Feature Stories

Teaching with Technology: Innovative Faculty Advances Student Research

fernanda leite

Assistant professor Fernanda Leite has a passion for teaching and technology. She enjoys working with students of all ages.

When construction engineering and project management assistant professor Fernanda Leite was eight years old, she accompanied her grandfather, a developer of high-rise residential and commercial buildings, on a life-changing trip to a construction site in her native Brazil. That site visit sparked an interest in construction. Years later, an enthusiasm for teaching also developed when she taught English in an after-school program.

“I absolutely loved the feeling after teaching a good class,” says Leite. “So I married construction and teaching to get where I am now.”

Her main research area is Building Information Modeling (BIM) which sits at the interface of visualization, collaboration, and automation in construction. She is interested in formalizing tacit building design and construction expert knowledge. Her goal is to understand how expert designers in a multidisciplinary setting make decisions, and use their knowledge to improve, and ultimately automate, design coordination processes.

She has also been using BIM to develop installation work packages in industrial projects, and BIM integrated with 3D point clouds to track construction progress and for early installation error and defect detection.

Another long-term project includes working on the integration of BIM, sensor-based data, and safety knowledge for autonomous jobsite safety monitoring.

Leite joined the faculty at UT CAEE in 2010 after earning her Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon. While a graduate student, she was a teaching assistant for an advanced undergraduate and graduate level course where the students learned construction management concepts and tools such as estimating, scheduling, and 4D CAD.

This past spring she saw her first Ph.D. student graduate in the Cockrell School of Engineering commencement ceremony, a proud moment and career milestone for Leite.

“I advise all of my students to pursue a career they are passionate about,” she says.

In addition to her teaching and research, Leite is the faculty advisor for the construction engineering and project management (CEPM) Graduate Student Organization.She leads CEPM’s Explore UT activity center and is a faculty advisor for the Office of Equal Opportunity Texas Research Experience (TREX) program. Additionally, she serves as editor of CEPM’s Alumni Newsletter working in conjunction with Professor Emeritus Richard Tucker.

Outside of work, Leite is a member of a rowing team at the Austin Rowing Club. She trains a few times a week and competes at local regattas.

Leite was recently featured in Engineering-News Record in an article on women in construction.

Read the article "Advancing the Industry Through Research and Teaching".