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Should engineering faculty be licensed?
13

Should engineering faculty be licensed?

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

As I've said in these forums before, when my son was in Engineering School he was told by the department head of ME that Co-op was a waste of time and that my son "would learn everything he needed to know in the classroom and labs". This individual had never received a paycheck from a non-academic entity in his life and he is making that kind of impact on the industry. That was several years ago and I'm still angry about it.

I would go beyond the authors of the article and not only require anyone teaching a Junior/Senior/Graduate Engineering course to have a P.E., but to also say that: (1) academic effort should not count toward experience requirements unless there is actual supervision of the EIT professor by a P.E. professor; and (2) ABET should pull the accreditation of any school that blatantly ignores state license laws (ignoring the law is absolutely an ethics issue).

I've often thought that I'd like to teach in an Engineering school when I get tired of consulting. With an MSME and a P.E. I would not even be considered for the faculty of most Engineering schools today, and if I happened to get hired it would be as a second class citizen unless I got a PhD first. Something feels wrong with that picture.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

David, you can still find faculty positions at some teaching universities that don't require a doctorate. I did, with my M.S. and P.E. I used to be a full-time consulting engineer and a part-time faculty member, but I've reversed that. I even get my students working on my consulting problems, and they love it!

The problem is often finding younger working engineers (who haven't reached retirement age) willing to take a pay cut and accept a faculty salary. Mine was around 25%, but I'm able to make up the difference by consulting part-time. If universities were willing to hire retired engineers, they would have higher faculty turnover rates, which is problematic.

Not all engineers are cut out for teaching, either. Many don't have the patience, or don't relate well to students, etc. I approach teaching the way I was taught to be an instructor in the Navy nuclear power program, and I think the instructor training I received helps make me a better engineering educator.

xnuke
"Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life." Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

As I recall the instructors in Vallejo in 1972, I've never heard of a college class that would tolerate those training techniques. The guy with the chalk in one hand and an eraser in the other would be especially offensive to students who object to not having the PowerPoints printed out before class. The guy who threw the eraser at anyone nodding off would be in court for assault before Halloween. Great school. Changed my life (I was a D- student in high school and magna cum laude in university). Not kinder and gentler.

I look at the adds at the end of the SPE and ASME magazines and they're all pretty specific about PhD. Maybe I should look elsewhere.

I'm not sure that turnover is as much a problem as universities want to make it appear. I had some professors in grad school that had been there forever and were really mailing it in, had the attitude that they had heard every stupid question and lame excuse ever invented and really didn't want to hear it again--that attitude projects apathy and gets apathy in return. New instructors have a tendency to be nervous and excited. That isn't all bad.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Requiring every engineering PHD in the country to meet the PE work experience requirements before teaching would make it nearly impossible to find professors. The lack of knowledge academics have in the business world is tempered by the fact that students have to get that business engineering experience to get their PE. One year of post grad education max towards your PE is a good rule, which is what most states follow as far as I'm aware. I think the current rules are about right.

Now, if (god forbid) states started to drop the work experience requirement, then having profs with work experience would be a lot more important.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

David, unless you're willing to work as an adjunct professor, I wouldn't even bother looking for an academic position. They place zero value on your industrial experience, and since you don't have a Ph.D. either you wouldn't even make it past the first round. I have my Ph.D. and a PE and 20+ years of industrial experience, and I worked as an adjunct professor in the College of Engineering at Syracuse University for 9 years. To this day I still haven't gotten one single in-person interview for a full time faculty position at any college or university that I applied to. Not one. There are simply too many candidates. Each opening typically draws 300+ applications, and at least one of those candidates will have exactly the background and experience that they are looking for.

The faculty want you to demonstrate an ability to bring grant money into the university, which is what they consider to be your primary responsibility as a faculty member. They simply assume that anybody who applies could teach their courses. Ever notice how one or two of your former professors were terrible at teaching? The university didn't care as long as they brought in enough money. If you have no history of acquiring grant money then forget it - they won't even consider you.

Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Maui,
Something is really wrong with that picture (and it wasn't "one or two" professors that lacked the ability to get students enthusiastic about the subject, it was about half).

In my naive mind, I figured I'd bypass the job posting step and network into a position. Guess that might be a stretch.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Some of what I am hearing is such a sad view of our education system.

This may sound strange, to some people, but JR colleges really are a much better place to learn. But they don't go beyond the two years.
JR colleges are a much better place to encurage young engineers to enter into the fields. As it seems the major universities don't care about the students.

As engineers we don't have to have a PHD to teach the lower level classes, or even sub for them. We are very qualified in the fields of math, physics, Maybe computer science, chemestry, etc. And it is a position to encurage the students who maybe good at something, but don't know what they want to do.

This is not to say the major universities are not the place to teach, but there are other options than just what is being presented.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

beej67,

My state, and many others, I'm sure, counts time teaching engineering courses as time toward licensure:

Quote:

Oregon Administrative Rule 820-010-0010(4)
Time spent in engineering teaching subsequent to graduation shall be listed as "engineering work."

I really don't like this regulation because it means the work requirement is different than the practice of engineering for engineering faculty.

xnuke
"Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life." Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

David:

I agree with you here. Your son's prof really is dosconnected from reality here. All school does is prepare you for the FE (EIT) exam, nothing more. There is absolutely no way one fresh out of school, ouside of the experience restrictions, could pass the PE, let alone the SE. I did a work-study program for four years, two years as an undergraduate student and two years as a graduate student, and it helped me immensely.

I challenge the profs to take the PE exam and see if they can pass it. At all theory and no field experience, I don't think I would be surprised at the results. Do they even know what the IBC is?

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
http://mmcengineering.tripod.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I'll qualify this by saying I've spent my career so far in 'exempt' industry and in the short-medium future so no real advantage to my becoming PE.

Back to the OP, I'd say being PE comes behind more generally having industry experience which itself comes behind fundamentally having some ability as a teacher.

As alluded to above and even in the piece, the majority of universities (or at least the big name ones etc.) seem to put research aspects far before any of the 3 issues I mention.

Plus, for some specialties it could be very difficult to find PE's, as those specialties are primarily practiced in exempt areas of industry.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I was fortunate that all of my civil engineering professors and most of my other engineering professors had both PhDs and PEs. The two civil lecturers I had each owned an MS and a PE. Most of these guys (and they were all guys) also had at least some "real" work experience behind their PEs. In fact, my engineering school (Fresno State) prefered engineering profs to have some non-academic experience on their resume, though it wasn't required. In addition, several of my civil profs consulted on the side or at least during the summer break.

I generally think that a professor with a PE brings more to the classroom than one without, though one of the best profs I ever had came with zero non-academic experience. He was a newly minted electrical engineering PhD who was handed a civil/mechanical engineering graphics (pre-cad) class an hour before it started and he nailed it. He was starting from scratch and learned it on his own. It didn't hurt that he was also one of the most brilliant people I have ever met.

So, to answer your question: I don't think a PE should be required to be an engineering professor, but I think it should be strongly encouraged.

==========
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

The other advantage to making professors obtain PE's might be that they would be too busy to keep making our codes more and more detailed based on their research. Or, shockingly enough, maybe simplify a code for once instead of continuing to make them more and more complex when they have to run the calculations on a 'real' project for them.

I recently sat in a panel discussion with several professors from state university's (I was the only 'real-world' representative) for the purpose of reviewing a state engineering course. The topic of teaching about licensure came up and the overwhelming responses of the academics was "well so few civil engineers need registration that it isn't practical to spend a lesson discussing it". There is your problem...

PE, SE
Eastern United States

"If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death!"
~Code of Hammurabi

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

At least in my field, the really good professors have taken the PE/SE and have passed it. Great ones will keep it up to date so they can consult and bring in extra $$$.

More important than having professors pass the PE/SE, however, is to ensure that these guys are stressing the importance of EXPERIENCE on their students. Go out and do internships. If you can't get a paid internship, do an unpaid internship. When you have to buy codes for class (as a structural I had to buy ACI 318 and AISC 360 at a minimum), actually READ the codes. Don't just go over the parts for class. Read as much as you can. Once you get out, you are responsible for and expected to know and understand every word in there.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I am grateful that I attended a state university that was focused on under-graduate education, especially in engineering. Most of my professor's had some form of professional experience. A number of them did not have PhD's. From what I hear from the current crop of interns that are attending the same school, that is changing. The school is bringing in more PhD's without industrial experience. If any of my kids want to pursue an engineering education, I'll definitely be looking for a university with a small or non-existent graduate school.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

In Canada, enginering universities must meet the requirements of the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB). One of those requirements is that a certain fraction of the faculty need P.Eng. licenses. The license is equally meaningless as it is everywhere in practical terms, i.e. unless you are self-employed, the only person you have to convince that you are an engineer is your employer, but the thought is there.

Unfortunately, while "work" experience under the mentorship of a P.Eng. is required (4 yrs total), actual industrial practice working as an engineer is not required to obtain a P.Eng. license. Accordingly, most of the universities' faculty are now pure academics who rarely have meaningful industrial experience. That's different than it was when I was in school- we had a few key profs with some significant industrial work experience, and it made a big difference to the way they taught.

The supply of people wanting to be university professors is apparently limitless here too. At some universities, the "faculty" consists of true faculty (at some unis these amount to something like 25% of the people actually doing the teaching) and contract "faculty"- people who have to re-apply yearly to teach courses they've been teaching for 10+ years in some cases. This is less true in engineering than in some other disciplines, but I wonder for how long.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

That's very interesting, xnuke. I'm reasonably sure Georgia doesn't allow that. I hope we don't, anyway, I'd never want some guy with zero design experience to have the license to design something and oversee other designers. I know I could only count 1 year worth of post graduate education towards it.

I do get to use time spent teaching as an adjunct towards my continuing education though, at quite a reasonable exchange rate.

On the adjunct thing, I've been fortunate enough to land some adjunct teaching positions at Southern Polytechnic State University here in Atlanta, and had quite a lot of fun with them. I do not know how hard it would be to land a full time job there, as I haven't really explored it, but I do know that they need PHDs to teach any class that's considered an Engineering class, as opposed to an Engineering Technology class, even if the PHD is a crappy teacher and the Masters or other degree holder is an awesome teacher. Quality doesn't matter, degree does. I believe the requirement comes from ABET.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

beej67:

Here's Georgia's statement, courtesy of Georgia Law Governing the Practice of Professional Engineering and Land Surveying:

Quote:

43-15-10. Evaluation of engineering experience.
(a) For the purpose of determining whether an applicant has acquired the experience required under Code Section 43-15-8 or 43-15-9:
(1) Responsible charge of engineering teaching may, in the board's sole discretion, be considered as responsible charge of engineering work;

ABET's requirements are in their Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs, 2012-2013:

Quote:

The faculty must be of sufficient number and must have the competencies to cover all of the curricular
areas of the program. There must be sufficient faculty to accommodate adequate levels of student-
faculty interaction, student advising and counseling, university service activities, professional
development, and interactions with industrial and professional practitioners, as well as employers of
students.

The program faculty must have appropriate qualifications and must have and demonstrate sufficient
authority to ensure the proper guidance of the program and to develop and implement processes for the
evaluation, assessment, and continuing improvement of the program, its educational objectives and
outcomes. The overall competence of the faculty may be judged by such factors as education, diversity
of backgrounds, engineering experience, teaching effectiveness and experience, ability to communicate, enthusiasm for developing more effective programs, level of scholarship, participation in professional
societies, and licensure as Professional Engineers.

There is nothing in there requiring a Ph.D.

If the college has a master's or doctoral program, faculty advising graduate students will typically be required to have a doctorate or other terminal degree in the field they are teaching. Also, the majority of grantors will want to have a Ph.D. as the principal investigator on any funded grants, so most universities that want to bring in a lot of research money will only hire faculty with earned doctorates. These are some of the major reasons why almost all faculty have doctorates.

xnuke
"Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life." Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Quote (kylesito)

. The topic of teaching about licensure came up and the overwhelming responses of the academics was "well so few civil engineers need registration that it isn't practical to spend a lesson discussing it".

I'll add a similar comment here as over in the other thread about FE/PE testing.

There are a variety of engineering credentials and licensures engineers may be involved with during their careers. A general course reviewing licensure, along with law and ethics as they pertain to the profession of engineering would be a welcome addition to the basic undergraduate engineering education. I can think of more than a few things it could replace.

A suggesting that engineering faculty, on the whole, should be PEs completely overlooks the fact that not all qualified, experienced engineers are PEs. It seems the good folks at eng-tips regularly forget about all the fine engineers who are not PEs for some reason, often because the work in an exempt industry. I'm sure there are at least a few PEs who are twits as well (law of averages).

That said, I am all for professors with real world experience; before I finished my masters I learned that a generic sounding class from an "associate" professor with day job was a much better bet than a fancy sounding class from a professor with a storied academic career.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Yes, there are more than a few P.E.'s that lack the "common sense" to close their mouths while looking up at a rain storm and drown if the rain lasts long enough. There are more than a few industry-exempt engineers that are world-class. Having or not having a P.E. is more about a decision someone made to take the damn test or not.

Requiring a P.E. to teach engineering is not any kind of assurance that the individuals will be worth much, but it will assure that they've seen something other than school. When someone has worked as an Engineer they understand that most problems are solved with empirical equations, and that solving an ODE with real-life data is kind of rare. They will understand that a number will have an uncertainty range around it.

You still have to teach Diff Eq, but you don't have to be so very smug about it. I didn't even know that empirical equations existed till some time after graduation when I was trying (like may engineers do) to solve all fluids problems using Bernoulli because it is just about the only closed-form fluids equation that exists (my mentor took exception to me using it and made me go back and review the underlying assumptions I'm violating when I set my control volume at 15 miles of 20-inch pipe).

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Thanks for the corrections, xnuke. I can't say I'm pleased with the first correction, but I rather like the second one.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)
It seems that if profs were registered, it would foster professionalism and perhaps elevate our status a bit. I've met some non-engineer types that truly believe engineers are dorks and nincompoops.

Outside of aiding the profession it's never mattered to me if profs registered or not. Now I think a bit differently. If I have to register in each state to stamp drawings, hang my shingle, etc., it seems fitting that profs register to instruct aspiring young engineering students. But, better heads than mine can work that out. smile

I know many excellent engineers who never registered. I don't fault any engineer for not doing it. Likewise, I don't want to be faulted because I did it. I've had more than a few derogatory comments from those not registered thrown my way. I did it because it was encouraged and recommended. I was young, stupid, and ignorant but my profs seemed knowledgeable and wise so I took their advice.

A former employer used having the PE as a criterion for promotion. It's opened doors in industry that wouldn't have been otherwise. The license was never used in those capacities but it was deemed worthy to some degree.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Years before I attended my Alma Mater the college of engineering lost its ABET accreditation. One of the steps they took to get it back was to have every faculty member sit for the PE exam. For most of the faculty members it was simply an exercise that they had to go through, and they even brought in coaches to advise these professors on developing a good test taking strategy. It worked -they all got licensed and their accreditation was returned during the next ABET review.

But the majority of these faculty members never worked a single day in industry, and the fact that they earned thier PE licenses basically did not change anything in the way that they taught their classes or how they viewed anything. For these reasons I would take this approach one step further. I believe that no one should even be considered for a full time faculty poisition in an engineering curriculum without having a minimum of 5 years of actual engineering experience under their belt in industry. No one. I believe that this would substantially broaden the perspective that engineering professors would have to teach from, and would allow them to better prepare their students for what they will encounter once they enter the workforce.


Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Is there not one inherent fallacy in all of the foregoing discussions?

Namely, what evidence is there in support of the premise that all (or at least a substantial portion) of the theoretical subject matter that a student learned from their professors in University can be superseded or overruled by "real life" or "in reality" experience?

It appears to me that to suggest that the academic teachings gained from an undergraduate (or graduate or higher) program in engineering are useless unless augmented and (implied) superseded by "practical industry experience" (read "reality") is an affront to the very science (applied science) that we, as engineers, otherwise purport to believe in.

My suggestion is simple: leave academia alone, distinct and separate, and allow academia to excel in - and teach - all things theoretical that a young engineer entering the workforce ought to be expected to know. In other words, I don't see much wrong with the status quo.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Snorgy, the problem is that some of the professors aren't even good teachers, in fact being a good teacher appears low on or absent from the selection criteria in many cases.

Of course you could argue we're stepping into the territory of if studying engineering at university is an education, or job training. If the former then indeed why care about real world experience, let alone PE status.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

KENAT,

That (your) last point re: quality of profs as teachers, I have a tough time disagreeing with.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Kenat that definately could lead to an interesting off-shoot of the discussion..."is studying engineering an education or job training".

In my mind though, the heart of the discussion should be more philosophical. The notion of registration for all engineers whether in academia or professional practice can be directly tied to how we as a profession would like to be viewed by the public.

Engineers deserve distinction for what we do. We combine the principle of math, science, and, to a degree, art into practical solutions that serve society and the public. Few other professions require such a broad knowledge of difficult subject matter and few of the those that do put that knowledge directly towards serving the public in the same way that engineers are.

We, as a profession, deserve recognition for that level of commitment. In my mind, the PE licensure should be regarded in the same way that passing the Bar exam or gaining an MD is viewed...a right of passage and a visible display of the ones credentials and achievements.

That's why I feel the PE shouldn't just be something 'real world' engineers are concerned with. It helps us all. It should be something that the public can see and recognize is a mark of achievement and a distinguishing credential which designates an engineer.

In my mind, it boils down to that. Do we want the PE to be something that distinguishes us from other careers or just something we are required by state building codes to have?

PE, SE
Eastern United States

"If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death!"
~Code of Hammurabi

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

lacajun, if you want the broader 'PE' discussion, then why did you make the thread OP just about profs etc.?

The issues related to 'should all engineers have to be PE'; 'would engineering have a higher status if we were all required to be PE'; 'should folks without PE be allowed to call themselves engineers'... has been discussed at length on various occasions. (Not to say you can't start the discussion again but I'm not sure anyone's opinion will be changed much).

I will say this, for a career you can undertake with only a bachelors degree (and for non exempt some fairly limited additional certification & ongoing education) Engineering pays pretty darn well. For law or medicine to get the required qualifications and certifications to really make the big money takes a lot more effort. Additionally not everyone in those fields makes as much as we may like to think in real terms.

Many other jobs/careers that require a bachelors degree pay much less than most engineers manage to make, my wife get's excited if she sees a job paying half what I make in her field than they usually require relevant bachelors.

Plus is the public perception of all doctors and lawyers especially so awesome that we want to emulate it? We already get accused of arrogance on occasion, not sure that elevating that to God Complex or adding to it 'bottom feeding shark' really helps much.

Maybe we should be less like the first hired hands who got a golden shekel for doing more work than the later hired hands who still got a golden shekel despite only working half the day etc. Maybe we should worry less about what others get paid for how much work we perceive they do and instead emphasize working for our 'masters' as if working for God.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

With respect to any changes to academia that are contemplated towards improving the engineering profession, to me, it depends on the approach and perspective.

One way is to simply "dumb down" the requirements for being qualified as an engineering professor. In other words, saying (in effect) that a PhD level degree is irrelevant (or of little practical use) because it tends to focus on things that do not prepare the majority of college / university graduates for their "job", per se. The other approach is to impose *additional* requirements beyond the PhD so that those doctorates teaching engineering have a better grounding in its practical, day to day application.

I would argue that both of the above approaches would probably water down the "theoretical" elements of the science, and that it would be a dangerous road to go down. In the latter approach, I would predict the evolution of an academic culture in which some of the teachers could teach only the theory but not the application, and the rest of them would be looking for ways to simplfy the theory in support of their effort to teach the application. It might also discourage certain PhD-qualified individuals to select a faculty other than engineering in which to teach and conduct research, thereby further diluting engineering talent.

I believe that it might be best to dedicate a course or set of courses concerned with practical applications of the theory as part of a mandatory core curriculum, and if necessary, look for those individuals who are appropriately qualified based on a combination of academic and professional practice credentials, to staff those faculty positions. I think that might be enough to help the students "make the leap" once they graduate.

With respect to "PE" versus "not a PE", or for that matter, "P.Eng." versus "not a P.Eng.", at the functional level, it's probably no different in Canada than it is in the United States, apart from the fact that there is little to no market value for non-P.Eng.'s up here, since without a P.Eng. signing off on everything you do, it's effectively useless. With that in mind, I do favour regulation, as opposed to deregulation, of the profession.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Snorgy, I completely disagree with your assessment. Having actual examples of how the theory is applied in an industrial setting not only enhances the education that students receive by providing them with the ability to understand how the theory can actually be applied, but it also gives them a much greater appreciation for it which makes them more inclined to learn it. At some point during the semester I would ask my students what they liked/disliked about the way in which I taught my class. And every time that we had this discussion they mentioned one of the things they appreciated the most was my ability to relate the theory that I taught in class to examples of how it can actually be applied in an industrial setting. This is something that their other professors were unable to do becasue none of them had ever worked outside of academia. Each semester I would take my students on a tour of the steel mill where I worked full time, and allowed them to see first hand each of the operations that I had described in class. This engineering course was taught by me in the fall, and in the spring by another professor. Each year that I taught it, my class grew in size and the spring class shrank in size. The last year that I taught this class I had 86 students sign up, and they had to give me a lecture hall. And this was for a junior/senior level engineering course.

Most students don't want to sit through a class that is pure theory that can't be applied in some manner to accomplish an objective. Having the ability to relate the material to something they are likely to encounter on the job provides them with preparation they are eager to obtain, and makes them better prepared for the work they have in front of them.

Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I'm with Snorgy. I think universities are for theory - both teaching and advancing the theory of engineering. A PE isn't needed.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

There just isn't a "black" version and a "white" version here, just like EVERYTHING in Engineering it is all gray. The point about "where do you put the application" is an important one. It would be wrong to dumb the theory down to make room for the application, but as Maui pointed out if you can relate the theory to something that a person can feel and touch they'll get it better.

What exactly makes application "dumber" than theory anyway? In both undergraduate fluids and a half dozen graduate-level fluids classes I never once had a professor mention "gas volumes at standard conditions". So when I started working, I was REALLY fuzzy on what the hell those SCF things were. That fuzziness caused me to do some reasonably stupid stuff (e.g., calculating velocity using standard volume is pretty stupid) which a couple of times led me to conclusions and recommendations that were not supported by the correctly calculated data. That is "application", but the way it works is pretty damn theoretical.

Another fluids example--compressibility (or deviation from ideal behavior). I never heard (in a fluids class) that a gas could deviate from ideal behavior in a predictable way. The first time I saw a P/Z chart I was stupefied (and felt pretty stupid to boot). I can think of a half dozen places I would put a compressibility discussion in an undergraduate fluids class, and would never use air in a changing-pressure example.

What I'm saying is that folks like Maui can teach theoretical subjects and use illustrative examples from the planet we live on. That in no way "dumbs down" the theoretical discussion, it drives it home.

As to a "practical" class, I think that that class should be senior design which should never be taught be someone who hasn't been on the economy.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

My apologies for using the term "dumb down", it was not intended to be derogatory.

The fact is, not everyone who has what it takes to be an engineer also has what it takes to get a PhD in engineering. If this was not true, then all of us would have PhDs and would be able to derive everything from first principles and intelligently formulate the calculus behind 3-dimensional fluid flow problems, making direct application of theorems such as Green's, Gauss' and Stokes. But we can't all do that. In my view, a PhD is to be held in the regard that it deserves: a higher level of education achieved by someone of generally superior intellect who has been able to master the more complex level of academic rigotr than that associated with a lower degree. Who better to teach the science than that?

I don't consider myself "dumb", but I certainly consider myself "dumber than someone with a PhD".

I am also a bit shorter than Shaq. That's one reason why he became a center for the Lakers (and others) and I became...well...an engineer.

I agree with David's (zdas04's) comment insofar as:

"What I'm saying is that folks like Maui can teach theoretical subjects and use illustrative examples from the planet we live on. That in no way "dumbs down" the theoretical discussion, it drives it home. As to a "practical" class, I think that that class should be senior design which should never be taught be someone who hasn't been on the economy."

I think the disconnect arises from my perception that I think that, as a sweeping generalization, it is probably more accurate to state that most PhD folks would not do as good a job of teaching the practical side of things as would other (for lack of a better way of putting it) less educated but more experienced folks. Those who could do both would probably, in my opinion, be more the exception than the rule.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

See?

I can't even spell "rigor". There goes my PhD candidacy.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Or, perhaps at least some of the phd's figured they'd put off getting into the real world by hanging around university for a few more years on the tax payer's (or other source of research grants etc.) dime. Or maybe it was there way to citizenship/residency... in another country. Or all kinds of other factors beyond them necessarily being 'the cream of the crop'.

I work with a lot of phd's. Not all of them are as much more intelligent than me than I'd have hoped, and we have a few non phd's around that are outright smarter than many of the phd's.

Quote:

My apologies for using the term "dumb down", it was not intended to be derogatory.

Hmm, sounds like you've been working on that MBA again to think you can really get away with claiming 'dumb down' isn't meant to be derogatory.

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RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Most people are not cut out to teach. Most people are not cut out to do the esoteric arithmetic that a graduate degree in Engineering requires. It is purely a coincidence when they come together in one person. Of the two, students value the first and schools value the second.

We can all point to specific professors that did an amazing job of engaging the class to the material. We can all point to specific professors that should have never left their lab without a native guide. The "P.E. for professors discussion" will in no way fix the second group (or keep them out of the classroom). What it would (could?) do is get people who pick examples because of their applicability instead of because of their tidy arithmetic. On the other hand there would be a number of the P.E.'s who don't really have 50 years experience, they have 6 months experience a hundred times and will stand in front of the class and tell sea stories for a semester.

There isn't a silver bullet here. Having a P.E. just guarantees that you were able to pass a test at one time. We've all passed a test at one time or another.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I think electronic media tend to strip away an element of context that the spoken word would have rendered apparent.

Again, apologies.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)

Quote (SNORGY)

One way is to simply "dumb down" the requirements for being qualified as an engineering professor. In other words, saying (in effect) that a PhD level degree is irrelevant (or of little practical use) because it tends to focus on things that do not prepare the majority of college / university graduates for their "job", per se. The other approach is to impose *additional* requirements beyond the PhD so that those doctorates teaching engineering have a better grounding in its practical, day to day application.

An EE prof many years ago said he studied digital theory at the doctoral level because it was new. It was a sophomore level course in my degree plan. It helped me understand how new theories incubate in academia. I've used digital theory in my work a number of times, which has been really practical work. I know you don't subscribe to dumbing anything or anyone down. You reminded me of that lesson my prof may not have known he taught. smile

Your last point I don't quite understand your ultimate conclusion for: probably diluting theoretical teaching. Work backed up my education tremendously and highlighted areas I slacked in and shouldn't have. It seems profs would experience the same thing and be better prepared to inform students of where to apply themselves for specific reasons.

KENAT, I'll take you up on that beverage in the pub.

All Ph.D.'s are not equal but we don't have a perfect world. Since they are the "groomers" of each generation of engineers, it seems they should have a responsibility to professionalism and fostering it. They should teach the theory and prepare students for the workforce and research interests. However, as JohnRBaker wrote elsewhere, education isn't just about learning to crunch the numbers and apply the theory. It includes other areas of responsibility.

If profs take the lead on fostering professionalism, perhaps more students would choose to do it, too, and strive for the profession to have a better image than I perceive it to have. After you've taken so many exams, what's one or two more?

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

lacajun,

My last point was intended to mean that:

In my opinion, if a professor with a PhD also had a "real life, practical" background, and if he or she was teaching an undergraduate course in engineering, there might be a propensity for him or her to, for example, skip some of the theoretical background (let's assume a vector calculus derivation of some expression or other) for a concept in order to "cut to the chase" and deliver the message to the student in a way that the student might otherwise not understand. Sort of like saying, "You don't need to worry about the derivation, the equation you arrive at is...". To me, that is dilution of theoretical teaching to at least some extent.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)
SNORGY, that probably happens already, don't you think? It could happen more often if a prof was required to get industrial experience, too. BTW, you were at 'em early, eh?

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

lacajun,

I totally agree with you; that indeed does happen already. Even in most textbooks, you see statements like, "...The derivation of equation (xxx) is beyond the scope of this textbook. Interested readers are directed to Reference (yyy)....".

I think the time of my last post (26 Jul 12 0:25) reflects Eastern Standard Time; I am in the Mountain Standard Time zone (25 Jul 12 10:25).

It was a bit of a late evening by the time I got off the tractor...

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Engineering school is inescapably BOTH education AND job training. Teaching it in a purely academic context is absurd in an APPLIED area of study such as engineering. Doing a bad job of the job training part doesn't improve the educational aspect at all. What's sad is that the job training aspect is wasted on 2/3rds of the grads because they don't end up working as engineers any more.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Snorgy, the "cut to the chase" approach has been used by professors for decades, but typically not for the reason that you describe. A good example of this would be in a freshman physics class for physics majors. Many of the students in such a class have never studied calculus, so knowledge of calculus is not expected at that level, and it is not a prerequisite to take the course. The text book that is used is therefore typically not calculus-based.

In derivating the basic equations for projectile motion in a gravitational field, the argument that is used in such a course is invariably based on geometry and the use of average values for quantities rather than a rigorous derivation based on calculus. It isn't that the material is purposely being presented to "cut to the chase". The student does not possess the level of sophisitcation in mathematical ability at this stage to understand a rigorous derivation based on the use of calculus. This does not represent a dilution of theory in my opinion, but a method for building on the knowledge that a student already possesses to prepare them later on in their studies to understand the more complex methods of analysis derived by Newton. I didn't learn vector calculus until I was a senior in college, and I had to learn it concurrently with a senior level course in electromagnetic field theory. Not fun.

You have to learn to walk before you can run.


Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)

Quote (Maui)

You have to learn to walk before you can run.

Unless you're in industry...

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Quote:

in fact being a good teacher appears low on or absent from the selection criteria in many cases.

This is a very fundamental problem with education, particularly engineering education, in the United States, due a confluence of influences.

1) The qualities it takes to be a good teacher - e.g. communication skills and the ability to empathize with people who aren't you and understand what they might be thinking - are uncommon among individuals with engineering aptitude, but are *required* for high level business.

2) High level business pays better than teaching.

3) The act of teaching itself is commoditized within the educational community. As mentioned above, what brings in the research dollars is research acumen, not teaching acumen. And what brings in the student dollars is not teaching acumen, it's a school's academic reputation, which is tied primary to research not to teaching.

So there's every dollar incentive in the world to take your social skills towards business and away from teaching, if you're one of the (rarer than average) guys who has both social skills and engineering acumen.


There's your problem in a nutshell. Be damned if I've got a solution, particularly considering the impending higher education bubble.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Lacajun, it's at that point you're expected to sprint. :-)

Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)

Quote (beej67)

ability to empathize with people who aren't you and understand what they might be thinking - are uncommon among individuals with engineering aptitude

Are you saying engineers are "emotionally disconnected?" surprised

Maui, most of us look pretty darned dorky sprinting. winky smile Seriously, it does bring up a point that's been bandied about for well over 10 years, which is that people cannot keep pace and they fall behind. This leads to all manner of issues with people and society as a whole. People are expected to run "marathons" every day but that's humanly impossible to do.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I'm saying not everyone can be good at everything. It sure would be nice if there was a huge glut of people who can do high level mathematical theory, and also had high level social skills. People who are good at both are much rarer than people who are good at one or the other. And since you have to be good at the first one to be an engineer, it's highly doubtful we can find enough people who are good at both to satisfy the needs of both business and education.

The problem with requiring a PE to teach engineering, is that the people who intend on teaching engineering would just water down the pool of people with PEs. Making them take the test wouldn't give them any business experience, it'd just give them experience at beating the test.

The problem with requiring business experience to teach engineering, is that there simply aren't enough people with engineering business experience who want to teach. If you've got business experience, and you have the interpersonal skills to not only teach but teach well, chances are pretty good you're making a lot of money managing other engineers and don't have time to teach.

My advice to colleges would be if you find an engineer with business experience who also has the interpersonal skills to teach, and wants to teach, to scoop that guy up and give him a job teaching. But that advice doesn't really help the college grow, because colleges grow almost entirely through research, not teaching.

I have no good ideas for how to crack this nut.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

2
I have a suggestion: make it mandatory that people cannot even be considered for a full time faculty position in engineering until they have worked for a minimum of five years in industry, and have sat for and passed the PE exam in their discipline.

Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

"and have sat for and passed the PE exam in their discipline. "

Neat trick given that at least some states don't even have a PE for certain disciplines.

However, by all means don't let that stop those of you in protected industry from imposing such requirements on those of us in exempt.

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RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Kenat, you don't have to be a resident of a state in order to earn your license there. And if your particular state does not offer a PE exam in your discipline that may be an inconvenience but it is certainly not a show-stopper. As an example, a colleague of mine wanted to earn his PE license in New York (where he resided) but at the time the PE exam in Metallurgy was not offered there. So he took his exam in Pennsylvania where it was offered, and once licensed applied for licensure in NY through reciprocity. Simple.

By the way, I am in an exempt industry and I am also licensed in four states.

Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

By the way, the suggestion that I made above is similar to the practice that has been in place in Germany for many years:

http://www.research-in-germany.de/info/junior-rese...

Quote:

Professorship at a university of applied sciences
In Germany, alongside the universities entitled to award doctoral and habilitation degrees, which are primarily devoted to academic research and teaching, there are also so-called universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen), which focus more strongly on the application of knowledge. Candidates for a professorship at a university of applied sciences generally require a doctorate and at least five years of professional experience, including three years outside higher education.

Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I just worry about the perception (correct or otherwise) that if you set up a separate stream of schools or curriculae or programs that draw a distinction between (loosely) pure theoretical PhD-related engineering versus "practical", one will be seen as (here I go with that controversial term of mine again) the "dumbed down" version of the other, geared towards the intellectually inferior who couldn't make it as a real PhD or a real engineer. Sort of like "engineering trade school" versus "engineering university program".

I couldn't help but notice the choice of words, "...so-called universities of applied sciences...". Sounds to me like the feared perception is already a matter of fact according to some.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I think I agree with SNORGY; however, at the end of the day I think a lot of High School students are mislead into picking schools based on rankings that are established by research and not practical base of the faculty.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Yes - the department head of Engineering at my University didn't even have an Engineering Degree!!! He was an idiot.

Most of my profs had little or no clue what is was like "working" in the real world!!

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I think we should continue to view universities as institutions of higher learning wherein each student is given the opportunity to further his or her education to the limits of his or her intellectual and / or academic potential. The teachers in the best position to make that happen are those who are the most intellectually and / or academically qualified - provided that they can also teach effectively. Whether it is research or industry that drives the requirements for those teachers is irrelevant to me.

I would leave the practical, on the job training to the various experienced engineers, supervisors and mentors that have been in industry, and demand from ourselves that we step up to the plate and take on those roles. I believe that the responsibility falls upon us to help these kids make the leap from theory to practice, not just criticize them for not being well enough trained fresh out of school to make the leap themselves.

Maybe I feel that way because of the level of satisfaction I am deriving from mentoring some of these young people in my current role. It is actually, now, the only - and I do mean *the only* aspect of engineering left that I enjoy.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)
I had Ph.D. EE prof that could not communicate and he had industry experience. He was Korean, which presented communication problems. He could be difficult, which presented communication problems. In electronics, he would stand a few inches from the chalk board, mumble, and write very, very small. Often his writing would get big but sloppy so you still didn't know what was on the chalk board. It did no good to ask questions because he had a tendency to make you into an ignoramus butt because you didn't understand. His favorite thing, when completing his teaching segment, was to suddenly swing around, face the classroom, and say, "It's eegee! Unnerstan?!?"

How much did I get from Electronics I/II? Very little.

I love the man but he could be challenging in the classroom and lab.

I don't think industry experience is a panacea nor do I think registration is a panacea. Both may instill more professionalism and that may help the profession overall. We, the US, already have a system in place, from my pea brain, to account for trades, skilled workers, and professionals in the technical world.

SNORGY, I am sorry your experiences have seemingly destroyed the joy of engineering for you. I hope you get them back! smile

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I sometimes wonder if the time for 'education for the sake of education' for most in higher education has passed.

It may have made sense when only say the top 1% or less of the population went to higher education. However as the % of population that attends higher education rapidly increases (and other factors), maybe more focused 'teaching' for many in higher education may make sense.

Then again, I also can't get fully behind the elitist dislike of 'trade schools' so prevalent in the US.

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RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

When I was in the Navy I just loved asking new officers if they went to college or "trade school". The ones that went to Annapolis never seemed to understand that by "trade school" the enlisted guys meant them. Funny joke at age 20.

When I got in a position of selecting Engineers for projects I started finding out that folks from West Point and Annapolis were universally better prepared to do the job than folks who went to other schools. I don't mean to say they were smarter (or dumber) than folks who went to other (excellent) schools, but they just didn't see the world in black and white and were able to deal with the shades of gray the is Engineering far better than most.

I've never investigated the curriculum at these "trade schools", but whatever it is it seems to work well for developing people who can become Engineers.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

lacajun,

Thanks.

Not so much "destroyed" as "completely obliterated" my enjoyment of engineering, at least within the context of where I am currently employed. One of the things that industry (apparently) teaches is that it's OK to treat engineers like crap and produce mediocre engineering along as the billings are maintained.

That's not me. I try to escape from the perversion by taking every opportunity that I can to show the young folks how what they are learning in university is applied daily in the workplace. One of my highlights this year was showing a couple of them how to apply some NTU effectiveness and other Heat Transfer correlations to verify a HYSYS simulation for a heat exchanger, and having them come back to me after a day or two and ask, "If all that is true, wouldn't we be better off just swapping the fluids from shell side to tube side and vice-versa?", which although I didn't see it at the time up until the moment they suggested it, turned out to be exactly the right thing to do.

They reworked the problem. I went to Starbucks, since I had nothing more of value to add to their work.

Apart from events like that, I only take pride in shielding them from the ugliness, the used-car-sales mentality of the engineering business, focusing them instead on the direct relevance of what they are learning to the job at hand.

Their time will come when they see the stupidity in bosses and businessmen who have lost touch with their passion for engineering in favor of their hunger for profit; those people who are only concerned about "billing" and "staff utilization" anf "full time equivalents" and really don't give a rat's behind about "engineering".

My two months away from the office cannot come at a better time.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Snorgy et. al - if engineering school isn't teaching the practical application of science and math, who is? I always though those primarily interested in the theoretical side belonged over on the physics and math campus. Personally, I was *extremely* frustrated when taking engineering classes (which did not include "theory of" in the title) if the professors did not at least attempt to regularly ground the theories with practical examples.

I also doubt there are many engineers in China or India arguing about whether it is better to teach engineers theory or practice.

David - I find it humorously ironic that in one paragraph you declare a particular group of people is "universally" better "able to deal with the shades of gray".

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

"Universally" is a tough word. I didn't mean to imply that these guys were themselves "universally better" than anyone else, I really meant to say that someone suited to be an Engineer would be a better Engineer than they would otherwise be if they make it through those trade schools. That doesn't sound any better does it?

I've known some really good Engineers who went to schools that don't spring to mind when you think of "Engineering School". I always wondered how good they would have been if they had started out at one of the schools that I have tagged in my mind as preparing the best Engineers. I wonder that about myself (University of Arkansas, more regarded as a football and party school than an Engineering school).

Now I feel like I'm digging the hole deeper and will just shut up.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

"Belief" is the acceptance of an hypotheses in the absence of data.
"Prejudice" is having an opinion not supported by the preponderance of the data.
"Knowledge" is only found through the accumulation and analysis of data.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I've had some really good and practical professors who were never licensed. The reality is that many engineers in my field are not licensed and industry doesn't institute licensing requirements. As a result, there is no motivation to get a PE for materials engineers. Also, I'm not convinced that passing an exam makes one a better engineer. I think challenging experiences matter the most; you can get both in academia and industry.

MH

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/luke-autry/1b/510/566

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)
SNORGY, you need a break from the routine and a fresh outlook on life and engineering. Many of us have been where you are. Surely answers exist for your situation and I hope you find them. Mentoring young people is a wonderful outlet to have and provides a great sense of satisfaction to help others grow in anyway possible. I'm glad you have that outlet along with your dogs and family. You have been blessed in many ways. smile

I'm still thinking about the AEA and whether to join or not and contribute whatever is possible. Where the profession is today isn't exactly to my liking either.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I have always in the past think that all engineers regardless should have their PE to practice engineering, however, during my idle time for some reason I was thinking about this post and came to different conclusion that the PE really belongs in the public sector where it originated. Not all requirements are the same in the diverse career tracks an engineer can go down namely academia, public, or industry. Each has different goals and responsibilities. What would be the advantage of a professor with a PE have in academia? There are no such requirements needed in research and development. Also, what’s next, that to work in public and industry you will need a PHd? One does not need that high level of thinking in these career tracks.
As for education, engineering is such an open ended career and so many advancing technologies that academia cannot keep up with it. So the next best thing is to find out (for Mechanical Engineering at least) is to teach theories that will benefit the student in what endeavor the student follows. Engineering theories such as heat transfer, statics, dynamics, thermodynamics, fluids, materials…etc. I feel that if the young engineer has a good base in engineering theories and can apply those in to practical problems in the real world than the engineer has reached their goal everything else is PM hoopla. In my analysis career, 80% of my analysis can come straight out of the text book used in college. Actually that should be the analyst first course is to break down the problem that can be easily calculated by hand and then all of a sudden it looks like what I did back in college.
I agree with SNORGY that we need more mentors to bridge that gap from college to work. I too have mentored a few and it is always a joy to watch how their hand calcs can predicted what’s going to happen when we go test and then manipulate the hand calcs for a solution and the returning test data correlates. They’ve solved a real world problem using math and physics that they were trained back in college. It’s almost like magic to them.

Tobalcane
"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."
“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity”

Perception is reality: Your reality is how others perceive you, not how you think of yourself.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

There is a gap between the academic engineering programs at the University level and the actual engineering requirements of industry. We need to find a way to effectively bridge that gap. The best way to do this from my perespective is to educate the engineering faculty in the application of the theory they are teaching to these students. If they can learn what the application actually involves, then they can use such examples in class to drive home the point of the theory and become more effective in their roles as educators.

How anyone can say that this approach "waters down" the education that students would receive is beyond me.


Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)
I dunno Maui, my profs discussed the problem of just enough practical application to not water down the theory. This arose in the ABET accreditation reviews. In their minds, it was an issue. Most of them had industry experience, Ph.D.s in EE, and PE's, too. Dean Karkalits wanted them to get it and encouraged all graduates to get it to promote professionalism. He had some engineers talk to us, as seniors, who did not get it and wished they had. It is no indicator of being a good engineer or a bad engineer. Good and bad don't know boundaries.

Louisiana had a vo-tech system, which my cousin worked diligently in until his untimely death. He worked really hard to ensure the students got a quality education in automotive, welding, HVAC, etc. It was a good system in his day and it appears to be part of a community college system now. It's growing up. Central Louisiana Technical College When I was younger this idea was bandied about often and it appears they implemented it to some degree. Louisiana lacked a community college system and studied the system in Texas. Trade schools have a special place with me.

zdas04, I'd say the military academy graduates I've met are prepared to meet challenges many of us are unprepared for. I include myself in that category. Most of the ones I've met are very impressive. It may not be the content of the classes as much as the self-discipline instilled or organizational skills or...

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)

Quote (SNORGY)

Not so much "destroyed" as "completely obliterated" my enjoyment of engineering, at least within the context of where I am currently employed. One of the things that industry (apparently) teaches is that it's OK to treat engineers like crap and produce mediocre engineering along as the billings are maintained.

As I rode at noon today, I thought about this. Some of the way engineers are treated are abusive. I've said so to some but in a nice way. Some got it and some didn't.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

2
In my mind, an undergrad degree does three things:
1) teaches you the fundamental building blocks of knowledge in your field
2) teaches you how to problem solve
3) teaches you how to learn

The focus is on the "why" (things happen the way they due) (see #1) and equips you with the tools to solve the "how" (to do the job) (see #2 and #3). This may seem rather backwards to some, as to be "job ready" the focus should be on the "how". It is backwards as compared to technical colleges which focus on the "how" and the "why" is much less important.

However, I feel the reason for putting the emphasis on the "why" is for two reasons. The first being what Twoballcane alluded to which is the bredth of end jobs that an engineering degree can lead to makes it difficult to expect that universities prepare students to be "job-specific ready" in whatever sub-discipline they end up in. So the focus is on developing a strong sense of the underlying fundamental concepts that span across many areas. The second is that it allows the future engineers to handle those 1 in a 10/50/100 situations that fall outside of the perscriptive problem/solution that focusing on the "how" would help you with. In these situations, normally those that have important safetly implications, understanding the "why" allows you to go deeper into the issue and come up with a non-standard solution. And this is what engineers get paid for, this is the key value that engineers bring.

To bring all this back to the OP, since the focus of an undergrad education is not on training students for a job and is instead on equipping students with a toolbox of skills, it's easy to see why universities don't push for profs with P.E.'s. Now, I'm not saying that an undergrad engineering education should be devoid of all practical elements, far from it. Students do benefit greatly from a prof that can equate the theory to practice.

However, the opposite extreme, where the focus is all practical with little to no theory, is also not good. It trains people to be perscriptive problem solvers that have issues with solving things out side the norm.

What you need is a balance between the two. I feel that a much better approach than a P.E. requirement across the board is universities developing strong industry ties. Have guest lecturers come in, do field trips of local industrial plants, promote co-op programs, compete in university competitions, and promote engineering societies at university. This not only provides students with good practical, hands on experience but it also exposes students to local employeers and vise-versa.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Exactly, I dont think undergrads are prepared for a practical discussion in class. I went back for my MS after getting my PE and TA'd a few classes. I saw firsthand how they just wanted to memorize formulas and get answers...so they could make it to the keg party later that evening. They didn't care how what they were studying related to the real world, because they were still living in sheltered academia....I'm not sure I blame them; it's their last hoorah! So while making the professors have more practical background isn't a bad idea, I'm not sure it's going to have the profound impact that some in this thread think it will.

If you really want an effect, require undergrads have two years of internship prior to getting into the meat of Civil Engineering courses.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

This letter recently appeared in the Btitish Chemical Engineer's journal (The TCE). I dont know how much it adds to the argument, but I thought it was an interesting point of view. I think the author was from Australia.


With reference to your recent article on perspectives of undergraduate education (tce 852, June 2012), I have had several graduates work for me over the years in various capacities. I think as people in industry we need to ask ourselves what we can realistically expect and require from a person just out of university. I value sound technical capability as well as the ability to communicate this.
That stated, I don’t expect graduates to possess the communication skills of an experienced professional and I see it as my role to help them develop this. I also don’t expect graduates to possess the same level of practical engineering judgement in the context of all other factors (financial, culture and team dynamics, regulatory, etc). It seems to me that, to some extent, industry practitioners would like to have some Utopian graduate possessing all requisite skills without the need to train, educate or develop them.
Much of what we do in industry is, in my opinion, application of universals to the singular, to concrete situations, all the while addressing a whole range of factors, many of which are unrelated to engineering. This requires judgement and skills borne of experience. Graduates, by definition, are at the beginning of the journey of acquiring such experience.
One of the quotations in your article was from a student suggesting that undergraduates should be more exposed to aspects such as contractor management and commissioning. Perhaps this is one extremely capable graduate, but I think most graduates would struggle in contractor management without gaining experience under the tutelage of more experienced practitioners. As for commissioning, can one learn this at university? I rather doubt it.
I think that much of the ‘art’ of the practice of engineering is best learnt on the job with the guidance of more experienced professionals. In fact some things cannot be learnt other than by reflection on practice – is university the best place to offer such practice? Rather should we be careful of excessively focussing on practical skills to the detriment of scientific or theoretical knowledge of basic principles – what many would I suppose refer to as the more academic skills.
That many students lament the lack of exposure to real world experience is understandable. The question is how best to acquire that while balancing the need to ensure that graduates leave university with strong fundamentals in their area of engineering. I do not profess to have the answer here although perhaps extending the degree by one year to include more industry-based subjects could be an option. My personal preference is to have someone with strong technical capability who also has enough maturity to appreciate that there are other factors involved in the real world and be open to learning. With that I am willing to take the responsibility and make the effort to help them learn as much as possible.
However we address this, we in industry need to appreciate that some of the investment (not burden) of developing graduates rests with us


RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Quote (MainMan10)

Exactly, I dont think undergrads are prepared for a practical discussion in class. I went back for my MS after getting my PE and TA'd a few classes. I saw firsthand how they just wanted to memorize formulas and get answers...so they could make it to the keg party later that evening. They didn't care how what they were studying related to the real world, because they were still living in sheltered academia....I'm not sure I blame them; it's their last hoorah! So while making the professors have more practical background isn't a bad idea, I'm not sure it's going to have the profound impact that some in this thread think it will.

If you really want an effect, require undergrads have two years of internship prior to getting into the meat of Civil Engineering courses.
I disagree. There were those of us in college that were dying to experience the practical application of what was being taught. Unfortunately, the professors either couldn't demonstrate this or were just more interested in reading text book excerpts from power point slides instead of using a black/white board to actually EXPLAIN how things really work.

...oh and some of us would also have LOVED the internship experience. Unfortunately the reluctance of companies to hire international students was an obstacle...but ya, requiring intenrships for the purposes you outlined is a good idea, just not realistic for every student.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)
geordie87, I like the way that guy thinks. Thanks for posting his letter. He seems to still be very connected to and grounded in reality. Some forget as they progress how little they knew upon graduation. They tend to think what they know after 30 years of working they knew day one of their career.

calguy07, as a GA and tutor of more than a few students, MainMan10 makes a valid point.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Many years ago, just after the steam engine was invented, in the UK there was a push for thick sandwich and thin sandwich degrees for engineers. These exposed the undergraduate to industry and vice versa. I wonder why these rather sensible schemes withered away?

I like that letter, it was spot on.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

I did a thin sandwich degree in the 1960s. It took 4 years and the work periods were structured to give the student exposure to a variety of work environments. I spent 4 periods working for 4 different companires. They comprised 6 months each year as follows:

Working in a works lab doing tests and assisting trials on an operating plant
Labouring in in a fabrication shop (I actualy drilled a tubesheet and assembled a heat exchanger with my own hands).
Junior technician in a pilot plant
Very junior engineer in a design office.

I cant over estimate what all that gave me in terms of viewing the real world and how to operate in it, as well as the problems you encounter trying to use university gained engineering techniques in less than optimal situations (lack of data for instance).

Interestingly, because we got very short vacations, the time I spent in the university periods was almost exactly that we would have spent in a 3 year straight through course. Who needs a 13 week holiday in the summer?



RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Pamela, I am not proposing that engineering professors teach students the full rigors of a specific application so that they can then go out on the shop floor and actually do it themselves (like a trade school would). But rather to use such illustrative examples while teaching the theory so that the student can grasp how the theory can actaully be used to solve a real problem, instead of just presenting it simply as an abstract academic exercise. Obviously the theory forms the foundation for the student's education, and without this understanding they would be at a disadvantage in developing an understanding of unfamiliar manufacturing methods and processes. But the theory can be supplemented and enhanced through example to show students how to actually use it to solve a problem. And there is a practical reason why this should be done, especially now.

There was a time when companies would actually spend the first few months of employment training new graduates for what they would eventually be doing. But times have changed. Such programs cost money, and so are quite rare today. When a company hires a new employee they now provide minimal (or no) training to get them up to speed so that they can start contributing now. Pamela, this goes back to your point about industry expecting you to hit the ground running. With absolutely no exposure to the application of the theory at the University level and no training by the company, what is the likely outcome for the new graduate? Sink or swim. Not the preferred way to start your career, but many go through this, and it is overwhelming for some.


Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)
Maui, if I came across as believing you will teach too little theory, I apologize. Since you have a Ph.D., you are more than qualified to teach theory with applications to meet your students' needs. Each class has its own personality and only you can discern what each student needs. We both know you cannot do the application without possessing enough theory to do so. Without theory, you'll only know that one application and probably not know it well enough.

My profs ran across some of the problems in the texts in industry. They also gave us some of the problems they'd seen in industry in our labs and exams. Applications are married to theory and are presented as problems for students.

When my career began, the training program was non-existent. I was assigned a mentor, given a two week plant introduction, and encouraging words from the Plant Manager. Their training program was whittled from a year long program to six months to two weeks. Cost cutting and not enough people to adequately train new hires. You learned by working, which is good and necessary but also has its drawbacks. They want engineers to arrive fully trained. Perhaps some day the human race will have evolved to the point we'll depart the womb with full knowledge and a set of skills for life. winky smile

When PPG was still owned by the Pitcairns, people weren't just resources but were people to develop and take care of. It had a family feel. I only knew it as a public company. The old timers talked about how it used to be. Remnants of some of their programs were still around, when I began. Those were gone soon after I began working for them.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

2
I think the sink-or-swim philosophy is overwhelming for many engineering graduates. I've seen estimates that within 5 years of graduation, 2/3 of engineering graduates are no longer working in engineering. I've often wondered if it's because many engineering programs don't expose their students to the practice of engineering, and they don't like the difference between the "there's a right answer" mathematical problem solving they do in their classes and the open-ended problems or interpersonal problems they encounter in their workplace. I also think many graduates feel overwhelmed by design tasks at first since schools focus so much on analysis (as many professors have little design experience, and textbooks mostly focus on analysis).

I don't think faculty should have to get a P.E. simply to show that they meet a minimum standard of competency by passing the exams, but rather they should earn it in the workforce simply to gain an understanding of what many of their students will go on to do. I've often said that many engineering programs do a great job preparing students to go on to graduate school, but a terrible job preparing them to enter the workforce.

I have told many of my students that the multiple jobs I've had as an engineer relied mostly on a general problem solving ability and an understanding of design, and that my communication skills have been the most important aid to me in my career, even more important than my mathematical skills. By having them do a lot of engineering design in school, in accordance with codes and standards, producing their own engineering drawings and documentation, going through design reviews with me, and then building their designs so they see their flaws, they can benefit from my experience as a design engineer and learn whether or not they like engineering before they get out into the workforce. Unfortunately, not too many faculty can provide this sort of exposure to real-world engineering to students. This is just one of the reasons why I try to hire faculty with work experience over faculty with research credentials.

xnuke
"Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life." Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
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RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

Quote:

Many years ago, just after the steam engine was invented, in the UK there was a push for thick sandwich and thin sandwich degrees for engineers. These exposed the undergraduate to industry and vice versa. I wonder why these rather sensible schemes withered away?
How is this type of program different from the current co-op format which features at many universities now? Did companies just offer to have students come to "work" for them, purely for the benefit of the student? Sounds too good to be true; no wonder they witherd away.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

calguy07-

Being out of university so long, I dont know much about coop programs, but yes, that is exactly what those companies did way back then. They helped train the next generation of engineers with little immediate gain for themselves. They took the long view, maybe beacause they were mostly engineers, unlike the current crop of accountants running the place, who see only next week's profits and then moan that they cant hire any skilled people.

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

(OP)
This blogger makes a fine distinction between qualifications and credentials that dovetails into this discussion. I've seen the same effect in industry. I don't care about the political stuff he gets into at the end, which is his point. He provides enough of his thoughts to provoke discussion and thought about our own profession. His blog reinforces my thought that engineering faculty need to display the highest degree of professionalism through qualifications and credentials.

Quals and Creds

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

geordie87,

Wow, how times have changed!

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

The MBAs and bean counters that run these companies today seem to want to hire competent mid-level career engineers so that they don't have to provide any training, and offer them salaries that are either at or in some cases well below industry average. And when they can't find enough qualified candidates who are willing to settle for these low wages, and cry "Shortage!".

How times have changed.

Maui

www.EngineeringMetallurgy.com

RE: Should engineering faculty be licensed?

In my case I did a thick sandwich course. It was, to put it mildly, difficult to get into, since it was a fully sponsored position at university. The contract was rather open ended, they agreed to employ me for a year before uni, and during the long holidays while I was there, and for a year after, in a rotation through different departments and jobs. Unfortunately by the time my rotation had finished the department in which I had intended to work had been cut back and so I had to move into a completely different area, which as it happened worked out. Overall it was a very good experience and certainly improved my understanding of the university lectures and labs. It was called a thick sandwich but there was virtually no tie-up between university and workplace, not that that mattered.

The problem in general was the retention over that 5 year period and thereafter was rather low.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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