FILIPE CERQUEIRA

Second-Year PhD Student

Molecular and Immunology


Tell us about yourself!

“I was born in Salvador, Bahia, a black-majority city in Brazil. I moved to a small town in Texas when I was 7, and I consider myself a Texan at heart. My family (14-year-old brother and parents) didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so I had to work a couple of jobs during high school which taught me how to be efficient with my time. Before falling in love with science, I dabbled in social work, and social justice is something I use to guide how I interact with people. Mentorship is really important to me since my mentors are the reason why I made it to graduate school, and it gives me great fulfillment to mentor others.  I love cooking and eating food; members of the lab know when I’m having a stressful week since my stress-baking means there’s plenty of sweets to go around in the breakroom. I have always loved classical music and have been a pianist since I was 8 and have played French horn since I was 14. I currently play in the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra (YSO,) and it’s a great outlet for me to practice the beautiful art of music. My partner, a professional violinist, moved all the way from Austin with me and plays in YSO with me.”

What is your favorite thing about your current program?

“The incoming class of micro graduate students feels like a tight-knit family. It’s nice to go through the program with other intelligent humans!”

What factors or interests led you to choose your current program or field?

“Once I realized that the microbes around us perform elegant molecular feats that I thought only higher-level eukaryotes had mastered, I was hooked.”

What’s your secret for time-management and being productive?

“Sleep and me-time is the key to being productive. Also food.”

How did other people help you get to where you are today?

“I did a lot of informational interviews early in college, and the precious candor and time of my interviewees helped me navigate my interests and get me to where I need to go. Hearing the stories of people that possess similar social identities than I possess also inspired me and made me believe that I could pursue my dreams. If it were not for my teachers and colleagues’ efforts that ranged from staying after class to help me understand a scientific concept to writing my letters of recommendation, I would not have been prepared for graduate school.”

What’s the best advice someone gave you that you still use today?

“Always follow your dreams even if the only person that believes you can achieve them is yourself.”

Tell us about a challenge you ran into in your educational training and how you overcame it.

“It is really easy for me to sink in to myself and think that I am going through my struggles in isolation, but whenever I held out my hand, someone was always there to pull me out of the water.”

What is your greatest source of inspiration to keep pushing toward completing your goals?

“I have two connected inspirations to keep pushing toward completing my goals: Many people in my life have tried to make me believe that I wasn’t talented or intelligent enough to reach my goals, so it satisfies me to prove them wrong. Contrastingly, many have believed in me and supported me, and it feels great to make them proud.”

What advice would you give to an aspiring scientist?

“Science is fun! Don’t be too serious about everything you do all the time.”

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Cooking/baking/watching movies”

Can students and trainees contact you directly?

YES. You can email me at filipehu@umich.edu if you want to talk about going through science training and how your social identities have impacted your journey. Also, I make a mean chocolate chip cookie, so if you need a friend to talk to, I’m around!