Noted for her long and distinguished career as an immunologist and educator, Maria DeSousa has dedicated her life to the service of others. She began her career as a research fellow at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London from 1964 to 1966, and continued as a research assistant at the Gulbenkian Science Institute in Oeiras, Portugal from 1966 to 1967. She then became a lecturer at Glasgow University in Scotland from 1967 to 1976, and was an associate member of the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York City from 1976 to 1984. Her subsequent positions include associate professor at Cornell University Graduate School, where she has been since 1984, and visiting associate professor at Harvard University Medical School, where she has been since 1982.
In keeping with her desire to promote research in the field of immunology and molecular biology, Dr. DeSousa is a member of a variety of institutions and organizations. Among them are the American Association of Pathologists, the American Society for Investigative Pathology, which is a society of biomedical scientists who investigate mechanisms of disease; and the British Society for Immunology, whose aim is to support excellence in research and clinical practice in immunology for the benefit of human and animal welfare. She also maintains affiliation with the European Molecular Biology Organization, which promotes excellence in the life sciences and enables international exchange between scientists, and the Portuguese Society of Immunology. Dr. DeSousa is a fellow at the Royal College of Pathologists and the American Association of Immunologists, and the president of the Abel S. Foundation in New York City, N.Y.
Dr. DeSousa is co-author of “Changes in the Thymus-Dependent Areas of Lymph Nodes after Immunological Stimulation” and “Lympocyte Circulation.” In addition, she has written numerous articles in various professional journals. One article was on the effect of chronic stress during adolescence in the prefrontal cortex structure and function, using adolescent rats. The study speculated on the risks of prolonged exposure to stressful environments in human adolescents and the possibility of stunted development of executive functions. Another article concerned the change in the quality of life and its association with oral health and other factors in community dwellings of elderly adults to determine whether changes in oral health were associated with decline in the quality of life. She concluded that preventing tooth loss and properly addressing concerns about chewing and dental appearance can affect the general well-being of community-dwelling elderly adults.
In recognition of her achievements in her field, Dr. DeSousa has received numerous awards such as the 2017 Distinguished Worldwide Humanitarian Award, Gold Medal of the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education on the occasion of her jubilee in 2009, grand officer of the Order of Santiago da Espada in 2012, and Worldwide Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Additionally, she was featured in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who of American Women, and Who’s Who in the East. Dr. DeSousa prepared for her endeavors by earning an MD from Lisbon University in Portugal in 1963 and a PhD from Glasgow University in Scotland in 1971.