons. The first one is the Documentary course as it was built: with challenges to observe our subjects, tell compelling stories, and put ourselves out of our comfort zones. I use these skills every single day. I remember most of my classes and discussions and often go back to my notes from the course to get information on video production or theory. My knowledge and sensibility of film matured so much after studying there. I never felt signs of condescendence or prejudice from the Brunel professors, only a will to help us grow in our choices and views, and I have a lot to thank my mentor, Mike Wayne, for.

Why did you choose to study at Brunel and why would you recommend Brunel to others?

I chose Brunel for many practical reasons. The location and the course where exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want an overwhelming experience. I wanted to be part of something. So, Brunel’s location was perfect. The course was also attractive because I wanted something truly practical, to use the gear and produce more than the theoretical side. My course gave me that, and the professors truly encouraged us to go after internships and freelance experiences, and sent us connections to do so. The access to great equipment, experienced professors and a lot of interesting challenges as exercises and tests validated my choice. I don’t regret it.

What is your best memory of studying here?

My best memory of studying at Brunel was jogging around the campus. I lived in the student flats, so it was also my home, and when jogging I used to feel so proud and happy to be there. From time to time I would see a fox around, and discover a building I hadn’t seen before. And there was the little lake frozen during winter, the small bridge, and the yellow trees during autumn...

If you could give one piece of advice to current Brunel students, what would that be?

If I could give a bit of advice to a current student, it would be to be open-minded about new challenges and meet new people. There are so many ways to make friends and learn new things at uni. I tried rowing and fencing, sports not so easy to find here in Brazil. These were great experiences, as well as getting closer to my course colleagues, and learning more about their cultures and realities. The fact that Brunel is in London but not in the centre gave me this community sense and more time to explore every corner deeper. By the end of the year, I really felt at home there.

What would be your top tip or key advice for new graduates as they begin their career journey after leaving Brunel?

Beginning your career after graduating, for many people, is not easy. It wasn't for me. There can be this overwhelming sense of choosing between so many paths, and at the same time so many doubts on how to start. I was lucky to have a mentor back when I graduated from college, and on my masters, I was already surer and more confident of what I wanted (which doesn´t make it necessarily easier, but maybe less overwhelming). I believe telling everybody about what you do, showing your work, even if you don’t feel so confident about it, and getting as many experiences as possible will help you grow your repertoire to deal with yourself and to the professional interactions ahead. So, that’s it - telling, showing, experiencing is my advice, and if you can’t find an opportunity to experience with others, put yourself out there and create one; volunteering or starting a new business could be a start.