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Stress Engineer with a PhD?

Stress Engineer with a PhD?

Stress Engineer with a PhD?

Dear All,

I am in a bit of a struggle and I would love to hear the opinion of experienced professionals.

Although I did go through a "soul searching" phase during my college years, I knew very early that I was passionate about two things: (1) solid and structural mechanics and (2) aicrafts , so being a stress engineer in an aerospace company has always resonated with me.

Here is the complication. When looking at the typical path followed by hundreds of stress engineers, I see a trend : A Bachelor degree in aerospace engineering, some internships as a junior stress engineer, sometimes a MS (if needed) to slowly but steadily move all the way up to a senior stress specialist position.

Instead, I decided to go for a straight shoot: Bachelor Masters and PhD (with a 6-month internship between the BS and MS). I just got excited about learning advanced concepts and wanted to give research a try. After earning my PhD (about a year ago), I have been applying to several stress engineer positions, and unfortunately I was only able to obtain one phone interview (Airbus) and one on-site interview (Mojave desert). Both did not offer me a position due to my "lack of practical experience".

Was it a mistake on my part to deviate from the more traditional path? Although I do not want to lose hope, and I did some very involved advanced structural mechanics during my PhD years, I feel like companies rather go with a young bachelor rather than risking hiring a PhD with no "practical feel" (at least on paper).

Is anyone here in a similar situation? Even if you are not, I would be very grateful for anyone would be willing to drop a line or two.
I am still so motivated to one day get the opportunity to work a stress analyst, but I still have not found a way to crack open the door. Many thanks to all of you.


RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

in my experience, whilst there are places for PhDs, most a/c companies will shy away from them as being too theoretical, not sufficiently practical, likely to get bored with the day-to-day work, ...

having all three degrees (Bachelor's, Master's, and PhD) sends off alarm bells ...

maybe spaceX or burt Rutan or similar ?? i think traditional a/c companies (Boeing, Airbus, etc) will be scared of you !

Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

I don't know about the a/c side of Boeing, but Boeing has plenty of PhDs in general. In fact, Boeing was one of the few companies that claimed to have a technical career path that was at least somewhat comparable to the managerial side. They had a Tech Fellow program that recognized scientific and technical contributions from senior engineers/scientists.

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RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

Some people will be put off by the advanced education without much practical industry experience. One concern is you'll be expecting to get paid more for having the phd but at least initially may not be much more productive than someone with a BS unless you happen to be doing something directly relevant to your phd. I see this currently with some of our fresh young Phd's (different sector I'm not in Aero currently).

However, it may be worth applying to all the vaguely relevant aero places you can find, not just those posting actual jobs or the big name companies. You already applied to one Mojave based company, there are others in Mojave andother out of the way places like that too. There are lots of smaller companies for instance I interviewed at http://adapt.aero/careers.html a few years ago but clearance issues being from the UK originally made it problematic. Have you applied to govt jobs like some of those on China Lake & Edwards AFB.

Look for all the small companies & govt contractors that service the larger companies and US govt too etc. NDTI, SAIC, Jacobs SVEDRUP...

Are you eligible for a security clearance i.e. are you a US citizen with no big black marks against you?

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RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

Cirrus aircraft is currently hiring, check there.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

My copy of 2012-2013 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems lists 1378 RPASs in development or in production, worldwide, in 53 countries. Of those, at least 744 are listed as being "proof of concept demonstrator" or "development continuing." It seems to me that this would be a plausible starting point, i.e., a small company that might be less choosy about experience. Develop your experience there, and then decide where to go from that point.

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RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

Thank you all for taking the time to give your 2 cents.

rb1957 and KENAT : You two are right. Companies can be intimidated by PhDs, and since they will require training anyways, a fresh Bachelor who can be underpaid is simply the most practical solution.

However, having taught several classes on structural mechanics and finite element method to undergrads, I often see them struggling with these concepts, but yet, they send me thank you emails after being hired by Raytheon, Boeing, etc ... I can't tell you how frustrating this is!

KENAT: That is another part of the problem, I am a French citizen. I was interviewed in the Mojave desert with a small company who is developing recreational lightweight airplanes. That tends to be the best option, no security clearance needed. But to be honest, I noticed that many stress engineers are actually foreigners (Not many US citizens). As long as they bring many years of experience, I am sure there is always a way to waive some of these requirements. I am definitely not there yet.

IRstuff : Thank you so much for your input. Is this document in the free domain? Are these companies listed? I think everyone is right, I should spend time looking into smaller companies.

Finally, what I am trying to convey to companies is that we typically are approached by ABAQUS, ANSYS,LS-DYNA etc during conferences where we show that the theory we have developed during our phD (and confronted to experimental results) leads to better results than what is available in current FEA softwares. (this is where most of my colleagues work now). But having spent many years developing new methodologies and coding them is C++ was enough for me. I think I can be able to be a "proficient user" now, as opposed to a developer ...the practical aspect is very appealing. I hope I can convince some HRs :)

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

i know of a phd stress eng (fatigue, dynamics, strength etc. of trains or components) at siemens.
what did you do for your phd?

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

I developed new FEM formulations to predict the deformation of 3D beams under large deformation and plastic collapse. These methods were applied to lightweight structures such as honeycombs, aluminum foams, etc ..
Since it is not directly applied to aircraft structures, I think that many companies don't see the strong relationship between the work I have done and the structural mechanics knowledge necessary to do hand stress calculations/FEA.

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

seek research positions, not "ordinary" stress analyst. that is for BS/ MS.

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

I know a PhD who works for Bombardier, in Toronto, so I don't think it's fair to say that companies are intimidated by the degrees. The peons in the HR department, maybe...
Hopefully you don't lose heart because there are probably opportunities for you out there.

If you're in the USA, can you try "going over the heads" of the aircraft companies, literally, by looking for work with NASA, or with satellite / launch vehicle manufacturers? NASA, DARPA, and defence agencies like them fund all sorts of projects big and small.


RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

I have worked, and do work, here in Europe with F&DT engineers and stress engineers who have PhDs. The PhD itself is no big deal. However, it is fair to say that they are not usually assigned the "cookie-cutter" analyses.

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

Loki3000, SparWeb, Fastmouse thank you for your inputs. I am sure some PhDs were able to make it to this industry. The difficulty is in convincing that the lack of practical experience will be quickly resolved .... and of course getting the resume to the right hiring manager. I am still working on it. Seems like having the right connections is the key in any field.

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

I think it is all fallacy that Airframers do not want stress analyst who are PhD holders. I am sorry to say this, most of the major commercial/military aircraft projects ongoing currently need stress analyst who can jump on a project and get going very quickly, hence emphasis are placed of previous practical experience as a stress analyst.

I know of several stress analyst who are PhD holders who got employed not too long ago as R&T researchers and some on senior stress expert roles. The reality is, if with your PhD you are unable to carry out classical stress analysis by hand, Finite Element Analysis using one of two of the most popular FE codes, classical and FE Fatigue analysis, unfortunately, you will struggle to get a job with any major OEM in aerospace as a stress analyst.

FYI, Airbus looks beyond just your theoretical knowledge in recruiting. They look for people with values that align with their Airbus Ways.

RE: Stress Engineer with a PhD?

Coming from a guy who recently finished an MS in Aero, while working in the real world... I personally was frustrated dealing with young PHD professors who didn't apply structural mechanics to real world applications, and I think that is where managers are hesitant to test your experience. I had several profs that went to the Nth degree, as research tends to go, but in the real world we stop within 5% or 10% accuracy. Be aware of the simplicity that stress analysis is in the industry. Your PHD sells your intelligence. Now you must convey your desire to expand your knowledge base into the "industry" side of aerospace. That would probably be the intro on my resume if I was in your shoes. Pick up a copy of Flabel and Bruhn, if you don't already have them.

Also, from what I'm told from friends looking for jobs, the market is down right now. So don't beat yourself up. Just be modest and eager to learn when the opportunity arises.

On a side note, a manager once jokingly told me that they try to limit one PHD per floor because if there is more than one, they always inevitably find each other and argue over the most insignificant details.

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