Author Archives: Cherish The Scientist

Last week, on April Fools’ Day no less, I was informed that a book chapter I’d written last year had finally been published online.  The article is about electrostatic discharge (ESD) and how it impacts a particular class of RFID tags.  While I’ve gotten pretty comfy dealing with RFID, at least the ultra-high frequency (UHF) variety, I am actually far more interested in ESD as area of study.  The physics of ESD is fascinating, primarily because it’s so difficult to get anything resembling a quantitative model. ESD generally begins as a build-up of charge, which can happen in many ways.  One of the most common is through frictional transfer.  More simply, one object rubs against another.  The model is fairly intuitive: two materials come in contact with each other, and as they move across each other, electrons that are held too loosely by one material jump to the other material.…

Read more

This week’s theme on Engineer Blogs relates to networking and finding jobs.  I have both worked in the Real World™ as well as being a grad student and an engineer in an academic research group. My experience getting jobs before I returned to school in my mid-twenties was almost bi-polar.  People didn’t go so much on recommendations, and most of the jobs I applied for were in the paper.  (Yes, back before the internet became the world’s largest classified ad.)  I was living in southern California at the time, so that meant, of course, that I had a hard time getting jobs because I was usually competing against several hundred applicants.  I had an easy time getting jobs that I didn’t want and that didn’t pay well, but it was very difficult to find jobs I actually enjoyed.  The low spot was spending a year working as a secretary at…

Read more

My alter-ego is a geophysicist because, somewhere along the line, I decided I didn’t want to be sitting at a desk all day.  I was under the impression that because geologists are outside all day, geophysicists must be, too.  There is some truth to that argument, but it turns out to not be applicable to the types of geophysics in which I am interested. However, being a geophysicist has given me plenty of opportunity to hang out with geologists, and sometimes they have strange ideas.  On the other hand, it was actually another engineer with an interest in geology that gave me the strangest idea of all.  In fact, he offered me a beer if I could follow through on his idea.  (This is standard fare among geology folk, but I opted for a handmade milkshake from the local hole-in-the-wall burger joint near campus.) This particular friend, along with several…

Read more

Sometimes we go through an experience that makes us wonder if it’s really worth it to continue on our current path. I had one such experience when I was nearly done with my master’s. If I hadn’t been so close to finishing, I would have quit. That experience was a class. The worst part was that it was an undergraduate class. Going into engineering from physics, there are, as in any field, a few core classes I was lacking. I was not prevented from taking any grad classes due to this deficit, but I was required to take about four undergraduate classes before I could graduate. The third one of those was one that I felt reasonably good about. I had taken a couple upper-level math courses that were relevant. With that sort of preparation, significantly more than most undergrads in the course, I felt like the class shouldn’t be…

Read more

When we look at the people around us, we often take it for granted what they can accomplish with minimal effort.  In my experience, this is most true in a college classroom.  College professors are often people who have been very successful in the educational system.  Because of this, they are very reluctant to change how things have traditionally been done as they fear that doing so will lower standards. Until I started my MS, I tended to agree with this perspective.  However, a few things came together that changed my opinion. The first was that I was taking a class, and the professor announced that they needed a note-taker.  No one volunteered, so I spoke to the professor after class and said I would.  It turns out that the person needing the notes has a serious disability preventing her from writing.  I also made friends with another engineering student…

Read more

This week’s theme at Engineer Blogs is our favorite class. While the notion of ever sitting in a class again (except something fun, like a foreign language) makes me want to gouge my hand out with a dull pencil coated with hydrofluoric acid, I do have a lot of fond memories of classes I was in.

Read more

The above video gives an idea of what places like Walmart would like to do with RFID, and this type of item-level tagging is what has been driving the market.  RFID has been in use long enough that this sort of thing ought to be available, but it’s not. Why? Let’s start with RFID: it works like a barcode.  You have a scanner that reads the barcode using lasers.  In order to read the barcode, you need a line of sight: the scanner has be able to “see” the light hitting the barcode. RFID is similar, except it’s using a frequency of electromagnetic wave different than the range of visible light.  This frequency doesn’t require “line of sight” because objects that are opaque in the visible frequencies will be transparent at the operational frequencies that RFID systems use.  This is because RFID tags use antennas to capture and modulate electromagnetic…

Read more

A profesor I once knew began a conversation with, “What classes are you taking this semester?” I responded, “I’m taking a class on teaching, a-” “Teaching?! Why are you taking a class on teaching? You don’t need a class to learn how to teach. You just do it.” The irony of this is that this professor was considered one of the worst teachers in the whole department. Chris’ post on a ‘tinkering class’ got me thinking (again) about what is really a good way to educate people.  And despite some of the comments on Reddit, Chris is actually on the right track for some of the more current thinking on approaches to STEM education. So what do you want from someone educated in a STEM field?  Obviously they have to have a certain amount of background knowledge, they need to have problem solving skills, they need to be inquisitive and…

Read more

It’s probably time for an update. First, as you may have noticed, we have two guest bloggers: Paul Clarke and Mike Barr.  Paul works in PCB design (and a lot of other things!) and Mike is in embedded systems.  Rumor has it that we have another non-sparky who will be joining us soon. Second, we’d like to say thanks to other bloggers (and Twitterers!) who have posted links to the site.  Both Rich Hoeg at NorthStarNerd.org and The Hermitage have posted great reviews.  Additionally, John Dupuis at Confessions of a Science Librarian has posted not one but TWO posts.  He gave our site an introduction as well as interviewed us. Finally, FrauTech is guest blogging over at Scientopia.  You can check out her first post (The ‘E’ in STEM) here.

Today, I’m going to step out of my role as an EE and briefly explore the world of geological engineering. I am, after all, working on a degree in geophysics, and throughout my education, I’ve been exposed to the applied side of geology and geophysics a few times. One of the reasons I find this field interesting is because I live in a city on stilts.  Fargo is built on top of sediments of glacial Lake Agassiz, a huge prehistoric lake that formed when glaciers melted after the last ice age.  The glaciers melted from south to north, leaving the path to Hudson Bay blocked by ice and the water without a place to go.  This meant that the lake sat there for thousands of years, giving it plenty of time to lay down a layer of silt well over 100 ft. thick.  The silt is clay that easily absorbs…

Read more

70/79