up an on-campus adviser with an off-campus research mentor is a winning
combination for graduate students.
be an extraordinarily good experience for engineering graduate students
to complete a significant portion of their research in off-campus government
or industrial laboratories. Yet, few schools take advantage of the opportunity.
This kind of arrangement, which allows students to get hands-on training
in the real world, can provide an excellent learning experience for
both students and their professors. This is especially true when senior
researchers at these laboratories are engaged by the faculty as co-mentors.
of most government and industry laboratories are unparalleled in terms
of quality, especially when experiments involving expensive and well-maintained
equipment and instruments are part of the project. Government and private
industry have much more money than universities to spend on test facilities.
Further, these laboratories consider it their business to concentrate
on answering research questions related to their areas of specialty,
which is a plus for faculty and students who want this kind of focus
and depth. Finally, there is usually a more relentless and critical
scrutiny of research conducted at government and industry labs, and
the results are of the highest quality.
of strong engineering education programs are in close proximity to government
and industry laboratories and have already experienced the benefits
of partnering with these labs in selected specialty areas. In some cases,
the university actually runs these labs for the government or for industry.
Although there are some effective partnerships already in existence,
we could benefit from many more.
of the graduate students I have worked with completed their degree program
research with considerable success in government and industry
laboratories. While my students and I partnered with some of the research
laboratories of the NASA Glenn Research Center, the U.S. Air Force Research
Laboratory, and GE Aircraft Engines, which are among the best of their
kind worldwide, similar resources are available for a wider range of
of having a faculty adviser share the supervision of students with a
researcher from an off-campus lab is a concept not yet widely accepted
in academe. But if a student is going to spend an appreciable time in
an off-campus lab, having a mentor there is essential for several important
reasons. This collaborative effort confirms that a partnership exists,
the joint ownership of the research project is solidified, and the off-campus
adviser is the grad student's lab champion. Additionally, the program
of study for the student is strengthened by the outside relationship.
an off-campus mentor on board can be handled through a variety of temporary,
adjunct, or other collaborative graduate faculty appointments. Each
university has its way of handling such matters. Unfortunately, sometimes
a tenure-track faculty member is hesitant to connect with an off-campus
adviser, believing it will dilute his or her chances for
tenure or promotion. If this is the case, it is the fault of the school's
tenure process, and I urge those in higher education who are in influential
positions to encourage these outside connections.
related concern is that more than a few academics, even in engineering,
consider industry-sponsored research to be less important and less worthy
of recognition than research sponsored by government agencies. I do
not understand this attitude, especially in connection with tenure decisions.
Please help faculty members overcome this line of thinking.
Research Council of ASEE is intent on achieving high quality and useful
research as a vital component of engineering education, and we need
your help to get this done.
Okiishi is associate dean of the College of Engineering
at Iowa State University and vice chair of ASEE's Engineering Research
He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the Wrong Buttons
- A Certain Standard