Duke's Wood-Working, Movie-Loving Professor

Gustavo Furtado has many interests outside his native Brazil

Gustavo Furtado poses by some of the many books decorating his office. Photo by Bryan Roth.
Gustavo Furtado poses by some of the many books decorating his office. Photo by Bryan Roth.

Name: Gustavo FurtadoPosition: Assistant professor, Romance Studies departmentYears at Duke: 1

What I do at Duke is: My goal is to create a program that will teach Brazilian studies with courses in two different areas - a general approach to Brazilian culture, history and politics and another on Brazilian cinema. A lot of the work I'm doing now is on a book that relates Brazilian film production to contemporary films.

If I had $5 million, I would: Set up study groups and places for people who do interesting work that wouldn't receive funding otherwise. I'd want to create a space for artists, thinkers and writers to produce and exchange ideas.

My first ever job was: I was a kind of errand boy for an accounting office when I was 14. I spent most of my days running around to banks and other offices picking up and delivering things.

My dream job is: My current job is my dream job. Duke is the cream of the crop as an institution and my department may be the most interesting, progressive one of its kind in the country. Duke is one of the few institutions where studying the humanities is really healthy. It's hard to imagine a better place to be.

If someone wanted to start a conversation with me they should ask me about: Something about cinema or what my favorite film is because I don't have one and it'd be a great conversation starter. I have dozens of favorite films. The things I watch as a researcher and what I watch for fun aren't always the same. I'll watch everything from documentaries to experimental films to silent films.

The best advice I ever received was: When I was a community college student in California, I was applying to transfer so I could finish my bachelor's degree. One of my teachers said I should apply to the best private schools in the country. One of the schools I applied to was Cornell University, which helped create the series of events that led me to where I am today.

What I love about Duke is: There are lots of interesting people with lots of innovative ideas. Duke feels like a place where things are happening.

When I'm not at work, I like to: Ride my bike. I like going everywhere on my bike and exploring new places. I live in Chapel Hill and I've spent a lot of time riding in Carrboro.

If I could have one superpower, it would be: To time travel. That'd be the ultimate super power. When you go from one city to another or one country to another, you look at the world differently. Just imagine what it would be like if you could move around in time.

Something most people don't know about me is: One of my favorite things to do is work in a wood shop. I used to be a carpenter years ago and have lots of wood-working tools, but I don't have any time to play with them now.

A memorable day at work for me was: When I came to Duke as a job candidate for a three-day visit. I was sleep deprived and a little stressed, but I thought that almost every conversation turned out OK and it was a great experience. Even if I hadn't received the job offer, it was a great professional experience for me.