Engineers in Cali, Colombia Are Reducing Wear, Tear And Corrosion

Female engineers from the Universidad del Valle Faculty of Engineering are leading efforts to reduce the impact of wear, tear and corrosion, in order to save money, lives and the planet.

Professor Sara Aida Rodríguez, researcher at the Fatigue and Surfaces research group, said that one of her lines of research is focused on the practical study of tribology, the science of the interaction of surfaces under different conditions, from a prosthesis within the human body, even a hydroelectric turbine turning sediment-filled water.

This story is part of our new series of articles showing the work of women leaders in research at the Faculty of Engineering in anticipation of Engineering Week 2021, (November 24-26), with the theme of "Woman in engineering : research, entrepreneurship and innovation for the development of the region. "

Within the Research Group on Fatigue and Surfaces is Marcela Barona, physicist and master's student.

Barona explained that corrosion is damage produced by reactions (electrochemical) while wear is more due to interactions by contact and relative movement (physical).

"Corrosion in particular is a problem in the biomedical, marine, oil and food industries," said Barona, adding that the combination of stress and humidity conditions in these environments accelerates this process.

Barona participates in an ongoing project that studies an alloy (a material with a mixture of metals), manganese steels and aluminum, to observe the effect of aluminum on the deformation mechanisms and in the specific case of Barona's work on the effects combined corrosion and wear.

"These two processes are different but they happen at the same time and if we can understand the process better, we can lower the impacts on the material," said Barona, adding that her goal is to publish the results in a scientific publication in the following months.

As part of the same project, Professor Rodríguez and her team focused on using X-ray diffraction to estimate determining properties for the performance of these alloys.

A scientific publication, with the results, was published in the journal Metals in October 2021: Stacking Fault Energy Determination in Fe-Mn-Al-C AusteniticSteels by X-ray Diffraction.

Profesor Sara Aida Rodríguez, researcher at the Fatigue and Surfaces research group Crédito: Andrew James/NCC/Univalle

Women in STEM

According to a scientific article written by Professor Rodríguez and her sister Laura (who is also a professor at Universidad del Valle), less than 30 percent of engineering students in Colombia are women.

"However, the average is generated by the relatively high participation in fields such as food engineering," the professor warned, "In mechanical engineering and electrical engineering the participation is less than 10 percent and even more alarming is the participation of women in systems engineering that fell from 45% to 28% in the last 15 years."

In most of the world, women's participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is much lower than that of men.

Professor Rodríguez attributed this trend to a number of factors, including the family environment.

"Adolescents can be very influenced by parental opinions or perceptions ... If parents do not think that STEM is a path for their daughters, they are less likely to study this," said Professor Rodríguez.

"One idea to improve participation is to educate parents so that they can see that STEM areas are a valuable path for their daughters."

Fortunately, Barona said, her parents, a scientist by training and a graduate, provided an environment where there were no negative preconceptions about gender and STEM.

“When I was a little girl my dad didn't want to buy Barbies or other dolls for me… I played with cars and other kinds of toys with my brother,” said Barona. Despite some timid advances, Professor Rodríguez said that there are structural problems worldwide that also affect Colombia.

"Right now there is no childcare center or lactation station in the entire university," adding that this is true for most universities in Colombia.

"This is particularly hard for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, because this is the age when most people are starting their families."

Photo: Professor Sara Aida Rodríguez, director of the Research group on Fatigue and Surfaces Credit: Andrew James / NCC / Univalle

 Closing the income gap

Another aspect is that there is an income gap between men and women.

“In the specific case of many engineering fields, women are earning 15 percent less than men, despite having the same qualifications, years of experience and workloads  exactly the same job — but this gap decreases with the years of training and reverses when women have a doctorate,” Professor Rodríguez said.

She explained that an increase in the participation of women in engineering can help close this gap: in general, women earn the same as men with at least one year less training, which represents a difference of 24% in the case of professionals.

“Female engineers have payroll salaries 2% higher than the average of professional women and this difference increases with the years since graduation and 15 years after graduation, an engineer has a salary 30% higher than a professional woman average with the same years of graduation,” Professor Rodríguez explained.

Professor Rodríguez stated that the International Network of Women in Engineering (RIMI for its acronym in Spanish) is already providing training to Univalle researchers to learn how to negotiate better salaries. This is one of the points that will be discussed in the student leadership workshop that will have its second edition within the framework of Univalle's Engineering Week 2021.

If you would like to contact the researcher or learn more about the project, contact the Office of Communications, Faculty of Engineering: comunicaingenieria (at)

Banner Photo: Marcela Barona, physicist and master's students in the Faugiue and Surfaces Research Group. Crédito: Andrew James/NCC/Univalle


  1. Importante empresa del sector de alimentos requiere estudiante de últimos semestre de ingeniería sistemas , para apoyar el proceso de tecnología y comunicaciones, apoyar la instalación, reparación y mantenimiento de los equipos y sistemas de información efectuando los controles periódicos necesarios, atender las solicitudes de soporte realizadas por los usuarios en la mesa de ayuda, giagnosticar los requerimientos de soporte que llegan mediante la mesa de ayuda, Apoyar el soporte técnico de software y/o hardware de la infraestructura tecnológica de la compañía y proceso de desarrollo

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