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Can anyone share your research experience?

  1. Jul 27, 2005 #1
    Lots of thoughts come to my mind recently...

    I'm an undergraduate in mechanical engineering. I would like to pursue further studies and hopefully get a Ph.D if possible. I would said I am a bit like a theorist-type person, a bit crap in mechanical skills. But I am doing very well in simply all courses(math, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, engineering mechanics etc) and get a very high GPA. This is because all these stuffs are quite theoreticla and analytical - that's what I am proficient in.

    It seems that everything is just fine until the workshop training in this summer. I found that some of my fellow could do very well with those mechanical skills, and this kind of undermine my confidence somehow...

    Anyway, my ultimate goal is to pursue a research career. Can anyone share what kind of personal qualities and skills are required in doing researches in mechanical engineering? Would you say both physics and engineering researches require the same qualities and skills? (Coz I am wondering if I will be more suitable fore physics...)

    Sorry for being too immature~~ :redface:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2005 #2


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    I know what you mean, Stephen. I and you feel the same about the analytical stuff. I am good at handling equations, specially those of Fluid Mech. theory. On the other hand, I am like a dumb when I am in a laboratory. I like theoretics too. In my case, I began researching when I was 21, in the fourth year of my undergraduate in Mech. Engineering (5 years program).They awarded me a fellowship.

    I was under the mentoring of the Fluid Mech. Dept Chairman, and I collaborated with him in modelling flow with N-S equations, and integrating them numerically. My first work was about deflagratioin initiations, and after that I integrated N-S equations over the blunt nose of an E.S.A. rocket to capture the shock wave in flight. Now as part of my undergraduate project I keep on researching with him in weightless laminar jets. I hope to finish it in Sept, when I will go to UCSD to pursue a Ph.D. Aerospace.

    To say the truth Mech. Engineering is a too abroad field to research. You would have to come up your mind with a decision of in what field do you want to research (Structural Mechanics, Materials, Fluid Mech., Analytical Mechanics, Automation....). The fields with larger analytical load are Fluid Mech. and Structural Mechanics, because both of them are founded by well known sets of equations.

    Think of it and good luck!.
  4. Jul 27, 2005 #3


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    Clausius has hit the nail square on the head.

    Many people find that they excel at the academic side of engineering, while they struggle in what I'm hesitant to call a "real life" situation. These people are far happier solving complex analytical and numerical problems than, say, working out the best way to machine a component. It seems to me that the environment of academia is far more suited to this kind of engineer, where many of the problems to be solved are of a general, theoretical nature rather than being fitted to one single application. I don't want to sound like I'm suggesting that the "real life", practical engineering is more important than the fundamental, theoretical stuff, but they're really worlds apart. In short, you (and Clausius!) sound like the exact opposite kind of engineer to me! :smile:

    Personally, while I'm vaguely capable of doing some of the more basic stuff, highly analytical and theoretical engineering tasks absolutely do my head in! I constantly stand in admiration of my contemporaries who are happy modelling fluid flow all day long, because I definitely can't. Give me a man with a lathe to boss about instead! :smile:

    Finally, Clausius is wise to suggest that you should start thinking about which field in which you want to specialise. Mechanical Engineering is, as you know, an incredibly broad discipline. I'm sure you at least know whether you prefer thermo-fluids type stuff, mechanicsy-materials type stuff, or manufacturing.

    Good luck with your studies anyway.
  5. Jul 27, 2005 #4


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    I agree with you. Both kinds of engineers are needed. Maybe enterprises want an engineer like you (i.e. Caterpillar!! :rofl: ), because you are more productive. On the other hand, the Science needs people ready to research deeply in some topic to advance. Many of this peope are physicists and mathematicians, but they need too someone nearer to real world as engineers, specially in fields like Fluid Mechanics and Structural Mechanics which are traditionally dominated by engineers both in professional and in academic life.

    What I hope about my future?? I hope to keep on researching but nearer professional life than academic life. I think an intermediate position is the best, like working for a researching organisation dedicated to real applications, but which could need a solid scientific staff of people. I am thinking about CSIC(Spain), British Aerospace (England!!), EADS (Spain), INTA(Spain), ESA, Airbus, Onera (France), and why not NASA!.
  6. Jul 27, 2005 #5
    thank Clausius2 and brewnog!!!

    It is really nice to hear you talking about your own experience!
  7. Jul 27, 2005 #6
    Clausius2, did your improficiency in those hands-on skills hamper your research and the rest of your study?

    Ph.D in Aerospace! Really great!!! :smile:
  8. Jul 28, 2005 #7


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    hey! I am not improficient in that. I am only saying that compared with theoretics, I am like a dumb in a laboratory. That doesn't mean that compared with the rest of my classmates I am a dumb in a laboratory. I am not really as dull as you may think. The problem is that I sometimes fall desmotivated inside a laboratory if what I am doing has no really importance. Due to the educational system here, the importance of hands-on skills is very low, in part because we haven't got too much money for building great laboratories. For that reason, almost all practical tasks I was required in my undergraduate studies were somehow ridiculous and without any interest. Anyway I have always obtained acceptable scores in practical issues. I have never failed a laboratory exercise.
  9. Jul 29, 2005 #8
    I m fully agreed with Clausius2. We need both type of engineers in Mechanical Engineering. During my 5 years engineering experience,I always enjoyed the Practical Tasks like Molding,Jigs & Fixture Machining,Development of Axles etc.(while working in Automobile Development). But when it came to Eigen value calculation,position loop ,velocity loop equations etc in a research organization,I always found it difficult to some extent in initial periods but got used to after a little period....So its all about spending time in relevant fields.
    Overall Mechanical Engg. is too much demanding field & you need to be equally good in both practical & therotical approaches. Its all doing projects (Therortical+ Experimental)...

    * {A man can acheive only which for he strives....(Al-Quran)}
  10. May 1, 2010 #9
    I too am much better at theory than experiments. Thus, I'm sure I want to focus on numerical/computation work. I heard CFD and FEA are good for me. Since I want to obtain an R&D position in industry, I heard that I should get an MS with thesis, or phD
  11. May 4, 2010 #10
    I used to think I liked theoretical stuff better than experimental. Not that I was bad at experimental, I just didn't find it as stimulating (at the time...). Midway through my undergraduate I was gung-ho about FEA and CFD as it was also my understanding I'd enjoy these things.

    Wrong! At least in the CFD area; mechanics was more in line with my interests. I worked during the second half of my undergraduate doing FEA modeling of a thermoforming process for woven-fabric composite parts for use in automobiles. It required both a lot testing (in order to be able to numerically incorporate specific material behaviors into FE models) and FEA work to actually get the models running, which required study of the particular elements, their mathematical significance in the results, etc.

    All in all I found I like a balance of both experimental and analytical work to keep things from getting too monotonous, but FEA or pure analytical work is too dry for me to ever want to do it exclusively or too in depth. My brain needs variety! FEA is a very valuable tool, but if given the chance I'd advise someone in my past position to not discount the "experimental" stuff just yet; it's a lot of fun with when it has more significance or purpose.
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