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Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/28/2012 7:49 PM

I was just looking at the research page of MIT's EECE department. I can see that a lot of research is being done. But what I fail to understand is why these researches don't seem to reach people who actually need it effectively?

Like this battery that runs on difference in temperatures, or the device that captures energy of vibration and converts it to electrical energy. At some level I feel these researches are not addressing the most crucial problems humankind has, and on the other I feel like they just don't end up being put into action practically.

I am probably wrong, please don't go all derisive on me. But I wanted to know the opinion of members on the same - i.e. the purpose all this extensive research actually serves or to what extent its been useful to a layman.

And MIT is probably the top engineering college in the world, I am sure there are many other universities in its league that carry the same level of research and has the same level of intelligent students and faculty.

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#1

Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 8:01 PM

If you learn how to locate the decimal point properly, you will be better able to evaluate such "researches."

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#5
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Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 9:51 PM

In simple terms please? Thanks.

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#23
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Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/31/2012 7:31 AM

It may be helpful to google and contrast 'applied research' and 'fundmental (pure) research'. Your question suggests you may not be making the distinction.

Development of practical applications can produce high visibility evidence of the benefits reaped from an investment in research, but not just the work of the very last researcher who touched what culminated in the usable gizmo. Applied research nearly invariably relies upon preceding fundamental research.

The '...difference in heat battery...' you mention, for example, built upon fundamental research in multiple fields before coming to its current level of develoment.

When you notice what seems to be an odd behavior common to a group of smart people working in their field of expertise, it probably means you have more to learn about what they do....not that they universally can't see the forrest for the trees.

If you aren't sure what you don't yet understand, one approach is to present your alternative way things should be done and invite critical commentary.

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#2

Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 8:29 PM

If it's publicly funded, the results should be available.

If it's privately funded, it might cost you.

If you can't find the research, I don't think you are really looking.

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#6
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Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 9:53 PM

I am not talking about seeing their results. I am talking about how meaningful they become to the general people.

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#9
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Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 10:19 PM

If you mean, "how meaningful they become to the general people." in the short term you are being unreasonable. Things don't happen according to your timetable.

The transistor took many years to become "meaningful".

What about the "goddamn particle"?

It happens, when it happens.

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#3

Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 8:38 PM

Research is the essence of science. It is asking questions that have no answers until the questions have been asked. Where will research lead? Perhaps nowhere, but that is an answer in itself. Perhaps to an understanding that can change the world that we know. for better or for worse, but that is a decision that we must make and we can only make if we understand the consequences

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#4

Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 9:27 PM

I believe that research generates patents for their (university's) discoveries, which in turn generates some revenue for the university by licensing those inventions to the public and private sectors.

The actual licensing fees are small, but the effect brings back even more private dollars from companies to help fund even more research.

Private sector companies spend more that $5 billion each year marketing those inventions as well, which returns 4 or 5 times that.

Research by universities generate jobs in the private sector and it is estimated the net effect of MIT's research alone adds more then $1 billion dollars annually to our economy.

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#7
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Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 9:59 PM

Okay. Do you think research at this point should be more focused on issues relevant to people's lives rather than issues like particle physics? Please don't take it the wrong way sir.

The research from MIT of the battery that runs on temperature difference principle would be useful to people using pacemakers. But I still wonder if it will become a viable commercial idea. Because only then its of use to people. Right?

I guess we could dig up a good research work any top university dating 6 years ago, with it not having any impact on today.

Apart from that what you mentioned in regard to funds is very relevant too.

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#11
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Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/29/2012 8:41 AM

This question has been batted around for ages and answered, too.

The race to the Moon was and still is argued as a waste of resources and money. The problem with definitively putting that argument to rest is that the spin-off from that program was so vast and deep that no one can sum it up in the normal attention span of a human.

However, it has been shown to have paid much greater dividends than was ever invested as far as improving the human condition.

The problem with research is its uncertainty. You can not be assured what you turn up under each rock. Perhaps that is its finest charm for the researcher - the joy of discovery.

Thomas Edison likened research to baseballs. The more you throw up in the air the better your chances that you will catch one.

Lastly, you wrote, "Do you think research at this point should be more focused on issues relevant to people's lives rather than issues like particle physics?"

Do you not think that physics and the universe around you are irrelevant?

It is myopic to think that these things are of no value. Such knowledge and understanding paves the highway for greater things in subtle but fundamental ways.

Like all things, there must be balance. To dwell on our current condition robs our future just as dwelling on our dreams impoverishes our present.

You feel that such research is in discord with with humanity, but look closer and you will see that it is truly in harmony.

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#8

Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/28/2012 10:10 PM

No doubt someone back in the late 1940s asked John Bardeen, or his collegues Brattain and Shockley, what good was it to society how semiconductors worked, or why anyone cared what happened when you put together those N-P-N layers of semiconductor material.

Have you no imagination or understanding how engineering works? The devices worked on in the lab today are the devices that provide new means of supplying energy tomorrow, or making lifesaving equipment, or asking questions on a internet website.

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#10
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Re: Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

12/29/2012 1:51 AM

Thats good. But then you are saying it necessarily takes so long for these research to come to be of widespread use? It makes sense though.

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#12

Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/29/2012 4:46 PM

University research is based on certain hierarchy of proceedings & follows peer dominated conduction.

A specific area is chosen & only study data & interpretation are reported, discussed, reviewed and doctoral degrees are awarded.

Not much of practical relevance or a sort of commitment to derive a serious solution is not the target of research.

Likewise, one can also note that these scholarly doctoral reviews, research papers submissions, conferences [ which never end up with concrete conclusions], book of papers deal compilations from references else where and frankly speaking, a paper presentation is allotted just five to 10 minutes, if the previous speaker has taken more minutes than specified. The chair or convener just acts as time officer.

Frankly speaking seriousness based researches like medicines, defense, space etc are more result oriented and they are more of team based & multi disciplinary. Whereas university researches focus more on individual scholar, who is happy about submitting thesis & see that he gets the degree.

Major contributors are individuals like Edison, Ford, Voltas who had a serious problem & a serious commitment to deliver solutions. That spirit is very much lacking with university researches under contention of formal procedure, mind sets & hardly provide scope for deviations and drive the scholar to orthodox behaviour than being innovative.

To succeed in research, one should have open mindedness & take risks in spite of failures. It sounds like more of a permitted plagiarism than of being original.

Study based themes should be discarded & refilled by task based topics so as to make higher degrees really worth about.

For instance, as an independent research SME, the technology draw backs of Hydro Power sector-was found solvable, Making viable hydro power from any water source without a potential hydraulic head. We form it artificially of course & the research really lasted nearly 21 years, with foolish trials, criticisms & finally the destiny was reached.

The motivation factor behind the success was a serious concern on developing a natural physical force based energy than burning of fuels of any sort. The other important factor was that, based on failure of the previous step, routes for success had been carved. I find still the formal mind set people are being unable to believe & keep criticising that it may work for a small scale laboratory & not in large scale.

One thing of fortunate value is that, I was aiming the bull's eye [ ie, the final end result solution of the problem].

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#13

Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/29/2012 11:20 PM

Applied research will be more useful if there is a strong interaction between industries and academicians. There is a large gap still in any many countries .

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#14

Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/30/2012 2:53 AM

I think everyone is skating around the real answer: Talk to the researcher, who is doing the research because (1) they want the post graduate degree, and (2) whatever they are researching interests the h*ll out of them. They could give a cr*p about helping humanity, although chance will dictate that the research sometimes lines up with that noble goal.

Isn't that why, when you look at a piled higher n' deeper's (PhD) curriculum vitae, you will see they graduated at school A, got their MS at school B and their PhD at school C. In other words, they went to whatever school had stuff that interested them.

Last I checked, the government or the bleeding hearts aren't telling researchers what to study. So the advances come randomly.

Once you go off-campus to a "for profit" R&D place, it's likely they are taking university research patents and working on ways to take the concept from the lab to the marketplace. I would suspect that the percentage of tall foreheads tends towards engineering types rather than true scientists at these places. Of course, there also is basic research conducted at for profit businesses but you can be guaranteed its paid for by someone else, like a government grant, or is not far off being a sure bet anyway. No for profit company can survive for long when cash is leaving their bank account without guarantees of returns.

So advances come from people passionate about whatever they are interested in. It takes a lot more work to take that basic research and move it to a profitable business. That is NOT in the job description of the researchers, although there are lots of people who, having come up with the basic idea, decide to jump ship from the educational institute and work to develop their breakthrough into a profitable business venture.

So, a very random process. Pretty hard to keep "on target" of helping humanity. And the timing is also not guaranteed. Some stuff may languish for years before it is moved from the lab to the local store.

Jon.

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#15
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Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/30/2012 9:02 AM

You wrote, "So the advances come randomly."

Actually, not really. The research depends on:

1. What resources are available at the university
2. What professors will approve.
3. Where the funding for the research comes from. This doesn't happen in a vacuum. Some comes from government grants, but much comes from private industry.

The private industry dollars will drive studies in specific areas as do the government grants.

There is financial gain as well as academic standing for the university that steers the direction for its research, not the random whim of a Ph.D student.

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#16

Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/30/2012 9:26 AM

One word: "Patent"....

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#17
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Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/30/2012 9:29 AM

Actually, it distills down further to - money.

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#18
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Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/30/2012 9:34 AM

Yeah I agree with that, but I hesitated to add $$$$ lest I confuse the dear boy...

It all boils down to $$$$$ in the end.

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#19

Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/30/2012 9:35 AM

Wait a minute!

This thread has morphed from:

Where do researches of top engineering universities end up?

To:

Where do researchers of top engineering universities end up?

What happened?

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#21
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Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/30/2012 5:13 PM

Later people read the title?

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#20

Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/30/2012 12:16 PM

Typically the researchers end up as paid board members of private, public and nonprofit companies (voluntary). They are stock holders of companies that utilize their (university) patents. They are located in a town, region and country of their choice, accompanied by but not limited to, comfortable income, collegial recognition, speaking engagements and some TV exposure for the books they write. Most importantly, a good researcher admits some of the most important aspects contributing to the body of their work are 'serendipity and contingency' , which might well not occur with the strangulation of 'societal good' controls. Be careful of that for which you wish.

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#22

Re: Where Do Researchers of Top Engineering Universities End Up?

12/31/2012 3:31 AM

Thanks guys for your responses.

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