Success Story – Cindy Barreto

Cindy is a first-year Doctor of Philosophy student pursuing a degree in Disease and Urban Ecology and Evolution in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Essential Skills Learned in School will help in the Workplace

Through the years, Cindy has held multiple positions in her field. During a recent discussion, I asked Cindy about something she learned during her academic programs that she has since utilized in a work environment. Cindy explained that during each of her academic programs she gained essential skills such as writing, data, and chemical analysis, fieldwork, and laboratory skills, which have been helpful in the various positions she has held.

“At UConn, I am working for the betterment of my scientific writing, especially in English, which is important for publications. I also improved the habit of reading papers and searching for novelties, as well as learning about different techniques that I will use in my PhD.

“During my master’s degree, in Brazil, I learned statistical analysis, laboratory procedures, bird capturing, sampling, and banding.  For my work, field experience was essential. Besides, being a complete professional, who can perform fieldwork, laboratory procedures, and manage reports, was a discerning factor in my career.

“In my undergraduate courses, also in Brazil, I learned about environmental law, report writing, contamination effects, and animal physiology.

“Therefore, in each degree, I learned different skills that I use in my workplace.”

Volunteer and Join Internships/Jobs in your Field While in School

Over the past few years, Cindy took on both paid and unpaid positions to gain hands-on experience in her field. “The most significant contributions for starting my PhD were the research positions that I held before UConn, at the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade, the Federal Environmental Agency in Brazil, and at the Rede Rio Doce Mar (Doce River-Sea Research Network). They helped me not only to improve critical skills I use for my PhD, such as writing, data analysis, and problem-solving, but also to gather practical experiences in different environments, such as marine islands, wetlands, and sea.

I also had an exchange period in Canada during my master’s degree, which developed my leadership skills.

Finally, the fieldwork experience with bird capturing and sampling I acquired as a volunteer helped me obtain entrance into the PhD at UConn.”

Get Involved and Network

The advice that Cindy shared is important to all students. “Start networking as soon as possible! Join in societies (in my field, for example, there is the Ecological Society of America and the American Ornithological Society). Go to as many meetings, congresses, and seminars as you can (now there is a variety of free online meetings due to COVID). This is a great start!

“Besides, take advantage of every volunteer opportunity and any other experience you can gain in your field of interest. This will help you improve your curriculum and will show potential supervisors or employers that you are a hardworking and proactive person, interested in learning different skills, qualities that are valued by employers.”

Obstacles Overcome

Cindy discusses some of the challenges she has faced as an international student. “The most difficult part of my application to the PhD program at UConn was the language barrier. But the language is an obstacle only in the beginning. Now that I am in the PhD program, I have more contact with English terms, writing, and listening, I noticed my skills improved, so I don’t see it as an obstacle anymore. Beyond the language, money is also something that matters while you are applying as an international student/employee. So organizational skills and financial planning are important when you are looking for a position.”

 Supervisor Relationship

Making connections is critical during your academic program. “My supervisor is the most important person in my journey so far and, together with my lab-mates, we can create a positive and productive environment in which we can share experiences and produce knowledge. Finally, the faculty and staff also showed a willingness to help me adjust to the United States educational system. Everyone at UConn is very welcoming and has a sense of community, so if you ask for help, people will be glad to do as much as they can to help you. And this is something that can contribute to your career success!”

If you would like to learn more about Cindy’s research and conservation projects visit her website:

By Desiree Martino
Desiree Martino Career Coach | Pronouns she/her