Episode 128 — Industrial Academic

Dr. Dave Vandenbout offers up his insights on choosing between academic and industrial careers in this episode of The Engineering Commons.

  • Carmen wastes no time in revealing his secret method for stress-testing CMOS chips.
  • X-ray systems can be useful in locating bad solder joints hidden underneath a ball grid array (BGA) integrated circuit.
  • Our guest is Dave Vandenbout, an electrical engineer who founded XESS Corporation twenty-three years ago. Dave also has experience as an engineering professor and industrial researcher.
  • In Episode 103, Ones and Zeros, Dave explained the various types of programmable logic devices available to electronic designers.
  • Our guest notes that, in his experience, industrial organizations tend to be hierarchical and well-funded, while academic organizations tend to be relatively flat and less well-funded.
  • In academic circles, an overhead rate is the percentage of research funding that goes directly to the university to pay for supporting services that are not directly related to the research effort.
  • Jeff notes similarities in the experiences encountered by entrepreneurs and newly-employed professors.
  • Carmen notes a blog and podcast by Jon Ellis (a.k.a. Prof. Gears) that discusses the ups and downs of life as a tenure-track academic.
  • Two of the larger funding agencies in the United States are the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Defense Advanced Project Research Agency (DARPA).
  • On average, Dave found a student’s grade point average (GPA) to be a poor predictor of research performance.
  • Although once rare in the engineering field, more and more engineering PhDs are taking jobs as postdoctoral researchers (post-docs) in preparation for academic careers.
  • In the United States, most tenure-track academics start their careers as Assistant Professors.
  • Tenure is a contractual right, granted by an academic organization, that provides legal protection against dismissal without just cause.
  • After six years, assistant professors not granted tenure are asked to leave the university (normally after a one year appointment). Those receiving tenure are often promoted to the position of Associate Professor.
  • Full Professor (or just Professor) is the top academic rank at most universities.
  • An h-index is a numerical ranking that attempts to measure an academic’s influence and contribution within a research field.
  • Dave comments that every graduate student wants to be a professor, and every professor wants to be a graduate student.
  • A recent Science Magazine article notes that only two of five influential cancer studies could be replicated.
  • Donald Knuth is a professor emeritus at Stanford University, and the author of a multi-volume text on algorithms, The Art of Computer Programming. He also developed the TeX language for typesetting mathematics.
  • Dave is excited by clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) techniques that allow for precise genome editing.
  • Our guest can be reached on Twitter as @dvbeisme.

Thanks to U.S. Army RDECOM for use of the photo titled “Army scientist bolsters nanomaterials research with Singapore.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

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