Are engineers with a Phd scientists ?

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Just wanted to know if PhDs with engineering background still remain engineers or can also be called scientists. I know the distinction between professionals at that level of research is kind of vague. But is it a norm to call engineers with PhD, scientists ?
Thanks.
 
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  • #2
radou
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What ???

(Damn, it's one of these situations where I miss caps lock.)
 
  • #3
Danger
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As far as I'm concerned, anyone who approaches a situation with a logical mindset and a desire to learn the truth is a 'scientist'. It's not a professional term; rather a character trait. By that definition, all engineers are scientists even before they take their formal education. (Of course, I just use that definition so that I can consider my uneducated self a scientist.)
 
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As far as I'm concerned, anyone who approaches a situation with a logical mindset and a desire to learn the truth is a 'scientist'. It's not a professional term; rather a character trait. By that definition, all engineers are scientists even before they take their formal education. (Of course, I just use that definition so that I can consider my uneducated self a scientist.)
desire to learn the truth? :confused: they just want to find a solution to a problem.
 
  • #5
Danger
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desire to learn the truth? :confused: they just want to find a solution to a problem.
Your definition is a sub-set of mine, at least by the way that I think.
 
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I would like to know whether it is true in a more professional setting.
 
  • #8
mgb_phys
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I am a physicist with a PhD working as an engineer. I now live in Canada and I would love to call myself an engineer but I can't because I didn't do an engineering degree.

Back in the UK you wouldn't call yourself and engineer because that means someone who fixes your washing machine! Of course scientist means someone who experiments on animals - so you can't win!
 
  • #9
Danger
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I demur slightly from what Danger said:

If you are truly using the scientific method to do genuine experimental (or theoretical) research, then you are functioning as a scientist, and if you build a track record of publishing good research in scientific research journals, you would certainly deserve to be called a scientist even if you were not trained as such.
The only objection that I have to your demurment is that it would prevent me from considering myself a scientist because I've never published anything except for an 'amateur science' article on black holes in the local paper almost 30 years ago.
This whole thing did bring up a point of perplexity that I never thought of before. How does the scientific community define a 'peer-reviewed journal'? I know that the commonly accepted version would be something like 'Nature' or 'The New England Journal of Medicine', but where is the line drawn? You could, for instance, have a bunch of San Francisco dock workers start a journal. If one of them writes an article about quantum chromodynamics in it, stating that colour charge is carried by Smarties, and the rest agree to publish it, it's been 'peer reviewed'.
 
  • #10
radou
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they *just* want to find a solution to a problem.
I'll be short again; *just*???
 
  • #11
russ_watters
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Well.... what does it say on an engineering degree?
 
  • #12
Monique
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I'm an engineer, but the Dutch name comes from the Latin ingenium. The English term comes from the word engine. In my case it would mean "an intellectual who uses his/her scientific knowledge to solve practical problems", the other meaning is "a person trained and skilled in the design, construction, and use of engines or machines, or in any of various branches of engineering". I wouldn't say the latter is a scientist, is an architect a scientist?
 
  • #13
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But is it a norm to call engineers with PhD, scientists?
I don't think it's conventional to call engineers "scientists".
 
  • #14
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Back in the UK you wouldn't call yourself and engineer because that means someone who fixes your washing machine!
What's the term for what we call an "engineer" then?
 
  • #15
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Your definition is a sub-set of mine, at least by the way that I think.
I think you are taking the generalization to its extreme. Your definition is largely philosophical, or even religious for that matter. All endeavors that search for something will end up being a subset of your definition in the larger context.
 
  • #16
radou
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Anyone with a PhD is a scientist, by definition. OK, not just *anyone*, but heck, you know what I mean, let's not play dumb. It's as simple as that. If you're doing any kind of research in any area, you're a scientist.
 
  • #17
Gokul43201
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I would consider only a very tiny subset of engineers (with PhDs) as scientists. An engineer working on fundamental questions in fluid dynamics would be called a scientist, but not one that has developed a new class of tunnel-diodes.
 
  • #18
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An interesting paragraph from Wiki

There is no sharp distinction between science and engineering, although engineers typically have practical goals in mind while scientists investigate fundamental phenomena. Both proceed from problems toward solutions. Scientists often perform engineering tasks in designing experimental equipment and building prototypes, and some engineers do first-rate scientific research. Mechanical, electrical, chemical and aerospace engineers are often at the forefront of investigating new phenomena and materials. Peter Debye received a degree in electrical engineering and a doctorate in physics before eventually winning a Nobel Prize in chemistry. Similarly, Paul Dirac, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, began his academic career as an electrical engineer before proceeding to mathematics and later physics. Claude Shannon, a theoretical engineer, founded modern information theory.
 
  • #19
mgb_phys
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What's the term for what we call an "engineer" then?
Science has a fairly low profile in the UK - the last time it had any spot light was probably in the 60s and that white haired labcoat boffin is still the main image.
Explaining that you're an engineer and build oil refineries not fix appliances or that you are a chemist and don't just sell aspirin is hard.

Germany and Canada both have engineer as an official title like doctor (ie. MD) and you can only call yourself that if you are the equivalent of a practising chartered engineer, I don't know if this raises the standard of the profession in the eyes of the public.
 
  • #20
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Science has a fairly low profile in the UK - the last time it had any spot light was probably in the 60s and that white haired labcoat boffin is still the main image. Explaining that you're an engineer and build oil refineries not fix appliances or that you are a chemist and don't just sell aspirin is hard.
are you being sarcastic or is this for real ? If it is, then I must say, wow !!
 
  • #21
mgb_phys
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In 1959 a famous British scientist did a speech about the 'two cultures', the fact that everyone in power in the UK was an arts/humanities person and didn't understand science. That there was no respect for science and no interest in it other than it making money or useful for defence.
It seems that half a century of changes in education and the invention of reality TV haven't done much to raise the profile.

I have lived in other countries but always worked/lived in universities so not really normal people - I would be interested in what the standing of engineers/scientists is outide UK/USA/Europe.
 
  • #22
Chris Hillman
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Second attempt to stress some crucial points

Just wanted to know if PhDs with engineering background still remain engineers or can also be called scientists. I know the distinction between professionals at that level of research is kind of vague. But is it a norm to call engineers with PhD, scientists ?
Danger quoted something I said earlier:

Chris Hillman said:
If you are truly using the scientific method to do genuine experimental (or theoretical) research, then you are functioning as a scientist, and if you build a track record of publishing good research in scientific research journals, you would certainly deserve to be called a scientist even if you were not trained as such.
Look here for a real-life example of an engineer thinking somewhat like a scientist: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=181176&page=2
Notice these points: Vidar compared data with a finite element model requiring minimal physical insight and found a discrepancy, which raises the question: what went wrong? He is about to compare his data with the predictions of the classical theory of elastostatics, which provides (among other things) a formula for the deflection of a cantilever beam. Note that both FEM and the classical beam theory (which are both widely used and very well established) involve certain assumptions which can be violated; if they disagree with data, it might be that the data is bad or it might be that one of these assumptions is violated (in the thread, some possibilities were mentioned). A third type of mathematical analysis was suggested: perturbation analysis of the classical beam theory can be used to try to treat situations which are "close" to the regime where the classical theory is valid. Conceivably this kind of investigation could eventually lead to a paper in an ME journal, suggesting improved mathematical modeling of cantilever beams. That would be very much like science, except that the physics and mathematical techniques being discussed are all well-known and well-established, so it certainly would not be fundamental science!

(Unlike threads in this subforum, that's a serious thread, BTW, so please don't rush over and leave silly comments.)

(Edit: I wrote that before Astronuc and I independently noticed that question about Vidar is apparently not, is he a scientist or an engineer?, but rather, is he an extraterrestial?)

In the original I added this crucial caveat:

Chris Hillman said:
Many engineering students receive extensive training in mathematical methods, but in my experience, they often receive little or no training in the scientific method.
IOW, anyone can function as a scientist by following the scientific method, but without formal training, there is no guarantee that a particular individual will really know what this means. Some people do seem to understand the scientific method "instinctively", but in my experience, most people certainly do not. Extensive training in math or established physical theories like E&M or thermodynamics doesn't suffice, unfortunately.

An interesting paragraph from Wiki
omega_M should have stated that this quotation is from a Wikipedia article, "Scientist", which to judge from its edit history has been quite contentious; see
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Scientist&action=history

The sentence "There is no sharp distinction between science and engineering, although engineers typically have practical goals in mind while scientists investigate fundamental phenomena" may be due to User:David_Shear (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/David_Shear) in the edit
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Scientist&diff=35188203&oldid=35163523
The edit line summary might be misleading; as far as I can see, Shear rewrote the article, rather than reverting it to a prexisting version.

Regarding that sentence, IMO most scientists would say that there is, at least in principle, a "sharp distinction" between science and anything else. Namely: science proceeds by the scientific method. Similarly, most mathematicians would say that there is, at least in principle, a "sharp distinction" between mathematics and anything else: mathematics proceeds by the proof of theorems. In both cases, we can point to unique distinguishing features of doing science or mathematics.

To answer the question, in my experience, most academics would not call engineers either "scientists" or "mathematicians", for this reason: typical engineering activity employs neither scientific methodology nor proof.

Or maybe that's no answer at all, since it begs the question: "what is the scientific method?"

The late Claude Shannon was offered in at least one version of this article as an example of an engineer-mathematician (for sake of argument, one could add geneticist to the list). I could say a lot about that but I doubt that this is the time or place.

In 1959 a famous British scientist did a speech about the 'two cultures', the fact that everyone in power in the UK was an arts/humanities person and didn't understand science.
C. P. Snow ; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._P._Snow if your interest is only casual but beware of WP for anything serious. Fortunately, there will be several books on C. P. Snow and his famous lecture in most university libraries.

I'll leave you with another thought I expressed at PF a few days ago: mathematics is the servant of physics, which is the servant of engineering, which is the servant of humanity, whose purpose is ---to do mathematics! :wink:
 
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  • #23
Pythagorean
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is an architect a scientist?
I Would say an architect who is also a scientist would have a good chance of his/her buildings staying up for a long time, since he can't always use standard "tricks of the trade" unless he wants to build generic buildings. (I.e. he has to use science to physically support his innovation or be forced to use tricks that architects who were scientists already invented).

I think there's a difference between a professional scientist and a scientist of course. Even once I get my BS degree, I won't be a professional scientist, but I still consider myself a scientist even as an undergrad, albeit an apprentice scientist.
 
  • #24
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Science has a fairly low profile in the UK - the last time it had any spot light was probably in the 60s and that white haired labcoat boffin is still the main image.
Explaining that you're an engineer and build oil refineries not fix appliances or that you are a chemist and don't just sell aspirin is hard.

Germany and Canada both have engineer as an official title like doctor (ie. MD) and you can only call yourself that if you are the equivalent of a practising chartered engineer, I don't know if this raises the standard of the profession in the eyes of the public.
This reminds me of what Feynman said about physicists before WWII: no one knew what a physicist was. When GR proofs made Einstein famous he was generally referred to as a "mathemetician", not a physicist.
 
  • #25
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An interesting paragraph from Wiki
In any event you find engineers referred to as such, with or without Phd, and not as scientists. This, for whatever reason, is the convention.
 

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