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How many of you do your own engineering?

  1. Jun 4, 2007 #1
    this might not be the right subforum for this so can someone please move if it isn't

    how many of the experimentalists do their own engineering? im not talking about everything but anything? i'm doing my first internship right now under a guy who's an electrical engineer/physicist who's doing partial discharge through HTS dieletrics research and he doesn't do anything! i don't mean he doesn't do anything but he doesn't build any of the stuff he needs. he expects to publish in december but i guarantee that could be sped up if he participated in the logistics of his experiment. i mean i understand that you can't be expected to know how to make everything and anything for yourself and that's why research engineers exist but right now i'm making him a table! it's taking me a very long time because i need supervision due to lame safety guidelines but if i were him and i didn't need supervision i could have it finished in one day.

    another question is if you don't make your own stuff what are you doing when you're not actually monitoring/running the experiment if you're a researcher? reading related stuff? i hate to think to think he sits in his office browsing slashdot or something like that.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2007 #2
    i hope bumps are allowed, i know there are some experimentalists here, why has no one answered? is there a better place for this thread?
  4. Jun 5, 2007 #3


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    When I was a grad student, there was a professor who was working on a small accelerator. His students built there own equipment and upgraded the accelerator themselves.
  5. Jun 5, 2007 #4
    yea i expect something like that from ambitious students, what about practicing physicists?
  6. Jun 5, 2007 #5


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    They supervise ambitious students to do it for them. :biggrin: I don't work in physics, so can't answer your question directly, but you have to consider not just the cost of the item, but the cost of the labor in producing an item. When your professor is getting paid a professor's salary, and you're getting paid a student wage, even if you take a long time putzing around trying to make something, it still probably costs less in labor than if he did it.

    As for the what else does a lab head do when not monitoring/running experiments, that I can answer. They're reading the current literature, writing up papers of completed experiments, writing grant applications to fund future experiments, dealing with regulatory paperwork, getting interrupted every 10 min with questions from other people, dealing with issues such as approving purchases, and yes, taking the occassional break to do things like check in on PF. If they have teaching responsibilities, they'll also be preparing lecture material or writing exams, or answering student questions, etc.
  7. Jun 6, 2007 #6


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    Occasional break?! All I can say is that you obviously don't have too many writups or grant applications to write, purchases to approve, or too much regulatory paperwork or reading of current literature to do!

  8. Jun 6, 2007 #7
    maybe they are all bored of doing it themselves. they must have done it when they were students.
    we love to do it because we see a challenge in it.
    professors dont because they have done it earlier and there is not a challenge in it anymore that may drive them to do it. it may be too easy for them to do it themselves.
    and hey, how ll we learn it, if we dont get to do it?
    or maybe they have to do some better things
  9. Jun 6, 2007 #8


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    Cost of labour?

    If it's a hobby, there is no cost of labour.
  10. Jun 7, 2007 #9


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    I was under the impression he was referring to a work setting...building equipment for experiments, not what people do in their spare time for a hobby. There are do-it-yourself projects I'd do around the house, but at work would delegate to a technician.
  11. Jun 7, 2007 #10


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    As a practicing physicist and experimentalist myself, I'd say that almost 30% of what I do is "engineering", and that number fluctuates wildly depending of the project. When I was building my cathode deposition chamber, I'd say I was doing almost 80% engineering.

    And yes, I do my own assembling and all the other dirty jobs. I have the help of an engineer and a technician, and we do have shop facility on site, but most of the design, technical drawing, etc. were done by me. In our small group, this is not unusual. However, in many other larger groups, especially if one is a senior scientist, then one would have postdoc and grad students to do a lot of the "engineering" and assembling.

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