Tag Archives: research

Now that I’m back from a conference and the semester is winding down, I have a little more time to spend with my graduate students. One of the things that I’ve tried to get them to understand is the importance of getting results [quickly, if possible]. Now, I’m not one for uppity, self motivating, happy-go-lucky theories like the seven habits of highly effective people or market research mumbo-jumbo (although I did steal their picture). However, I am a true believer that, in research, success breeds success. One of the most motivating times for me is when I’ve just had a paper published. I feel a sense of accomplishment and, like any drug, I want more. To come full circle back to grad student mentoring, I’m trying to get my students to understand that if they get some positive results [hopefully quickly], then they will be motivated to get more. And…

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Currently, I’m out of town attending a workshop with some very specialized people in an area in which I’m trying to make inroads. And while I won’t bore you with the details (I knew people could have such levels of nuance), I will share with you a comment that I heard over drinks. Let me paint the picture for you a little bit first. I was having a discussion with someone very high up in the food chain about current/potential/future projects. This person asked a very specific technical question related to the problem, something that would mean significant money for the company that person represents if possible. I, wanting to hold on to my ideas, remained steadfast with a response like “Talk to me in 18 months when we have it working in the lab.” This is basically a nice way of saying like hell I’m going to let you…

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There’s been a constant call in the media to recruit more people into science, technology, engineering and math. I’ve talked a lot about this issue on my own blog. Mainly that I believe the argument that we are graduating too few people into STEM disciplines is one propagated by industry to keep wages low on the one hand but also to feed their desire to expect more and more from entry level employees and cut back on training that was standard in the past. There’s been reports on both sides, arguing that impending mass retirement will create a shortage and others that we’re falling behind other countries and need to catch up. Other concerns are probably valid but mis-targeted. Analysis I have done on open jobs shows that the kinds of engineers we’re actually short of are software engineers and programmers and developers rather than the more core engineering disciplines. But…

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the variety of authors we have at Engineer Blogs. We have a mix of  academic and industry engineers and each arena provides its own challenges and goals. But one major thing we have in common is probably getting the test equipment you need. In the photo, USN avionics technician Norton is repairing a test bench (via Morning Calm News). Test equipment can kind of run our lives and our schedules if we aren’t careful. Academics are probably familiar with scheduling time at strange hours and working around the other researchers and students who might need to share the same equipment. Those of us in industry have similar issues with whose project takes priority for the EMI chamber or the oven. Does heat treating a production piece after a weld take priority over an emergency investigation of a material that might be failing at lower…

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…when you have a lot of other stuff to do. It’s not that blogging is difficult, although I think I’m running low on relevant topics. Rather, it’s more of a time crunch that’s killing me. I started blogging last February over at GEARS (not that I’m trying to self promote…) thinking that 30 minutes per day writing about some of my experiences with the tenure track process will be good for me. I’ll be able to clear my head, vent occasionally, maybe get good advice from more senior readers, and possible help someone else that’s in my shoes. Plus, blogging makes me keep up with other bloggers. I particularly like following Dr. Becca (@doc_becca, Fumbling Towards Tenure Track Tenure) even though she’s a scientist because we’re both at the same stage in the game. When she posted about being paraded around like a new puppy, I totally understand what it means to go…

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Last week, I started to respond to a reader’s question: Why, with the high cost of university tuition, can’t schools have teach-only professors? With a ratio of 20:1 in the classroom and a rate of 100/hour (roughly), why do professors still need to get research dollars? Is it economically feasible to have teaching-only professors? Why doesn’t this happen more? Why do universities have to rely on research funding to stay afloat? We were talking about the demands on researchers and how that prevents better teaching (because so much time is involved chasing funding) and were questioning why not just give up the research side of things? In Part 1, I answered the questions from the perspective of a community college and my estimated numbers simply did not add up to make this feasible. Cherish jumped in to the foray, essentially saying that research and teaching go hand-in-hand. I commented on how…

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Last week, I discussed my initial thoughts on submitting my first proposal. One of the comments I received was from Chris Gammell via twitter stating that most engineers never write proposals and certainly not large proposals. I was actually quite shocked for two reasons. The first reason was  because I know there are some academic types that read this blog that probably see large proposals on a regular basis. The second reason was because my impression about industry is they have a lot more money to work with than academia and so large proposals should be fairly common. Since there was this misconception, I thought I would discuss and breakdown an academic position (in engineering) to show how each facet works together. The overall breakdown is shown in that nice little figure to your left. Roughly speaking, research topics should consume 50% of your time, teaching 30%, and service 20%. This…

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This week at Engineer Blogs, we are discussing the worst mistake we’ve ever made. However, that theme is somewhat difficult for me as I am a perfect human being who has always been right, or at least argued my point successfully until my opponent has been convinced I am right. Actually, I’m completely joking and I have make more than my fair share of mistakes. However, I’m going to refrain from discussing them for political reasons. Instead, I thought I would discuss something that I’ll never know if it was a mistake until it’s too late:  Skipping the postdoc stage of an academic career. First, some short background. Unlike many academic engineers, I did my UG and MSc at the same university and then moved on for my PhD at a different university. It seems like the norm is to do UG at one place and then move on for your…

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Just today I turned over the first fresh page in my brand new lab notebook, having filled up my last one. This is lab notebook number four for me, in my four years so far in grad school. It’s a fantastic feeling when you have accomplished enough (or, at least WRITTEN enough) to fill another notebook. In my undergrad Intro to Engineering class, I remember we spent an entire class period on documentation and proper lab notebook protocol. At the time, I mostly assumed that keeping good notes was important so that a) YOU could remember what you were doing, and b) so OTHER people could figure out what you did after the fact. Then in grad school, I took a product design class, and we again spent an entire class on lab notebooks. Now, though, the reasons were different. It’s imperative to document well so that a) if you invent…

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