From: Bill Polhemus <bpolhem(--nospam--at)swbell.net>
Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2000 10:27:33 -0500
Albert Meyer wrote:
> I am glad to know that a university local to me, which just recently
> added a college of engineering (Rowan University, formerly Glassboro
> State College)is integrating specification writing, bidding procedures
> and other relevant "real life" engineering issues into its curriculum,
> but to really cover all that the graduate should know would take nearly
> the time it does to get both a BCE and MCE.
I have to admit that, as "sheepish" as I used to be about my grad school sheepskin--I graduate with an M.S.C.E from the University
of Alabama-Birmingham, hardly a "name" institution--in the years since I have come to appreciate the practical nature of my
undergraduate and postgraduate education.
I have hired and otherwise interacted with many graduate school products who were BRILLIANT when judged by the depth and breadth of
their research work, but who didn't shine quite so brightly when it came to more practical matters.
Not that they were "bad engineers", just that the laud and celebration they had experienced in their graduate school careers had
somehow led them to believe that they had "arrived" fully years before they had any right to expect.
Most of them had a real "attitude" of heightened self-importance. They were "golden kinder" at their educational insitutions, had
published papers and presented them at conferences where other academics assembled to hear them pontificate, and generally were not
at all in tune with what was expected them in a day-to-day workplace environment.
My understanding is that in the days, weeks and years following the successful launch of the Russian Sputnik, the engineering
academic community, in a panic to realize that the scientific world was passing them by as the ones who "got things done", decided
to approach their subject matter in future from a vastly more "research-oriented" perspective. It may have been necessary to do some
course-correcting at that time, but I think, personally, that the pendulum has swung too far.
There IS a role for research in our field, certainly. But because engineering academia is far and away dominated by Ph.D.s--and
given that a Ph.D. indicates NOTHING about one's readiness or willingness to impart knowledge, but signifies only that one has shown
the capacity to conduct independent research--it shouldn't be surprising that graduate students come out of their institutions with
1) a perspective that "all engineering" is about research, and 2) that since they themselves have "accomplished" something already
in the realm of engineering research, they have "arrived" as engineers, given their limited understanding as a consequence of number
This is a long-winded way of saying that personally I don't think it matter a heck of a lot, in a design office, whether a new hire,
who has never worked full-time as an engineer, is a B.S. or Ph.D. The requirements of the position are such that EACH has a lot to
A kid with a B.S. is not prepared to "conduct independent research"; the Ph.D. is. But is that a useful skill or ability in YOUR