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Re: Idle Question...

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Never said that I can't write...just don't like to write much.  And my
"dissertations" for the List don't really don't reach the same level as a
true dissertation!  I can plow off one of these babies (even when I get a
little long winded) in minutes!  <grin>

As to your comments to Bill, I would disagree with your comment that
length of time should not be a major consideration.  The length of time to
get a PhD could be a major consideration depending where someone is in
their career.  If one is in the later part of their career, then by the
time a PhD is complete (and the presumed benefits could be realized) they
could realistically be a few years from retirement and get such limited
benefit from the PhD that it would not be worth the time and cost.  I
believe that Bill is older than me (how much older I don't specifically
know...but my guess is that it rougly 10 years or so older than I [I am in
my mid 30s if it matters] based upon comments/posts that he has made in
the past) which could mean that after he completes his PhD (assuming he
goes that path), he could be as close as about a dozen years aware from
his desired (and thus hopefully for him, his actual) retirement point.  If
so, then that could mean that he would only have about a dozen years or so
to reap any benefits from a PhD.  And thus I would have to say that it is
reasonable to wonder if that would be enough "bang for the buck" (i.e.
benefit) to spend a half dozen years or so workin' his a$$ off (more so
than just overtime on the job), missing time with his family, and
potetnially cost (typically there is not a whole lot of direct cost to a
PhD as one usually gets their way paid for by being a TA or RA, but that
may not be as possible if he wants to maintain his job which means that he
could not be a "fulltime" teaching assistant or research assistant and
thus may have to pay for tuition himself).

I agree with your comments on what a PhD may or may not get one.  It is
definitely a must, by and large, if one wants to be employed at a
university to teach and do research.  I agree that in general most would
get the benefit of a PhD from just taking a few course rather than getting
the degree.  I will offer, though, that he does work at a type of company
where a PhD can potentially have a real benefit.  It is certainly not
NECESSARY to have a PhD to work at a company like WJE (I have a good
friend that works for WJE here in Michigan and she does not have a PhD and
I don't believe that she intends to ever get one), but it can be a good
thing.  So, I certainly think that it is reasonable to consider it.  If he
were working for a typical A/E firm, then I would think he would be nuts
to be considering a PhD as a PhD can potentially be some what determental
in the eyes of such firms (at least in my experience).


Adrian, MI

On Fri, 20 Jan 2006, Daryl Richardson wrote:

> Scott,
>         Eh?  What's that?  You Scott?  Not a great writer?  Ha!!
> Bill,
>         Scott has made several good points.  His time estimate is pretty
> much on target with mine.  That said, however, in 2012 you will be six years
> older than you are now whether you do it or not; so the length of time
> shouldn't really be a major consideration.
>         I think the three most important questions to ask yourself are: why
> are you doing this; what are the alternatives; and what effect will it have
> on your personal life, including your family.
>         A Ph.D. won't gain you any knowledge that you can not get by
> supplementing your Masters degree with a few extra courses.  Being Dr.
> Polhemus may increase your personal self worth or your credibility if you
> testify in court a lot, or are active in business development for highly
> technical projects; but it won't (in my opinion, anyway) make you a better
> engineer.  It is, however, pretty much a necessity if you want to change
> careers and go into research or university teaching.
>         Alternatively, you could take some unrelated courses either for
> personal interest or to expand your horizons.  For instance, in my case, I
> took an MBA degree.  It didn't help me make a transition into management but
> it did help me to understand, and be satisfied with the fact that I'm not a
> manager; I'm an engineer.  Period.  It also helped me to gain a greater
> understanding of the importance (and lack of importance) of engineering in
> the grand scheme of project execution and development, and in the importance
> of good business decisions.
>         Now business decisions are often not made because no one realizes
> the need or benefit of making a decision.  As an example, consider the
> following.  A couple of days ago I posted a general inquiry for comments
> regarding a heritage building restoration project.  This building will have
> scaffolding complete with poly hording for weather protection up the entire
> facade for a good many months.  This poly is as ugly as sin; but, if it can
> be replaced with an attractive mural with some tasteful advertising, the
> revenue generated would be more than all of the combined engineering fees
> for the project.  It is astonishing that we are the first to think of this;
> but the City of Calgary (population about 1,000,000) has no permitting
> procedures in place to deal with our request because they haven't had to
> deal with it before.
>         What effect it will have on your personal and family life is, of
> course, something you will have to assess for yourself.
>         Good luck with whatever you decide.
> Regards,
> H. Daryl Richardson
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Scott Maxwell" <smaxwell(--nospam--at)>
> To: <seaint(--nospam--at)>
> Sent: Thursday, January 19, 2006 9:30 PM
> Subject: Re: Idle Question...
> > Bill,
> >
> > I contemplate from time to time going back a finishing off my PhD (I had
> > completed the class work and was to the stage of doing the research and
> > dissertation).  I do believe that there is someone that I know who is
> > doing it right now, but I won't name him...I will let him speak for
> > himself if he so chooses.
> >
> > It is certainly doable, but it would be tough.  First, I doubt that you
> > would be in a position to do experimental would have to select
> > an analytical topic.  If you do experimental work, then there typically is
> > a heavy "need" for you to be in the lab preparing and testing specimens.
> > A analytical topic could in theory be done remotely and during the evening
> > and weekends (i.e. computer analysis, computer coding, etc).
> >
> > In general, in case you were not aware, you are typically looking at about
> > 1 to 2 years of class work depending on the school (U of Michigan required
> > roughly 30 credits of additional classes).  Part of this "classwork" can
> > be independent study stuff, but usually are formal classes that help you
> > in the area that you have chosen.  Then you are into the
> > experimental/analytical stage to get your "data" for you dissertation.
> >
> > You should figure that under "normal" circumstances that is takes on
> > average about 4 to 5 years.  Some doing analytical work can finish in
> > close to 3 years if they work the a$$ off.  And some take close to 7
> > years.  Obviously, working while also doing your PhD will likely effect
> > how quickly you can get it done.
> >
> > I contemplate it, but then my "gainful" employment is technically a
> > part-time job and I work mainly from home.  So, I have more "room" than
> > typical to fit in other stuff.  I know that I would likely want to do
> > experimental type stuff not analytical stuff (but even if I do
> > experimental aimed research, there would undoubtedly still be a component
> > of analytical work to be done).  As such, I know that I would have to be
> > willing to spend a year or two where I am spending significant period of
> > time at the research lab at some university (Michigan is the likely choice
> > for me if I don't wish to relocate, but could consider temporarily
> > relocating somewhere for period of time...but don't know if that would
> > effect my part-time work or not).  My "sticking" point is that I am not a
> > big "writer" and don't look forward to having to write a dissertation
> > (part of the reason why I bailed before).
> >
> > I would say in general a PhD would not be worth it, but since you have
> > joined WJE, that statement is not as applicable anymore.  Doing
> > repair/forensic type work is the one area of structural engineering where
> > a PhD does not really "work" against you.  If you were working for a
> > typical A/E design firm, then a PhD would likely hurt as much as help (at
> > least from my experience).
> >
> > Your biggest challenge would be are there any schools that offer PhD
> > programs in structures that are reasonable close to you there in Houston.
> > Obviously, there is Texas (REALLY good for structures) and Texas A&M (I
> > know that they have a PhD structures program), but both of those (Texas
> > for sure) would still be hard to "commute" to if you had to spend
> > significant time on campus.  And I don't know how willing either would be
> > to allow you to do it largely remotely (I have to believe that you would
> > have to spend at least a couple years there on campus).  And I don't know
> > if there are any schools in the Houston area that offer structural PhDs.
> >
> > In the end, I would say that it would be a LOT of work for you to do and
> > would take you around 6 to 7 years to likely complete.  Not to mention
> > your wife/family might start to miss you. <grin>  If you plan to stay with
> > WJE for awhile, then it could be rather useful, OTOH.
> >
> > Tough call.
> >
> > Good luck with it if you choose to go for it.
> >
> > Scott
> > Adrian, MI
> >
> > On Thu, 19 Jan 2006, Polhemus, Bill wrote:
> >
> >> Anyone here ever done, or thought about doing, a Doctorate while still
> >> gainfully employed?
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Seems like it'd be awfully hard to do, but I'd like some hard facts.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> (FWIW, I did a Master's under these conditions, and it WAS tough...)
> >>
> >> William L. Polhemus, Jr. P.E.
> >> Senior Associate
> >> mailto:bpolhemus(--nospam--at)
> >>
> >> WJE
> >> Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
> >> Engineers I Architects I  Material Scientists
> >> 10235 West Little York, Suite 245
> >> Houston, Texas 77040
> >> P: 832-467-2177    F: 832-467-2178
> >> http://www <blocked::http://www/>
> >>
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> >
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