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Maria de Fátima Leite
Violin practice, she says, has given her fresh insight into both education and performance anxiety. “When I teach physiology, I'm confident, because I have a great deal of background. But I've never had a violin teacher, and at first I was feeling pressure to be a teacher for my son.”
That meant a little extra homework. But keeping one lesson ahead seems to do the trick. “I focus on teaching what I've just learned, and that makes him comfortable. He doesn't feel pressured, because he knows I don't know much more than he does. We make mistakes together, and we laugh.”
When she's not practicing with Victor, on compositions ranging from Suzuki's variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to arrangements of works by J.S. Bach, Leite investigates the effects of calcium on liver-cell behavior, which she hopes will yield clues to tumor reduction therapies.
The lab work goes on at Brazil's Federal University of Minas Gerais, where Leite divides her time between research and teaching. “Each time my son and I practice, there's a little progress. We both understand that, if the process can be fun, it's not so important to get to the end. As I tell my students, when they feel the pressure of deadlines, ‘Love what you're doing right now. All you can hope to do is to get a little bit better each day.'”
FOR MORE INFORMATION: To learn more about Leite's research, see the Lab Book spotlight “Turning Growth On and Off, One Cell at a Time.”
Photo: Daniel Mansur