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The research around me doesn't make sense

  1. Oct 5, 2013 #1
    Hi All,

    So, I'm in grad school for systems. to me, the whole point of systems is hardware agnosticism. You get to discuss solutions to problems ( related to dynamical systems ) without restricting the discussion to one type of hardware (like motors and or circuits, even though that could be a popular application). And when you are given hardware, you can model it and then discuss the solution without considering the hardware (at least very heavily). And I'm trying to get started with research but I'm a little confused at the research being done around me in the department.

    most research around me that i've seen from my peers uses little to none of the graduate level systems knowledge accrued. Part of that is because it has to be applied to get funding these days, but sometimes i'm simply amazed at how simple some research around me seem from a systems level, and they are "pure hardware" study and very little abstract system level research (stability, trajectory patterns, designing a new type of controller synthesis). This isn't really meant to be a critique on the usefulness/validity of their research, but just it doesn't seem to match the "Systems" title. I simply don't have interest in direct applications as much as the theory, and don't know what to do.

    I expect Systems research to maybe start with an application and then boil the problem down to a set of constraints, and then perhaps synthesize a novel controller and test it in various ways, or simply to analyze a complex system to make some sense out of the trajectories, which is what is done in classes.

    I'm just wondering thoughts of anyone, if anyone has noticed this dichotomy between the theoretical level of classes and the research done by peers.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2013 #2


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    It seems you are an applied mathematician who is interested in systems theory rather than a systems controls engineer who is interested in applications.

    You should hunt among the faculty for a professor who is more interested in the mathematics and the computer modelling; probably one in every four or five has a more theoretical bent.

    If you are in an MS/MSc program you will find that the students mostly work on very concrete, definite projects ... they don't have the time to spend on pure research that is available to a PhD student. And if their work is supported by funded projects, then the funders are the ones interested in these results.

    And yes, I have noticed this when working as a visiting scientist with a mechanical engineering group - most projects were practical, though there were a few which were more "fundamental" in that they were trying to understand how things worked. But it was an engineering group - if you want more theory go to the Physics department! But they don't study Systems.
  4. Oct 6, 2013 #3
    This is true, and I have a fairly mathematical advisor. I should be all right. But some of my advisors students aren't working on theoretical projects and that makes me nervous, even the PhD students. We'll see how it.

    I've thought to myself, I should have been a physics major.
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