Author Archives: GEARS

Chris Gammell and I were chatting the other day (well, five minutes ago) about the hours that a professor works. And in that discussion, I was reminded of a post by GMP a few months ago, basically describing how no one cares about your work life balance. Now, I’ll pause for a minute for you to read her post. … Pause for effect… … Ok, so first I’ll hit the hours question and then tie in my little figure in above. The hours that I’ve worked so far haven’t been crazy. That’s probably because it is the middle of the summer and because I’m only supervising one student. My daily schedule is roughly: up at 5:45 am, leave house at 7:15-7:30 (Myself, DrWife, and NanoGEARS), get on campus ~8, work until 5, NanoGEARS in bed by 7, sleep sometime between 10 and 11. Most days, I drop NanoGEARS off and…

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This past weekend, Ken Cid from the US Department of Commerce was nice enough to leave us  a comment about the administration’s jobs prospects for STEM workers. The link to their blog is here [figure credit] and the actual report can be downloaded from here. Naturally, this sent us Engineer Bloggers into a tizzy for two reasons. One, They found us! And two, we would actually have to craft some sort of response that might actually be read by government media folks. You’ll probably find a better response from Chris Gammell or FrauTech, who are much better with stats than I am. Sadly, they post later in the week so you’re stuck with me for now. In Summary: The STEM Jobs Report says that 7.6M people or 5.5% of the workforce is employed in STEM fields and over the past 10 years, STEM fields have had more job growth than non-STEM fields. Also,…

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Ok, so I was lazy and just cropped my figure from last week’s entry, so sue me. Anyway, last week, I discussed a general breakdown of academic activities for faculty members, focusing mainly on research. Without reliving old glories, quality research at a top university doesn’t happen without money. A reasonable number to think of when you’re considering funding a project, it costs roughly $120k/year/student and that’s with minimal equipment. But finding research money isn’t the only part of it. A good prof has to find money, effectively mentor his/her students, write highly relevant papers, and still teach and perform academic service at their university and to the community at-large. Once again, we’re back to generically looking at the time breakdown: research = 50%, teaching = 30%, service = 20%. Towards the end of semesters or exam weeks, teaching will dominate. When it’s time for committee work or conference organization/reviewing,…

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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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So those of you who have followed me on twitter (@profgears) may have noticed my excitement over submitting my first proposal. What started as a smaller, single PI proposal actually got absorbed by a much larger proposal with multiple universities involved. I’m actually pretty glad for that because I was totally unprepared for how to write a proposal and communicate at levels much higher and certainly out of my comfort zone. And now, it’s hurry up and wait for a few months before the reviews get back. I hate this part, as does probably everyone, but it a necessary evil. So, I thought I would jot down some thoughts while it’s still fresh in my memory and I will hopefully look back on this with some nostalgia when I’m an old, feeble, tenured prof. Overall, it’s not so bad – One of the bad things about this proposal ended up being…

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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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The picture to your left sums up the meaning of my post quite nicely. That little Gear in the (see that pun!) probably only costs a few cents to make on a large scale but it performs a vital function in the system. However, that doesn’t mean if it breaks, then it can’t be replaced. (photo credit to Despair Inc) This little analogy is exactly my perception of being a engineer stuck in Large Corporation. That is essentially how your’e treated. You don’t cost much compared to balance sheets that round off at the millions’o’dollars. And you do perform functions that are necessary quite necessary but you can be easily replaced if needed. This ties in directly with an article published in the NY Times by Catherine Rampell on how companies are spending on equipment and not employees. In summary, companies are getting huge tax breaks to spend a lot…

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Last week, I posted on Engineer Blogs about how you can definitely go to engineering graduate school for free (and get paid) if you’re a US citizen. Helena posted the following comment: I’m entering college this fall as a freshman, and I’ve enjoyed reading EB for a long time. I’ve always known that I wanted to go to graduate school, but the chances seem to be slimming down, due to the intensity of the undergrad curriculum and the lack of research in my field of interest at renowned universities. The tens of thousands of dollars of debt I’ll have at the end of my undergrad isn’t helping the outlook either. What is the benefit of having a graduate or PhD level degree, as opposed to entering into industrial research for specialized companies? I intended to write just a short answer but, that really wasn’t possible. I definitely needed more space…

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Most of you who read engineering blogs probably fit into one of two categories. Either you’re in the workforce or you’re in graduate school (or higher). But today’s post isn’t really geared (did you see what I did there?) toward you; rather, it is for anyone who is an undergraduate in an engineering field or possibly in an unpaid MS or PhD engineering program. There’s a seldom discussed fact about engineering graduate school programs that every American student should know. If you want to go to grad school, in engineering, and you’re a US citizen, you can get accepted at virtually every university even with less than stellar grades, get paid the standard stipend, and not have to pay tuition. Any place that tells you that you must TA for a year or two before receiving an RA or tells you that you must pay the first year’s tuition is,…

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Every day, most of us are inundated with technology. The advances (and advantages) my generation has over my parent’s generation are enormous. Today, I thought I would discuss the five things that changed my generation for better or worse, depending on your perspective. In other words, I’d call it the list of “I wish I invented that”. I’m curious to see if our readers agree or disagree, and which ones they would change. These are loosely listed in order, saving the best for last. (My picture probably gives it away…) 5. USB Sticks Until about 7-10 years ago, flash memory was difficult to manufacture and was largely used in PCs for permanently storing data that could be used to carry the protocols that you needed to access your real data (hard disk drives). With USB devices becoming the standard for PC interconnections, this was the prime opportunity for USB storage to thrive.…

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