Pimentel Championing the Importance of Engineering and its Power to Improve Society

As a professor with the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia, Feira de Santana, Brazil, and as a dedicated IEEE volunteer, Cristiane A. Pimentel has leveraged her industry experience with unique teaching methods and important local community projects to pique student interest in STEM fields. The recipient of the 2021 IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award has used her production engineering course at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia, Brazil, and her involvement with the IEEE Women in Engineering program there, to develop better understanding of production engineering among university students and to attract younger students to the importance of engineering in improving our society.

A true role model for women in engineering who has demonstrated the power of science and technology in advancing technology for humanity, Pimentel worked for over 10 years in the metallurgical industry before coming to the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia, including roles as production supervisor and process/quality control supervisor for aluminum production companies. Known as a “knowledge facilitator” by her students and peers, participants in her 

production engineering course have benefitted from being able to connect classroom theory to real-world applications based on her experiences. Pimentel incorporates playful games utilizing materials such as LEGOs and common items such as empty boxes and other recyclable materials to demonstrate industrial processes. Following this path, students have created wind turbines using old fans, cell phone chargers using photovoltaic plates, and biodegradable polymers using cornstarch. Pimentel earned the 2018 Brazilian Association of Young Production Engineering Award for her efforts in encouraging production engineering education.

Technical visits are another of her tools to help turn theory into practice, and she has included trips to local hospitals for projects incorporating lean thinking aimed at reducing emergency-room overcrowding, visits to industrial factories where students have introduced safety concepts to reduce accidents, and trips to public schools to present university projects that can spur interest in science and technology among younger students. Through her projects, students gain the worthwhile experience of making an economic impact in their local communities, whether by improving work environments or societal conditions.

Pimentel’s volunteer efforts include the Princesses of Technology project, which encourages high-school girls to follow STEM fields. First conducted in 2018, the program involved more than 10 undergraduate students and 100 high-school students and incorporated the presentation of university-based projects, visits to laboratories, and lectures presented by academics.

Pimentel also volunteers as the advisor for the IEEE Women in Engineering group at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia and as vice president of the Women in Engineering Affinity Group in the IEEE Bahia Section in Brazil. Her work with Women in Engineering has motivated women in undergraduate courses to follow STEM careers through presentations from experts in various engineering fields, participation at conference events, and technical visits to industry.

An IEEE member, Pimentel earned her undergraduate degree in materials engineering, an MBA in entrepreneurial management and innovation, a master’s in materials engineering, and a Ph.D. in materials engineering, all from the Federal University of Campina Grande, Campina Grande, Brazil. Her master’s thesis focused on the implementation of the NBR ISO:IEC 17025:2005 standard for breast prostheses, and during her doctoral work she studied the use of sulphonated poly (ether-ether-ketone) membranes with hydroxyapatite incorporation as a biomaterial.

Sponsored by the IEEE Education Society, the IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award recognizes inspirational teaching of undergraduate students in the fields of interest of the IEEE. It will be presented to Pimentel during the 2021 IEEE WIE International Leadership Summit (date TBD) “for encouraging women to pursue STEM careers and developing industry-based projects for social justice.”