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The reason for the change

After 10 years, an engineer leaves the university to work in information technology at IBM

Carreiras_2W6A0766Photo IBMThe desire to devote himself totally to applied research was the main reason why computer engineer Renato Cerqueira, 45, left his position in academia to work in a private firm. After 10 years teaching full time in the Informatics Department of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), in September 2011 he moved to the IBM Brazil Research Laboratory in the city of Rio de Janeiro. “I have always enjoyed applied research and looking on as the fruits of my work are made available to society. One day, a colleague from IBM Research invited me to take a test at the new laboratory in Rio,” Cerqueira says. He was interested, took part in a selection process, and was hired.

At first, Cerqueira was placed in one of the IBM Research teams, but after one year on the job he took over the management of the laboratory’s Solutions for Natural Resources Unit. This unit is responsible for tackling scientific and technological challenges that the oil and gas, mining and agriculture industries face, by developing solutions that pull together analytical models based on data from physical models built on cloud computing platforms.

In his everyday work, Cerqueira leads a team of a few dozen researchers that specialize in different fields, such as computer science, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering, applied mathematics, statistics, logic and linguistics. This team researches and creates new software methods and technologies to characterize and manage natural resources and improve operations in the industries of the natural resources sector. “For example, these programs help oil company managers decide whether or not to develop a given oil deposit. I work in an environment replete with incentives, and I am exposed to a vast array of challenges. I interact with scientists who work at IBM laboratories in a number of locations around the world,” he says. “Working in an organization with a global network of 3,000 scientists is wonderful.”

The decision to leave PUC-Rio, however, was not so easy. That is where Cerqueira earned his undergraduate, master’s and PhD degrees, and the last two were in computer science. In the 10 years he taught at the university, he published more than 40 scientific articles and served as advisor to 38 master’s and PhD students. He says he misses the classroom and academic environment, and that he plans to return to teaching. But there’s a condition: “It has to be without giving up my work in the company because it has brought me so much satisfaction.”