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Followed A Road That's Seemingly Restrictive!

  1. Apr 9, 2014 #1
    Hi, currently my job doesn't satisfy my interests as it doesn't especially utilise the skills or knowledge obtained from my PhD. Not only that, but I feel my PhD research itself was very systems based and top level (since it was industrially sponsored) and since then I've been hoping to enter a more theoretical and scientific mindset. I began my studies with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and progressed with a PhD in Future Gas Turbine Propulsion Concepts, sponsored by one of the key industrial market players. I've now spent 6 months working for them in a core area that abides by formulaic process; typical of a highly safety related industry that is technologically very mature. I am now aware that a good salary and a comfortable lifestyle does not satisfy my thirst for conceptual and creative thinking.

    Where do I go now I ask myself?! The two main aerospace disciplines I see further fundamental scientific contributions being made are fluid dynamics (turbulence essentially) and superconductivity/superfluity. Turbulence seems to be more about computing power than mathematics (not helped by the maturity of the subject) and furthering methods for modelling flows feels quite restrictive. Are there any hot aerospace science areas that may provide an answer? Has anyone experienced this engineering 'pigeon-hole' that seems to limit the research jobs open to oneself?

    I understand that patience is required to reach the interesting industrial roles, however, the work the experienced engineers around me do does not inspire me.

    Many thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2014 #2
    Very interested in this thread.
  4. Apr 10, 2014 #3
    Nobody hires for jobs like that. You build a reputation and you work toward one. The only ads for genius engineers are done by marketeer idiots.

    The way you get there is by combining two disparate fields of study and joining them. So you're looking for new aerospace propulsion methods. GREAT! How about studying materials science and figuring out ways to get higher temperature engines. Perhaps you can study ion gas flows and magnetic field design to get the most from an ion rocket engine.

    To get there you need to be able to combine studies that your co-workers have not. That's where the discoveries are. When you successfully do that, people notice and put you in charge of new investigations. But you have to develop the reputation first.
  5. Apr 10, 2014 #4


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    He has a PhD. Someone that can manage to achieve that has already proven himself.
  6. Apr 10, 2014 #5


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    Yes, he's proved he can get a PhD.

    No, he hasn't proved he can come up with any ideas that industry thinks are commercially viable enough to be worth working on in house. "Having a thirst for conceptual and creative thinking" doesn't increase profits, unless you can focus on specifics, not blue-sky-thinking generalities like "Future Gas Turbine Propulsion Concepts"

    There are plenty of "hot aerospace ideas" out there, but since the OP appears to be is working for a competitor company to my employers, don't expect me to give him a free lunch by posting a list here!
  7. Apr 10, 2014 #6
    Whatever degree he may have, he hasn't proved anything. Sorry to be so blunt about this, but studying something to the edge of the state of the art isn't a mark of a pragmatic, capable leader. It just proves that that someone can learn on their own.

    There is a huge chasm between learning and application. How do I know? After 30 years of technical and engineering experience I've seen more than a few highly educated fools as well as some poorly educated geniuses. Education is generally a good thing, but it is important not to conflate education with intelligence or pragmatism.

    There are too many people out there who graduate with silly ideas in their heads. They believe that somehow all they have to do is to display their degree and then bosses will immediately want to employ them and start throwing money their way so they can design visionary things. I hate to say this, but that's a pipe dream. You have to sell the idea. You have to justify it. You have to show them what the bottom line will be like.

    And you have to build a track record of being able to do what you said. Only then will the money start flowing your way.
  8. Apr 11, 2014 #7


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    There are many research groups at universities that aim to generate marketable products and lead to successful spinoff companies. Perhaps the OP was in a group such as this.

    I say get a postdoc and then work at a government lab (or a university if you can get a gig at one) if you want intellectual stimulation.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2014
  9. Apr 11, 2014 #8
    Here is a restatement of your problem, as I see it- you've done a phd in engineering and now find you don't enjoy industry engineering research. You are hoping to transition to more basic research.

    The issue you'll run into with this is that there isn't much basic research out there- there is so little that people who get phds in less applied concepts often leave science/engineering after the phd for lack of opportunity. The majority of physics phds I know (myself included) experienced an extreme version of your pigeon hole- there were no industry jobs for them and they left the field.
  10. Apr 11, 2014 #9


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    I don't think he necessarily wants to do basic research, but maybe more fundamental applied research.
  11. Apr 14, 2014 #10
    Apologies for the silence. I completely agree that one must work towards being recognised and provide useful contributions before retrieving the prize of doing more exotic work (not necessarily basic research, just more fundamental applied research as was said).

    The intent of this post is to hear what other's experiences have been and how more physics based minds that don't leave the field deal with the ever-growing applied world in terms of satisfaction.

    I personally am happy to work hard to get where I need to be, and currently I'm focusing on finding an area that may be most fruitful in terms of future scientific/engineering contributions, although it would be encouraging to see more experienced engineers around me doing fundamental applied research. Currently I feel as though industry isn't particularly interested in it. Does anyone not from a competing side have any suggestions as to up and coming aerospace physics areas? Or are less mature industries far off in terms of the willingness and requirement to do science?
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2014
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