University of Delaware alumnus Nuno Crato is making his mark on the world. In June 2011, he was appointed Portugal's minister of education, higher education and science.
Q. What are some of the major issues facing Portugal in education and science?
A. Portugal has made tremendous progress during the last decades. Most young people nowadays complete high school, and many proceed to the college level. Some of our universities have become attractive to foreign students who like to study some of their semesters with us. We have also made great progress in scientific research. We work with many European and American institutions and have researchers and laboratories that are competitive worldwide. Our major challenges are to improve elementary and secondary education, to make it more demanding, and to develop some of our scientific centers in order to consolidate their top quality.
Q. In general, how does the educational system in Portugal differ from the U.S. system?
A. Our system is centralized and uniform while the U.S. system is very diverse — for instance, we have a national curriculum that all students follow up to the college level. Our university system is mostly state owned and controlled, while the American one is mostly independent.
Q. What is a typical day on the job like for you?
A. I go to the office early in the morning and have a briefing with my closest staff, planning the day. Most times, I receive some official visitors, such as school principals or ambassadors who want to discuss forms of international cooperation. Two or three times a week, I visit a school, university or scientific research facility or have other public duties, such as speak at public events. I typically have two or three working meetings a day and leave the office relatively late, say at 8 or 9 p.m.
Q. How did your University of Delaware education (doctorate in mathematical sciences) prepare you for your current position?
A. I owe a great deal to UD. The Department of Mathematical Sciences, namely my adviser, Prof. Howard Taylor, taught me what research is and showed me what good teaching is all about. It may seem odd, but UD also taught me how to express myself clearly in writing.
Q. What are some of your fondest memories of the University of Delaware?
A. The beautiful campus, the vitality of the intellectual life, and the excellence in teaching and research are some of the aspects of the University I'll never forget. I miss the social life and the great friends I've made. I'm still in touch with some of my former colleagues and still have many friends at the University, such as Gilberto Schleiniger, a great professor of mathematics.
Q. Are you able to continue with your research/teaching in your current role? If so, what research questions do you seek to answer?
A. I now spend all my energy in public service, and I can't do any research. I'm still finishing one or two papers in probability models for natural phenomena I started with some students of mine, but that's all. Research needs total concentration on the problems, and I am unable to do that now.
Q. What should people who have never been to Portugal know about your country?