Author Archives: Cherish The Scientist

  There have been several posts on EB about how recruiting students into STEM is just a Ponzi scheme.  However, I finally came upon an article that provided a potential outlet for all those engineers who can’t find a job in engineering. Management!  (I can see you hooting and hollering already.) According to research conducted by Identified and Harvard Business School, engineers and other STEM-type people are quickly taking up many of the top spots in most businesses.  Specifically, Identified found that nearly 3/4 of CEOs in all industries have advanced engineering degrees.  The Harvard Business School study determined that part of the reason that engineers are often at the higher levels of companies is that those companies are seeking people with more specializations. I can see a couple down sides to this: most engineers I know aren’t necessarily interested in getting an advanced degree, nor are they interested in…

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When I was a kid, I used to take things apart to see if I could figure out how they worked.  I realize I’m probably like every other engineer in that regard, but I was also one of those who failed to put things back together many times.  I suspect I may have been more successful with time, but my parents put the kabosh on that particular behavior pretty quickly.  Thus, I was doomed from the get-go as an experimentalist. I learned to program when I was 9, and it turned out I was actually pretty good at it. Ironically, I never considered a career involving programming until college.  I had wanted to go into physics after having a great time in high school physics classes.  I love figuring things out, and that’s what physics was: non-stop problems that you had to figure out. It wasn’t until I enrolled in…

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Have you ever felt like walking back to your desk was like running a gauntlet?  Walking through rows of cubes where everyone is eyeing you as you walk past?  And then when you get to your desk, you’re in a mock prison cell with a couple other people.  Inevitably, one of them gets a phone call and starts chatting up the person on the other end. And your stuck listening and not being able to concentrate on your work. If you’re in a situation like this, it turns out that your company may be wasting some good money by sticking you there.  The New York Times recently ran a piece called  The Rise of the New Groupthink.  The article discusses how creative people are often introverts, need to have real private areas where they can work alone, uninterrupted. How often do you have that situation at work? It turns out…

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  It’s interesting to hear about the hiring process, both from the perspective of the potential employer as well as employee.  Recently, one person I know has been interviewing for engineering jobs and giving me detailed accounts of the experience.  He particularly contrasted two experiences. One job called right away, flew him out for an interview after a quick phone interview, and offered him a position within a week.  Another job waited several weeks before calling him; vetted out references; went through phone, in-person, and then another phone interview; and finally sent questionaires to several references. Obviously the second process was far more stressful than the first.  However, I was surprised at the response from my colleague when all was said and done: he said that he felt like the second company really wanted him, while the first was looking for a warm body.  It worked out well, as he…

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In 2004, there was a huge hulabaloo when President Bush was caught with something beneath his jacket.  He was having a debate with John Kerry when he was caught on film with some sort of bulge beneath his jacket.  The images were analyzed by Dr. Robert M. Nelson, a photoanalyst from NASA who normally uses his skills on planets and moons, who said the object was consistent with a tube or wire of some sort rather than the wrinkled shirt that Bush claimed it was. It’s unlucky for Bush that his run for office had such unfortunate timing.  A current area of research is the concept of the wearable antenna, and such a device might have made a bulging problem in his campaign go away.  (Although, of course, we know that it didn’t impact it seriously.) Manufacturing wearable antennas is not easy, however.  Many of the current models involve doing…

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I was having lunch with some coworkers today, and one of them started talking about another place where he worked. He was saying that people were ranked individually and as a team, and when the company would hit hard times, people at the low end of the totem pole would get tossed. I was a bit horrified hearing this, and then he said this was a pretty good situation. Apparently at another company with which he’d worked closely, people were ranked solely as individuals with no regard to the team. This meant that there was very little incentive to cooperate with teammates – if you helped your teammate, that meant you were decreasing the odds that your teammate would get canned and upping them for yourself. In other words, it seems to encourage backstabbing and secrecy. Almost all of us agreed that we would not enjoy working in that sort…

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Tomorrow is my last set of classes this semester.  I never know what to do the last day of class, as I have to admit to missing the interaction with the students.  I have had a couple students who have kept contact with me after taking classes from me, but for the most part, I won’t see them again. I always wonder if there are some great words of wisdom I could share with them.  In the past, I’ve also told my classes that I really enjoyed teaching them.  This semester, I decided to forego any sentimentalism and show Dave Jones advice to recent grads.  Some of the advice is specific to someone who wants to go into hardware design, but a lot of it is good for college students to hear in general. [tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daxit0dupF0[/tube] As a student or professor, what do you expect out of the last day of…

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I recently read an opinion piece by G Pascal Zachary in the IEEE Spectrum basically saying that NASA is an obsolete dinosaur whose time has come.  We need to get rid of it and put all of that money into funding private ventures. Uh…no. Let me begin by saying I don’t completely disagree that NASA needs an overhaul.  NASA suffers from the same bureaucratic mess that is inherent in any large organization, whether it is a corporation or government entity.  Large organizations suffer from bloat and tend toward a certain amount of activity that is a waste of time.  On the other hand, a good amount of that ‘waste of time’ has been deemed by taxpayers as necessary: people also want accountability.  If you put an emphasis on accountability, then you have to expect that people are going to spend a significant amount of time doing things to show that…

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As today is Thanksgiving (in the US, anyway), it seemed appropriate to talk about my favorite kind of engineering: food engineering…more commonly referred to as cooking.  I guess you could call it that, but I take my cooking far too seriously to do something like slap some bread in the toaster and claim I just cooked something. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday because I love to cook.  (Washing dishes is a different story, and my husband has been officially designated as chief dish-cleaning engineer.)  Since I reached adulthood, I’ve been searching for the perfect combination of dishes for Thanksgiving.  Of course, even the perfect dish takes time to perfect. So how you develop the perfect Thanksgiving meal?  I think that’s going to change from person to person, so rather than giving you a list of recipes, I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the other things…

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The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training employees and keeping them.  Zig Ziglar Back when the economy wasn’t in the dumpster, I was talking to a friend who works at one of those Internet (with a capital I) companies.  He was complaining about their inability to find people with the right qualifications.  After spending time talking with him, I ascertained that what his company really wanted was for someone in the same position at a different company to be laid off so that they could hire them. His company had a very exacting list of qualifications and wasn’t willing to train any potential employees.  They wanted someone off the shelf, so to speak, and weren’t going to take anyone without those qualifications.  On the other hand, they would wait months rather than train the employees themselves.  It didn’t make much sense to me at the time. FrauTech has…

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