Introducing Our ESRs: Hello from Victor

Know more about my journey from Brazil all the way to Maastricht to join PersonalizeAF

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. – J. R. R. Tolkien

This very famous quote from the Lord of the Rings always comes to my mind whenever a new challenge is ahead of me, one that leaves people with butterflies in their stomach and fills them with excitement. It is also a great description of the road that brought me to the Personalize AF project as an Early-Stage Researcher, and of the path I and my other 14 colleagues have ahead in this very relevant and daring project, motivating us to go out our doors towards an international adventure.

Before I dive into the work I hope to develop within Personalize AF, let me tell introduce myself and talk a bit about how my “unkept feet” brought to where I am today. My name is Victor and I was born close to the city of São Paulo, in Brazil. I got my Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering from the Federal University of ABC*, a fairly young university with 15 years of existence. Close to the end of my Bachelor’s course, after I had come back from a 1-year exchange in Germany, I did an internship at the Heart Hospital of the University of São Paulo, where I first got in contact with the challenges in cardiology and non-invasive analysis of the heart. I have been working in the field since then.

Me in my internship at the Heart Hospital of the University of São Paulo, testing the 64-lead body surface potential mapping system that we were developing there.

During my Master’s, I sought to develop more accurate methods for extracting clinically relevant information from atrial fibrillation and other atrial arrhythmias using signals obtained with non-invasive techniques. Though I worked with patients, most of what I did was based on computer models, which have the advantage of providing a controlled environment for the analyses. The models I used were developed by a collaborator, but they aroused my curiosity and I wanted to learn more about them. This curiosity is what brought me to Maastricht University within the Personalize AF project.

The group from Ulrich Schotten at the Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht investigates complex arrhythmias from a translational approach, focusing on bridging the gap between what physiologically happens in the heart cells and what can be measured with several techniques. They use computer models together with patient data and complex signal processing approaches to investigate atrial fibrillation, which immediately got my attention when I was browsing the Early-Stage Researcher positions in Personalize AF. Thankfully, Uli and the other members of the team from Maastricht University decided to trust me with the position, and I joined the group remotely in June. Unfortunately, the current Covid-19 pandemic has prevented me from going to Maastricht yet, but we are managing to work from home for the time being, and I hope to be in there in person as soon as possible.

The Covid-19 pandemic has not prevented our work in PersonalizeAF from starting!

Being part of Personalize AF is a unique opportunity in many ways, since this project is the product of joint work between some of the most important researchers and institutions in the field, combining their strengths to tackle one of the most complex problems in medicine. I and the other Early Stage Researchers will have the chance to grow professionally while being guided and supported by this incredible team of supervisors and advisors, helping us maximize the output of our research. I hope we can all use the previous knowledge we acquired in our Bachelor and Master’s degrees to develop new ideas to tackle the challenges of atrial fibrillation, contributing to the treatment of this arrhythmia and having a meaningful impact on the quality of life of AF patients.

As I take the first steps outside my door into this new adventure, I can only look to the road ahead of me with great excitement, thrilled to see where it will lead me and how I will be able to contribute to the challenge that is ahead of us in Personalize AF. I look forward to getting to know Maastricht, learn the Dutch language (I recently started taking classes, it is fun!), and meeting all my colleagues in person as soon as possible.

I and the other Early-Stage Researchers will be posting periodic updates about our work in Personalize AF here in this site, so be sure to stay tuned and follow the project’s pages on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as with the hashtag #PersonalizeAF. Tot ziens!

* In case you are wondering, ABC is an acronym for the three main cities in the region, namely Santo André, São Bernardo, and São Caetano (“São” and “Santo” mean simply “Saint” – yes, Brazil has a very Catholic history).