UM Brazilian Faculty, Students Make Engineering Connection

October 2011 By

OXFORD, Miss. - Cristiane Surbeck and Laís Simões Teixeira came to the University of Mississippi at different times, but the Brazilians have found common ground in the UM School of Engineering.

Surbeck joined the civil engineering faculty as an assistant professor of civil engineering in 2007. She teaches environmental water and resources engineering, and her research ranges from treatment of polluted waters to characterizing sources of water pollution.

Teixeira came to campus this fall as a senior civil engineering major and Study Abroad student. She is the first student from Brazil to come under a U.S. Department of Education grant for a "U.S.-Brazil Consortium for Sustainable Drinking Water Studies."

The three-year project, overseen by Surbeck, provides opportunities for American and Brazilian undergraduate and graduate students in engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and business to add a thematically focused, multidisciplinary, international dimension to their academic training.

"The Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla is the lead U.S. university," Surbeck said. "The University of Mississippi is the other U.S. partner in the consortium. The lead university in Brazil is the Universidade Federal do Ceará in Fortaleza and the second is Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro."

The program permits students from each participating university to study one semester at another consortium university as an exchange student. This study abroad program is funded by the FIPSE-CAPES program, jointly administered by the U.S. Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, or FIPSE, and the Brazilian Ministry of Education, known as CAPES.

The U.S.-Brazil Consortium for Sustainable Water Studies project will help participants form a successful international alliance by understanding educational, technical, cultural and language differences between the two countries, said Surbeck, who earned her master's and doctoral degrees at the University of California at Irvine.

Two UM students are scheduled to attend Brazilian universities during the spring 2012 semester.

"I'm really excited because I knew that universities here are really different than back home," said Teixeira, a senior civil engineering major at UFC. "I was a little bit afraid because it was a completely different experience; now, I'm really glad I came."

Oxford is much smaller and calmer than Teixeira's hometown of Fortaleza, which has about 2.5 million residents.

"Here, we are completely immersed in a university environment," she said. "Almost everything is about Ole Miss. Back home, I live in such a big city. Life is busy and stressful."

At UM, Teixeira is taking three engineering courses and another in English as a foreign language. She is receiving a "hands-on" experience in Surbeck's class.

"The information she is gaining would prove most useful should she ever go to work in a water treatment plant," Surbeck said.

"I'm going back to Brazil by the end of this semester and I'm going to finish my courses there," Teixeira said. "I'll be graduated by the end of next year. I'm still not sure about what I'm going to do after graduation."

For more information about UM's Department of Civil Engineering, go to or call 662-915-7191.