Born in Lisbon.
Raised in Aldeias, Serra da Estrela.
Lived in Toronto.
Based in Guelph.
My integration wasn’t easy. It’s a very sensitive age to change from an environment like that of the Serra to a city environment when you are fourteen. In high school, English was always very hard. And so I focused more on the sciences. Where it’s not required to have very strong English skills – Mário Monteiro.
Born in Lisbon and raised in a mountainous village near Gouveia, Serra da Estrela, in a land of shepherds, Mário Monteiro immigrated to Toronto with his parents when he was a child in 1981. Despite facing integration problems as an English as a Second Language student in high school, Monteiro became an accomplished biochemist, a professor at the University of Guelph, and one of the world’s fifty most influential vaccine developers according to the World Congress of Vaccines.
Mário A. de Sales Monteiro was born in Lisbon but grew up in the mountainous village of Aldeias, in Serra da Estrela – the highest mountain in mainland Portugal – where his paternal family were shepherds. As a child, he spent a great deal of time in nature, making his own toys out of wood and cork, and playing with the animals. It was here that he developed his power of observation. Church and school were his two other main activities. Monteiro’s father instilled an interest in pursuing knowledge and education (especially geography and history) by buying books from Reader’s Digest, a toy globe, and hiring a retired university professor to help him. Both of Monteiro’s parents worked in the textile industry in the region, which started collapsing in the 1970s.
In 1981, when he was 13-14 years old, the family decided to immigrate to Canada and settle in Toronto. Despite having had classes in English, Monteiro had difficulty adapting to the language in high school and the big city life. Because of his language difficulties and strong math foundation, Monteiro decided to concentrate on science, which did not require excellent English skills. Throughout the week, when he was not at school, he worked as a waiter at a restaurant.
During his undergraduate studies, Monteiro won awards that cemented his interest in science, which he pursued in graduate school. Monteiro graduated from his Ph.D. program at York University in 1996, during which he discovered the sugar structure of Helicobacter pylori – a bacteria that can cause severe gastrointestinal problems, including cancer – and its molecular mimicry, in that it avoids detection by the body’s immune system by replicating the structure of stomach cells. Monteiro’s research review, published under the title “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” had a major impact on the biochemistry and medical fields.
The success of Monteiro’s Ph.D. research opened the door to other opportunities, including working as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Canadian Bacterial Diseases Network, a Research Associate for the National Research Council of Canada, and a Senior Research Scientist for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in the United States. He also collaborated with the U.S. Navy, developing a bacteria that was one 100 percent effective against food poisoning. In 2003, he returned to Canada to become a professor at the University of Guelph’s Department of Chemistry.
Monteiro’s work has been widely recognized, including by the World Vaccine Congress, which in 2014 ranked him among the world’s fifty most influential vaccine developers. In 2017, Dr. Monteiro was working on two vaccines, one against tuberculosis, which affects people worldwide, including about 50 percent of Canada’s indigenous population; and another against bacterial diarrheal, which causes intestinal problems in children with autism and has affected a large number of people in Southeast Asia.
Hora dos Portugueses
Short description: Sheep Bell (Chocalho)
Place of origin: Serra da Estrela, Portugal
Materials: Copper and leather.
Description: A sheep or ram bell made of copper with a leather strap on the top, meant to be worn by the animals around the neck when grazing.
Short description: Toy Globe
Materials: Plastic and tin
Description: A small colourful globe made of tin and plastic, given to Monteiro by his father.
Short description: Portuguese-English Dictionary
Place of origin: Porto, Portugal
Creator: Júlio Albino Ferreira, Editorial Domingos Barreira
Date: c. 1925
Description: Worn out English-Portuguese-English dictionary with the name “Mário Artur Sales Monteiro” inscribed with a pen on the cover.