"I Got Carried Away," Says Brazilian Researcher who Lied about Harvard Credentials

Joana Félix changed her resume after newspaper revelation that she did not do complete post-doctorate at Harvard University

Bruno Fávero
Rio de Janeiro

Professor Joana D'Arc Félix de Sousa, lauded for the barriers she broke to become a scientist and teacher, admitted that she never completed research at Harvard University and called the inclusion of this information in her resume and various interviews "a mistake." She denied that she included it in bad faith. 

"I got carried away. It's a mistake. I ask for forgiveness, it's a mistake," Sousa said by telephone to Folha. Her resume, previously found in the Brazilian online researcher database, Lattes, lists her as receiving a post-doctorate from Harvard University in the 1990s. 

Professor Joana D'Arc Félix de Sousa - Folhapress

O Estado de São Paulo revealed the discrepancy on Tuesday. The article that said Joana had even presented a fake diploma to prove her connection to the American university. 

When questioned, Sousa said that the diploma was created for a theater play she did with her students at the Franca state technical school and that she sent it to the reporter by accident. 

The professor said that she was invited to do a post-doctorate at Harvard University in 1994 when she concluded her doctorate at UNICAMP. She did not accept the invitation, however, because her sister and father died around the same time, and her mother was suffering from health issues. Due to this, she researched her project in Brazil with assistance from professor William Klemperer by telephone. William Klemperer passed away in 2017. 

"I considered [it as post-doctorate] the orientation I received from professor William Klemperer," she said. "I discussed my project with him, and I went to his lab many times, but I was never his student because  my mother's health problems prevented me from attending his classes."

She confirmed that despite receiving an invitation to study at Harvard, a majority of her orientation was completed by telephone and that none of it was registered. 

Harvard informed Folha that there is no evidence that Sousa had received a diploma from the institution, but the institution did not confirm whether or not Joana was accepted into the university or if Klemperer mentored her. 

Folha first reported about the researcher in 2018, and it is revising the biographical information in the previous article, including her age. In various interviews and on social media, she declared her age as young as 39 and as old 55. This divergence prompted a reporter at Estado de São Paulo to investigate her background further. 

Sousa said she was scared how these new revelations would affect her work as a professor at a public school in the interior of São Paulo. 

"I helped to get many people out of prostitution, recover from drugs, and that work can't be thrown into the garbage can," she said.

A film about her life is scheduled to be produced by Globo Filmes. Sousa says that director Alê Braga reached out to her after the Estado article report was published. However, she did not discuss the future of the project, she says. "He called to give me support," she said.

When sought for this article, Globo Filmes did not say anything about the new revelations.

In addition to changing her resume, the researcher also apparently erased her social networking profile.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon

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