9 responses to “Pace of Grad School”

  1. Chris Gammell

    I think the thing with academia and most research projects is: It doesn’t matter how fast it is. If it’s as leading edge as I assume most research projects are, then an extra year or two should not matter. If the person who berated you for your speed needs it faster, it likely should not exist in academia; not because it’s slow…but because it likely is not leading-edge enough.

  2. gasstationwithoutpumps

    I think that GEARS is optimistic about the funding cycle—things were like that 20 years ago, but now few proposals are funded on the first submission. It often takes 2–3 years before any funds come after a proposal is written. This may not be a problem in pure science, but in engineering, it is often too slow.

    I think that the funding model for research in this country is fundamentally broken, with huge amounts of money and time wasted on chasing funds rather than doing research. Industrial research has almost disappeared (replaced by much shorter time-frame development) and government funding has become more bureaucratic and more “mission-focused” (meaning short-term application rather than long-term creation of new ideas).

  3. FrauTech

    I agree about industry being short sighted in general. But disagree about the timelines presented. Sometimes I work on prototypes that we make next week, next month, and next year. Sometimes we anticipate needing a new component design that is years away and slowly make progress on it along with everything else. I think the difference is that cutting edge in research may not make it to industry for 30 years. Or maybe 10 years but some other application. Cutting edge is often very expensive and many of the basics in automotive and aviation applications have not changed much in 50 years. Yes some things have but “better” for commercial industry is different from “better” for research. Eking out a .01% higher temp material is cool and all but industry tends to adopt changes that are easiest for the most output. Changing the flow of my cooling system duct might be less cutting edge than the fancy new material but is easy and it works. I don’t mean to dismiss research but it’s not just a one way street of great ideas always flowing out and into the commercial world.

  4. Jed Sutherland

    Pure business people (I’m talking about MBAs and accountants) focus almost exclusively on cost and time. They are under the illusion that they can do “everything” better because they have a clear goal in mind and don’t put up with any namby pamby navel gazing.

    One of my bosses in a manufacturing operation was an accountant and he thought that solving problems on the floor was just as straightforward as putting new figures in his spreadsheet. He didn’t understand trial and error as an important engineering activity. It didn’t help that we despised each other.

    Aside from a MEng degree, I’ve spent most of my time in industry. I can say that no project I’ve worked on or any project I’ve heard of has ever been on time or on budget.

    In one case, I sat by while a VP in charge of new products worked through the ramifications of cancelling a project after $10 million (that’s Canadian, so it wouldn’t be as high in Greenbacks) and 3 years’ labour was expended on a spiffy Java application for surfing the net on your phone. This was in the prehistoric 90’s. Prior to this bombshell, the VP had repeatedly asked such thought-provokers as, “What is this thing really going to be used for?”.

    That’s the question you ask at the start of the project, not at the tail end. In this instance, the academic approach of clearly understanding a problem would have been a breath of fresh air.

  5. Jed Sutherland

    Oh, and by the way; I don’t think the project was ever officially cancelled. However, equipment and staff were gradually assigned to other projects. So much for facing up to one’s mistakes;-)

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