Frederico França & Tamara Amorim

Photo by Russ Houston

When Frederico França and Tamara Amorim went to Las Vegas for the International Conference on Timber Bridges in 2013, they came home with more than just professional development. The two graduate students also got married during the trip, and as Lady Luck would have it, they met a key contact from Mississippi State University who was attending the same conference.

Both natives of Brazil, França and Amorim met on their first day of graduate school at Federal University of Espirito Santo in Jeronimo Monteiro, Brazil, where they were enrolled in a master's degree program.

Their common interest in wood products developed into a friendship, and they began dating. They both applied for an internship in Madison, Wisconsin, at the internationally known USDA Forest Products Laboratory. The students naturally jumped at the opportunity to attend a conference in a new and exciting location. They worked to photograph the conference to help offset costs.

The meeting offered more than most conferences can boast — relevant seminars, a host of wedding chapel vendors and a chance meeting with Dan Seale, MSU Warren S. Thompson Professor of Wood Science and Technology.

The couple actually met Seale while they were all waiting for shuttle bus transportation. They didn't want to tell him they were on their way to get married, but they saw him again that evening in a casino restaurant and invited him to their table. By that time, they were celebrating their new marriage and weren't so shy about recounting the day's accomplishments. Seale laughed and congratulated them, they said, but upon learning of their work in forest products, he began recruiting the newlyweds to their next step — MSU's doctoral program in forest resources with a focus on sustainable bioproducts. Now, Seale is their major professor, and they have completed their first year in the program.

"It was our lucky day when we found Dr. Seale," França said.

Amorim said they both love being in Mississippi. "We have a great department, and we are working on a very good project for the USDA to evaluate southern pine lumber," she said.

França explained that their work involves adding value to the lumber produced for structural purposes in the southern U.S. While França is more focused on wood industry engineering, Amorim's interests are focused on economic analysis and marketing for the industry.

Both agreed that the friendliness at MSU has made them feel at home. They've also enjoyed meeting people from all around the world. "As Brazilians, we talk a lot. It's part of our culture to talk, and so I think we make friends easily," Amorim said.