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Somehow I've ended up a Corrosion engineer. Is this an ok field?

  1. Mar 16, 2012 #1
    I was chatting with my undergrad supervisor and they sorted out a PhD project for me doing corrosion science, split between my university and a synchrotron.

    Is corrosion a good field? I'm finishing a Materials Science degree and always pictured myself making alloys for a car or aircraft company. The project is interesting, but is there a _need_ for someone with 7 years of training in this field?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2012 #2
    Well, ask yourself the following questions:

    - Is corrosion an industrially relevant problem? Will industry be interested in offering me a job?

    - Is it a mature, well understood field? Will I be able to make an impact?

    - Is the PhD project well defined? Do I have confidence that the things I am supposed to do will actually work and produce insight into the corrosion process?

    - Will 5 to 7 years of PhD expertise in corrosion lure industry into offering you a sexy job?

    Synchrotron x-rays are a rapidly growing field. If you want to stay in science rather than go into industry, specializing in synchrotron x-rays is a clever move.

    BTW, is this a purely academic program, or is it some kind of collaboration with an industrial partner? If so, get in touch with the industrial side and simply ask them the question. Ask for the personal opinion of whoever you are talking to. Ask the same question to your potential supervisor. Try to figure out what you want to do after the PhD
    (you can always change your mind later, but having a vision always helps).
  4. Mar 17, 2012 #3


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    If you enjoy the work and there is honest work available, anything is a good field. It does not matter what anyone else thinks. Your career is entirely about your life. Do what you think interests you and you think is worth doing.
  5. Mar 17, 2012 #4

    jim hardy

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    With our infrastructure falling down around our ears?
    I'd say it's one of those niches that only the lucky few stumble into.

    In next few decades we will appreciate Eric Hoffer's observation:

    Or as I say,

    "Slaying dragons is more fun than cleaning them."
  6. Mar 18, 2012 #5
    Thanks for the feedback.

    @M Quack - The Synchrotron is the industrial partner (it is run as a separate company). My supervisor is very suspicious of industrial research, and is of the opinion that it is rarely comprehensive or novel (ignoring exceptions like Bell labs).

    @OldEngr63 - I want to get out of the neoliberalist trap of underbidding others for employment. I'm hoping to be "in demand"

    @jim hardy - This is good news for me. Thanks.

    I guess I was mostly looking for perspective on industry as a whole. I spend so much time at university, around people who never leave universities, that I can't help but feel I'm not getting the full picture.
  7. Mar 18, 2012 #6
    I would not count the Synchrotron as an industrial partner. Typically, they are set up as non-profit organizations for administrative reasons, but for all intents and purposes they might as well be government labs. The mind set is very different from "real" industry. but it is also different from "pure" university labs.
  8. Mar 18, 2012 #7
    Corrosion is a much larger problem than most people realize. It is at the root cause of many premature failures of all sorts of equipment ranging from aircraft, to pipelines and valves, to electric switchgear, and much more.

    Clearly there is a need for engineers who understand the mechanisms and methods for dealing with problems like this.

    As for whether it is something you'd like to do, consider this: When I attended school some 25 years ago, I thought I'd stick around at my present job to pay the bills, but that some day I'd work on some really high tech aerospace job. Then the high tech boom went bust, the cold war defense contracts were drying up, and loads of engineers and scientists were looking for work. I looked around at what I was actually doing while working at a water and sewer company. Surprisingly, I had some pretty cool high tech toys, significant responsibility, and lots of interesting people around me. So I stayed where I was and I haven't regretted my decision.

    The work isn't exactly cool stuff to talk about at a cocktail party. Nobody really wants to know where the stuff goes when they flush the toilet. But without it, our cities would not be able to exist.

    Corrosion engineers are likely to remain in high demand for a very long time to come. Choose what you like to do, and don't look back. Sometimes careers choose you.
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