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Re: Engineering Education & Professional Practice

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When I graduated from UCLA many years ago, I knew what a 2x4 was only because my Dad had taught me about building.  I didn't know how to do much engineering at all, but because of my engineering education at UCLA , I knew how to think and how to find information.  Nevertheless, I think that my UCLA training has served me well and my employers too.  Fortunately, my first supervisor was a great mentor -- maybe I would not have made it without his patience and direction.  At the time, I thought that all structural engineers came out of school with the same kind of background that I had.  Then I started meeting Cal Poly San Luis Obispo graduates, and realized that those guys started their first job already knowing how to analyze and design real projects, and I was impressed.  Those were the guys I wanted to snag when, a few years later I was interviewing candidates.  The candidates that I didn't want were those who knew how to use formulas but couldn't explain what they meant.
I don't expect to ever find a graduate from a any structural engineering program that is trained for the kind of structural engineering that I do: repair and strengthening of old buildings and archaic structures.  As far as I'm concerned, I'd want someone who can use statics, who is reasonably familiar with modern structures, but just as importantly, is fascinated with engineering and with old structures, that can think and can dig for information, and can put to work what he has taught himself.  I know that I would not get out of having to be a mentor to him or her.
Nels Roselund
Structural Engineer
South San Gabriel, CA