Rosana Ferreira joins Molecular Biosciences Faculty

Rosana Ferreira

The Department of Molecular Biology at The University of Kansas is pleased to announce Rosana Ferreira has joined their faculty and will begin teaching courses in Spring 2023.

Prior to her new position with KU, Dr. Ferreira was an Associate Professor at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), where she led research on different aspects of the skin microbiome, focusing on understanding how different bacteria interact with each other in that environment, and how can we take advantage of that to discover new natural products that helps us fight infections.

Dr. Ferreira will likely be teaching classes focused on microbial pathogenesis and bacteriology. as well as other introductory microbiology courses. Her research at KU will continue the work she had previously done in Brazil, and she hopes her goal of “understanding what molecules are produced in these interactions and how can we take advantage of these molecules,” will be met with her continued research into Staphylococcus and other members of the skin microbiome.


You just made a really big move from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Lawrence, Kansas --What drew you to working at KU?

I was an Associate Professor in Brazil, and I thought I had already done so much in my research there that I started looking for an extra challenge and the extra tools that KU could provide. So that was my main drive to move here, to get better conditions and better tools and facilities to take my research to the next level.

Are there any particular research opportunities at KU you are excited about?

Mostly the facilities available to us, in particular, the Mass Spectrometry & Analytical Proteomics Laboratory.

What have you enjoyed the most about moving to Kansas?

I guess what I enjoy the most here is being able to see the beginning of the Spring and how different everything looks since we arrived in December. In Brazil, we don't have or at least in my city [Rio de Janeiro], we don't have very defined seasons of the year. It is basically hot and summer-like all year. When I arrived in Lawrence in the end of December, everything looked very gray and now we started seeing life and it's so nice to see the flowers, the leaves in the trees. Yeah, it's definitely very different from Rio, Lawrence is a much smaller city, but I found that it also has a lot to offer. Like the different stores and different stuff to do, the parks. I'm enjoying it so far.

Is there anything about living & researching in Brazil that you would like to share?

I was working at a big institution in Brazil where the students were great and had a lot of opportunities to do research early on. So, I think that the students there are very keen to come to the States too if they can find positions here. I think that's something that most people don't appreciate. In Brazil we get by with a lot less money for research, but we still do a lot of good research and that's because there are great students, and very smart and talented professors.

In the future, once you have your lab established, are you planning on taking student researchers into your lab? Would you want to get them in early like they do in Brazil?

Both me and Caetano Antunes do a lot of collaborative research together, so between the two of us we have about  six students already, including undergrads and grad students. I try to get students into the lab as early as possible, because I think it’s a great opportunity for them to experience the lab environment if they plan to do that for their career.

What’s your research focus and why did you choose it?

During my postdoc, I started studying the gut microbiome to try to understand how it protects us against enteric pathogens. When I moved to Brazil and started my own lab, I wanted to work with something easier to cultivate and Staphylococcus and the other bacteria that grow in our skin are easier to cultivate compared to the ones in the gut. Also, the skin microbiome is a lot less studied compared to the gut microbiome. So, it was a good field for me to start growing in.

What do you enjoy most about your research?

I love the feeling, when even for a moment, you know something that nobody else knows. It's just like a little secret that nobody else knows except for you. I love that feeling.

I also like the feeling of getting a student that knows very little about research to start thinking for themselves research-wise. It's so nice to think, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve had a little part in that.’ Like I did something there that made that student more curious and more able to ask questions.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I really enjoying the exchange with the students. I found very early on that I learned a lot from students both in class and in the lab. They usually offer a new and different point of view. I enjoyed that kind of exchange with students. I try to be close to my students so they can feel more comfortable in the lab. It kind of works both ways. I do believe that everyone has something to teach us, and everyone has a talent, and I enjoy figuring out what that talent is in all the students.

What is the process for your research?

There are different types of processes for each project. Mainly what I do is grow the bacteria from the skin in culture media. I then collect their supernatant, concentrate them and see if their concentrated supernatant can affect the pathogen’s ability to grow, to make biofilms or to produce other virulence factors.

We are just starting to do cell culture experiments, to see if those molecules can affect the ability of the pathogen to adhere to or invade cells. Later on, we plan to use animal models to determine if the molecules can prevent or treat infections in mice. We also want to know if they can make the pathogen less able to colonize the skin.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love running and exercise in general. I feel like I need it to be a sane person. I need to get outside, see the sunlight. I enjoy things like going for a walk or riding a bike or running, I guess those are my hobbies. I do have two children that keep me busy too.

Do you have a favorite thing to do or place to visit in Lawrence?

I enjoy going to Mass Street; we often go to the Rock Chalk Park too. We also go to Kansas City every so often, to get our fix from the big city feeling. Sometimes it’s just nice to feel like we're part of the big city.

What was your favorite class as an undergrad?

As an undergrad, I loved anything with microbiology, like general microbiology or medical microbiology. Immunology… not so much, I still don't get it.

Do you have a neat fact about yourself that you would like to share?

I've been through a lot in life, [both] health wise and family wise, so I take that as an opportunity to be a person more open to all kinds of people and to learn from all kinds of people. So that's my view in life in general, just to try to get the best from people and understand them better that way.


We are excited to welcome Dr. Ferreira to the Molecular Biosciences department and look forward to getting to know her better in the years to come!