5 responses to “Why Research?”

  1. Moiety

    As I fill the gap between acedemia and industry I have a different view. Acedemic research is typically very fundamental and small scale. That deos not mean it isnt expensive but it certainly is limited in scale.

    Industrial research is more applied and larger in scale. Consider that Vattenfall are leading CCS for example but universitites will develop the material sceince behind the technology. Chevron is the largest investor in geothermal applications (and yes that is a research area) but the underlying technology related to the pumps and materials often are developed by acedemia.

    In other wors the two work together. Acedemia is clever but industry has more street smarts.

    As regard training, all industries train their people. In fact I would say that again acedemia provides the necessary basis for a scientist/engineer to become sucessful. It is how the person applies this in their later job (whether acedemia/industry) wll define how sucessful. One thing that is definately true; in my industry it is very rare that a ”student” engineer at any level (BEng to post doc) will ever be train on a true pilot plant.

  2. GEARS

    Can I have my thunder back plz! (JK)

    WRT the Bells Labs comment: That was a particular issue I was going to discuss next week. Industry, with their quarterly profit reports, cannot afford to throw money at a problem that may not produce anything in the long run or it will take too long to see the results. For instance, if a company is going to spend $5M on research to only net $10M in a few years, it’s not worth their time in most cases, even if it has the potential to net $100M 20 years from now. In industry, it’s all about the next 6 months.

    Universities are places for high risk, high reward research. Do you think big pharma is going to research drugs for rare diseases that only affect 1000 people a year or are they going to pursue the next anti-depressant that also teaches you spanish at the same time? Universities are basically the only places where you could do that research because you don’t have to worry about profit margin, making not only integral for grad students/postdocs but also to society at large.

  3. Electrical_Engineer

    I agree that research is important, that American companies are failing to do basic research as they once did, and that these days the American university largely fills the role that Bell Labs and others did. I also support additional research funding for universities.

    However, my claim is that too many schools have top-notch research while failing to educate undergraduate students. This is a shame not only because those undergraduates are paying good money to the university for sub par teaching, but also because it discourages average students from pursuing engineering simply because they think they cannot learn it.

    Graduate students and above average undergraduates have already learned how to learn regardless of teaching quality. But mediocre undergraduates benefit immensely from effective teaching. At a time where America is competing to produce more engineers, effective undergraduate instruction is critical.

    Many students do not plan to do research. They would benefit from excellent instruction in engineering basics that they could apply every day to problems in their work. It is unfortunate that these students would attend a university that places more importance on research and graduate student employment than teaching. To me, this should be a basic mission of a university.

    One other thing I still don’t understand is where the money goes. When I was in graduate school, I calculated that I was paying roughly $100 per hour of class time. There were at least 10 students in the class, a typical size. Even if you assume that after tuition assistance each student actually pays $50 per hour, that’s $500 per hour of class.

    I know that teachers don’t receive anywhere near that amount in compensation; where does it go? Is it that research is not financially necessary per se, but has other benefits? Everything I read says the opposite: administrators rely heavily on research dollars to fund engineering departments. Why?

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