Thoughts on Scientific Research and Engineering Education

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Call for coherent, systematic field summaries

The overview As a Ph.D. student, figuring out what has already been done by past researchers is by far the hardest problem I have come across. The current expectation and requirement is that every student will browse tens of conferences and journals going back tens of years. At the end of this long and tedious

Conference Summary Committees

At every professional conference, hundreds of papers are presented. This can quickly become quite overwhelming. For people in attendance, the game plan seems to be to scan the list of titles in the conference schedule to see which posters and talks seem most interesting and/or most applicable to the individuals research objectives. To be sure,

Students are not being prepared for industry

I can only speak about my field (computer vision and image processing), but I imagine the situation is similar across the board. What we learn in college are "the fundamentals" - the theoretical (often too much so) ideas of many topics. We are seldom asked to implement these ideas in software. When we are, it

Stop letting students play online during class!

Walk into almost any college classroom and you will almost certainly see at least a handful of students staring at a laptop screen, clearly not at all paying attention to the instructor. In this discussion, let's ignore the underlying reasons that the students are not paying attention (most times it is the lecturers fault that

Granularity of Grading Scales

One thing that has always bothered me is the granularity of grading scales. The point of the exercise of giving a grade should be an attempt to classify how well the student learned the material. It seems reasonable to classify this level of understanding into “not at all”, “not very much”, “ok”, “pretty well”, and

Why does no one care that professors aren’t trained as instructors?

It has always seemed extremely odd and unacceptable to me that faculty members of most universities, while being experts in their areas of research, have not received even a single hour of training on how to be an effective educator. While such expert status may make someone the best person to teach a very specialized

Teach the “Why”, Not the “How”

Let us consider a college Calculus course. The timeline of the course goes approximately like this: Week 1 - What is a derivative? Week 2-10 - Practice manually computing derivatives of hundreds of functions. Week 11 - What is an integral? Week 12-20 - Learn many methods for performing integration manually and practice this on

Problem Abstraction: Helping others help you & promoting the archive-ability of your answers

I find all too often on mailing lists and forums that people are so concerned with getting the answer to their question that they forget that no one else has anywhere near the same view of the problem as they do. Asking too specific of a question is extremely harmful to all parties. For the

Creating a Common Research Language

As a research engineer, the sharing and dissemination of ideas throughout the field is absolutely critical. These ideas are tightly coupled to their implementations. As a explanatory example, consider a very simple invention, the pencil. Once can explain the concept of a pencil in a single sentence : ``A pencil is a writing implement usually

ASEE Northeast Section Conference May 7-8 2010 Summary

I recently attended the Northeast Section ASEE conference in Boston, MA. While there were two full days of poster and oral presentations, there were a few that stood out as particularly profound to me. The following is a brief summary of the conference and these excellent presentations. Theme The conference theme was “Education in the