Luiz Fernando da Silva Borges, a Computer Engineering student, has his professional and research experiences recognized with an award granted by the global consulting firm
Last July, Luiz Fernando da Silva Borges, a third-semester Computer Engineering student at Insper, won the McKinsey Black Talent Achievement Award. The global consulting firm McKinsey & Company initiative recognizes Black persons who stand out in their fields of work – in the case of Luiz Fernando, science and technology.
McKinsey’s assessment took into account Borges’ work and research history. His journey goes from studies in biomedical engineering carried out in high school at the Federal Institute of Mato Grosso do Sul (IFMS) at Aquidauana to his most recent role as partner, co-founder, and chief technology officer with Leventronic, a medical technology company. Leventronic is on the verge of homologating the Leven67 emergency lung ventilator, whose development was driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Borges has received more than 50 national and international awards. They include an asteroid named after him by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, the 33503 Dasilvaborges. The recognition was granted due to his award at the 2016 International Science and Engineering Fair – Intel ISEF. At what is the world’s major science and engineering fair dedicated to students, he took first place with the Hermes Braindeck project. It is a brain-computer interface for communicating with patients initially classified as comatose or vegetative.
We talked to Borges about the recent McKinsey award and his career:
1) How did you come up with the idea of applying for the McKinsey Award?
I read an article about McKinsey on the Fundação Estudar website, which I have been a part of since 2020 as an Estudar Leader. On the McKinsey website, I learned about cutting-edge activities in the field of consulting, as well as about the McKinsey Achievement Awards 2021.
2) How does McKinsey choose the awardees?
In the application stage, I sent my resume containing all my professional experiences. Among them are summer courses in which I was a scholarship holder at the Imperial College (London) and Weizmann Institute (Israel). Also, the research projects in biomedical engineering I have been developing since high school at the IFMS Aquidauana.
Such studies received more than 50 historical national and international awards altogether. MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory granted one of them, which named the asteroid 33503 Dasilvaborges after me.
I was selected in the first stage and invited for a virtual interview, in which I was able to detail my history. I then talked about my most recent experience as a partner, co-founder, and chief technology officer of Leventronic. It is a medical technology company that is on the verge of homologating the Leven67 emergency lung ventilator. We developed the ventilator out of the COVID-19 pandemic. After that stage, I was awarded in the Black Talent category.
3) What does this recognition mean to you?
I have always taken opportunities like this to go public about my gratitude for the people who made it possible for me to achieve merits like that. I am Black, from a middle-class family of separated parents, a native of a town in [the state of] Mato Grosso do Sul. I was fortunate to grow up under the guidance of three women: My mother, my aunt, and my great-grandmother. (The latter is now deceased and the primary driver behind my research on communicating with comatose persons using EEG.) They were my greatest examples of self-esteem and discipline, especially my mother. She had always given up many things, so that I had several privileges that were pretty alien to people from our social class or location.
4) How do you place your achievement in a broader perspective?
I take this opportunity to make my stance clear against the aphorism arising from the preaching of pseudo-meritocracy: “You can be whatever you want to be; just want it.” Unfortunately, most people in starting points similar to mine don’t have the same privileges as I did. And they can put too much pressure on themselves when they see in the media some people who “got there” saying that hard work is all it takes. It goes without saying that discipline and instruction are key to achieve any goal. But without the right opportunities or means, one will not have a mind in which these virtues can flourish.
I want someday to be able to give it back to society to make it more egalitarian by making science and the scientific method means of social transformation and mobility. I see my actions in science and technology as ways of giving back to society a fraction of the privileges I received thanks to the sacrifices of those who raised and educated me.
5) In your viewpoint, did graduating from Insper contribute in any way to this recognition?
Yes, I chose to study at Insper because of the profile of the Engineering program: I saw that there would be a concern with teaching concepts beyond theory. Since the beginning of my academic journey, I have tried to learn by doing. That’s how I developed skills in programming, electronics, and 3D design, for instance. Also, the one who designed the first concept of the Leventronic emergency lung ventilator with me was Juliano Nassar, a Mechatronics Engineering student at Insper. We worked for several days on the project’s initial prototype. In it, we used what we had learned from Insper’s engineering program.
In my daily life as the chief technology officer at Leventronic, I can see myself employing several concepts learned in the courses. One of the first things to do when building medical equipment is calibrating the sensors, which we learned in the Instrumentation and Measurement course. Then, when it comes to a product, we need to respect the cycles of prototyping and meeting customer needs covered in the Design Nature course. We use learning from the Electric Drivers course to treat the signals from some tiny sensors, such as the oxygen ones. To analyze if an equipment’s performance is as expected, we turned to hypothesis testing, which we see in Data Science.
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