Thursday, October 20, 2011

Science vs Engineering

This week, I am at a conference organized by several of the major professional societies of MSE, with a pretty heavy emphasis in the E. I have attended this conference three times now, each time for a radically different topic. My first time here, I fell into the Engineer category quite firmly, but now I fall pretty solidly into Science. Consequently, I feel a little out of place explaining my work to old colleagues. One if the first questions I'm asked is about the practical applications of what I'm doing. Right now, my work is on simple model systems, and any relation to practicality is tenuous at best.

The science vs engineering divide is also noticeable in comparing the undergrad programs at GiantU and SnowTech. SnowTech is very much Engineering oriented, with a focus on design and looking towards industry jobs. GiantU teaches as though they expect every student to continue on to grad school as a scientist. Yet I regularly have students who tell me they really appreciate hearing about the practical applications of the theory they are learning.

What I currently do may not show up in consumer products in the next decade, but I appreciate having the engineering background. So for now, I continue to sit on the ampersand of MS&E.

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