I can understand your frustration, Henry. The Wall Street Journal headline was just plain wrong, especially since "engineering" was used in the quote. Chalk that up to the fact that headline writers are not usually the author of the article. Journalists run into this all the time -- the headline writer getting it wrong (except at Design News of course).
I would guess the source of the problem is simple. So many of the advances we have seen over the past few decades have involved collaboration between science and engineering -- from space flight to Moore's Law. This has spilled over into biomedicine when it comes to develoments such as bio "engineering."
While you're correct in pointing out the two disiplines are essentially different, you'll find both the scientist and the engineer at the birth of most of our technical advances.
I think Rob's point about the collaboration between the two disciplines is well said. While there may be media or public bias towards science as the more productive or more intellectual of the two pursuits, there is no doubt that one discipline is heavily dependent on the other. It's the intersection of science and engineering where we see what can be pie-in-the-sky research really materialize into something that can impact society and make people's lives better.
Its all a matter of perception with the general public, as both Charles and Ivan pointed out. The "engineer" is seen a the guy with the hardhat and pocket protector working in the field or bent over some open-floor-plan desk / drafting board. The scientist, on the other hand, is the person who's wearing a white lab coat and in the running for Nobel Prizes. It's the "domestic engineer" vs. the "rocket scientist" (who really happened to be an engineer!)
From my memory it wasn't that long ago that the top three professions were doctor, lawyer or engineer. It appears to me that engineering has kind of let itself be dumbed down if you will. It wasn't too long ago that it was expected to go out and get your P.E. license. Now, there are people who move from designer to engineer without even obtaining a degree. Engineering has become more of a position and less of a profession. And I have to admit this offencds me because I still see it as a profession.
But those that follow Design news regularly will note the several stories regarding a design being done by monkeys. Or products that don't have the inherit quality that they used to. I think engineers are partly to blame because we have given in to the marketing and cost reduction teams too often.
It's interesting that you just don't see the same phenomena in the scientific realm. I wonder why. Does it have to do the fact that scientists focus tends to be on discovering cool stuff and how it works. While engineers tend to focus on how can I use that cool stuff my buddy the scientist just discovered in a way to benefit society?
As an Engineer for 30 years, I consider myself a scientists, and have seen plenty of engineers who do very pure research. It probably helps that I have spent a good amount of time in an academic environment.
I have also seen a lot of scientists that are very good engineers.
The real distinction that can be made (if any) is that engineers work with applied knowledge, scientists with fundamental. And the line is very blurry.
Having said that, I agree that the word "science" was misused in the article cited. Creating that drill and capsule was not a research project by any stretch of the imagination. Neither is creating a bridge that spans a broad river. There are engineers who couldn't do research if they tried. They are just too focused on the methods they were taught to move beyond them. They still design great buildings, refrigeration systems, and computers. Creating the rockets that went to the moon is in the grey zone. There was some fundamental knowledge that needed to be uncovered before the practical work was finished. I have seen engineers work for years studying the properties of oil/water mixtures. That is science (they were working on more efficient pipelines, so, yes, they were engineering).
You can't completely separate the two. Engineering is applied science, and many people work both sides of the coin.
The column and then a number of the comments about scientists versus engineers overlooks a number of developments, I think. I just finished reading The Emperor of Maladies, which is all about the history of cancer and the Herculean efforts of the researchers (still ongoing) to figure out what cancer is and how to treat it. These scientist were definitely working on behalf of society, not as isolated ‘pure’ scientists only interested in what ‘is’. They are acutely aware of all the deaths attributable to this disease and are undertaking deep, complex bioengineering (a combination of both science and engineering) to unlock the secrets of cancer and come up with NEW drugs to treat it. Seems to me the so-called divide between science and engineering may be a bit artificial in this day of molecular-level structural design.
I am pround to say that I have praticed engineering for over 40 years, working through design, production, applicaiton and cusotmer support. I too am dissapointed in the use of engineer in many titles that have to technology behind it, or any education requirements. I believe that engineering education teaches you how to make decisions based on basic principals and facts. And I believe that this skill set prepares an individual for life long careers from the deisgner on the bench to the company president who is still making decisioins based on fact as he/she learned in engineering shcool. I take a samll exception to the comment that we have moved designers to engineers even if they do not have a degree. I personally have been in the position of having individuals working for me who had exceptional skills in the field of engineering. These skills were developed by working closely with design engineers, outside study, and lots of experinece. Of those that I have worked with that have been promoted (and yes it is a position as well as a career) from a designer to engineer, they have all done exceptionally well for my company. But then they had over 20 years as designers and technicians to learn their engineering skills. I do believe that any engineer dealing with the public in any safety capacity should be licensed by a regulatory board. This involves not only the civil engineer that is bulding bridges, or high rise buildings, but the engineer designing production equipment. And I believe that this regulatory board needs to be populated with senior practing engineers, not political appointees!
I believe the conufusion of the media is a total lack of understanding of who we are. It may also be a result of an editor who is only looking for the top story of interst, or in swaying a stroy to fit their idea (and I know this for a fact as a friend quite his newspaper job because the editor insisting on a certain stroy line, and was not overly concrend with the facts to support the stroy!). I have found that guidance couselors in high schools and colleges really don't know who we are or what we do. That is our own fault in not being involved in the educaiton process at the younger grades (4th through 6th). Let's get behind or start a local STEM committee and push our way into the schools to put on presentations on engineering. Show them the cool stuff we do - get involved in their design of a unique paper airplane, or the design of nest to support an egg drop from 2 feet.
40 plus years as an engineer and loving every minute of it.
I was teaching a robotics club at my son's school a couple of years ago and one of the first things we went over was Ohm's Law. One of the students wanted to know why we were learning about it and that was an excellent opportunity to talk about how scientific and electronic principles cross over to many different disciplines. It seems to me that any scientist is going to have at least a rudimentary understanding of Ohm's Law, despite the fact that it is regarded as a foundational principle of electronics. And a good scientist or engineer is going to cross over to what ever discipline is necessary to get the job done. When I was building a weather station you can bet I was studying some meteorology to make sure I understood how to acquire the data correctly.
When I was in college, an aquaintance, upon hearing I was an engineering student, asked me: "So what will you do when you graduate, fix refrigerators?" Because the term "engineer" is used to describe maintenance, repair and even garbage collection, headline writers (like the one at The Wall Street Journal), look for a term of greater distinction. "Scientist" sounds more impressive to them. After all, no one ever referred to their garbage man as a "sanitary scientist."
Is this yet another indictment of public education? that many in our society don't understand or appreciate the difference between Science and Engineering? Perhaps some of the fault can be placed at the feet of the technical societies that have failed to educate the public in this respect.
And of course we should also accept our part of this problem in not being more vocal and helpful in educationg others as to what it is that Engineers and Scientists really do.
I live in Florida and I have said many times that everyone here that enjoys air conditioning owes a big debt of gratitude to the engineers that created reliable and effective air conditioning. Without it, a lot of Florida, and big buildings like skyscrapers would not be habitable.
There are several problems that lead to the confusion, including a lazy media that has very little respect for engineers, and the gross misuse of the english language in the application of the terms engineer and engineering. I attribute that blurring to the fact that most engineers don't make a big deal about the complexity of their accomplishments, or even about the amount of education and experience that are needed to be a good engineer. What an observent outsider might realize was an incredible set of correct selections, an engineer would just call "using common sense." The result being that the general public never realizes the enormity of what engineering is accomplishing.
A rather brutal way of making people understand what engineers do for them every day would be to stop making systems that work togather without any user judgement or skill requirements. Just think what would happen if instead of USB to connect things, people had to configure an RS232 connection for all their various computer accessories.
Working for a manufacturer of eddy-current displacement measuring systems, I quickly found out the difference between a scientist and an engineer. The engineer will buy a component and, when the resulting system doesn't work like he designed, will work through and find out what went wrong. The scientist will buy a component and, when the resulting system doesn't work like he designed, will scream and yell how the component doesn't meet the spec. There is only a 50-50 chance that he will understand after you explain how he failed to take into account certain design situations, but will redesign his experiment with the same problems. Rinse and repeat.
Seeking knowledge for its own sake is mental masturbation, makes a mess and perhaps you feel good for a bit. Serious action requires well thought out purpose. I suppose it comes down to how much a philosopher you are to which camp you will fall.
so Maxwell, Einstein, Marie Curie, Lavoisier, plus most of the mathematicians were actually mental masturbator without much drive for the design of useful device; anyway you need this kind of masturbator to open some really new fields, even if you are unable to share their passion....
I have for many years had a different spin on the scientists vs. engineers issue. Way back when I was in grad school, a lot of the folks I hung out with were scientists (mostly astrophysicists). We did have mutual respect, and I was often called upon to help them out in their research by designing some exotic bit of instrumentation. I quickly came to appreciate the difference in our attitudes toward the "real world": scientists try to understand the universe/reality by creating models (aka theories) of aspects of reality and trying to verify how well they correlate with reality itself; the goal is simply to understand reality and how it works. Once these models are validated (and their limitations understood, an important step often ignored), engineers use these models to create solutions to real-world problems. THAT is the true difference! Scientists try to understand reality, and engineers try to solve problems by applying that understanding. "All else is commentary; now go and learn the commentary."
I would like to add to some of the previous comments about the use of the term "engineer". If you ask most people what an engineer is they will probably answer "one who drives a train". The application of the term engineer to so many varied occupations is a large part of the problem, in my opinion. Building maintanence people, railroad workers, building construction workers, and so on are called engineers. This dilutes the true value of the real design engineer. Maybe it is time for someone to produce another title for the design engineer that distinguishes us from the other "engineers".
Also, many in the scientific profession need to be educated about the function and worth of the engineer. I worked for 30 years in a research facility that employed both scientists and engineers. I found that many of the PhD scientists viewed the engineers as no more than technicians. In fact, one told me that, as far as he was concerned, I was no more important to his work than the Textronix salesman! Because of this, he would not include me on the patent for a very important medical instrument that he received many dollars in royalties for. And management would not back me up in getting my name included on the patent because he was a scientist and I was just an engineer! I would have left that job right then if it wasn't for the fact that I enjoyed the work so much and felt that I was doing a real service to society.
I work in electronics in a university but not in an engineering department. I am surrounded by a sea of scientists. Generally, engineering here is considered a subset of science, an application of the science, something any good experimentalist scientist can do. Although these scientists' theory tends to be quite good, practice is lacking and what they have is antique. I cringe when someone walks in with a design they did. In fact, I have imposed a rule that I will not look at a circuit using components or concepts older than the person using them (e.g. 741 op amps, ±15V supplies) or lacking in basics (e.g. bypassing, grounding).
These are the scientific sources of the engineering quotes we hear. If it is in their field, it is probably accurate. However...
I agree with the general concept that journalists seem to have a difficult time dealing with the differances between science and engineering, however the issue is far deeper than this simple dichotomy. The real issue is the near complte lack of understanding of either science or engineerring in the general US population. Over the years with the lack of what has poorly been described as STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education in the US for a favoring of the liberal arts there has been a general lack of understanding in all NON STEM feilds of what the feilds of Engineering, Science, Math and Technollogy contain.
The Show Mc Gievr and its likes have not helped the situation, nor has the geek veiw of the genral TV portralya of the feilds.
I have been and engineer for over 30 years and love the feild. I stopped explaining anything about it (outside of scouting) since the fundamental lack of basic knowledge forces the topic nearly to the 1+2 = 2 stage. What at times in itself provokes a negative response.
I do however enjoy the perks of the practical background the feild has brought to me. My neighbor is a retired A+P and aircraft fabricator. We have done backyard projects that completely confuse our wives, and entertain the neighbor kids. We have made the requisite potato cannons, tennis ball cannons small trebuchants, worked with the local kids on making radios from crystal sets and so on.
This is beside fixing fences and gates so they work and such. While we have a ball few of the older folks get it and have no interest in learning anything.the kids do and we have fun with them. So all is not lost until you get to the schools where the Math teachers have no clue why they teach math.
The situation I have seen in the teaching profession is a determined effort to manitain the stauts qou and complain for more money to fix the "problem " rather than just hiring folks who know the subject. The teach credential has become a usless bit of drivel designed to bolster the psychology and liberal studies departments which would otherwise atrophy due to lack of demand.
Ohwell In 52 now working on a retirement plan. When I do that I will open an after hours education site to teach real math science and engineering not the feel good crap that is passed off as such today.
The media gives everyone a promtion just to be on the safe side. Technicians become engineers, engineers become scientists. Any woman who has ever had her picture in a magazine becomes a model and if she had her picture on a cover she becomes a super model.
They have to be careful in dealing with the medical profession, though. If the engineers would jump all over them like the AMA would, attitudes would change. Of course it doesn't help that 2/3 of US engineers haven't bothhered to register as professional engineers.
Mike C., although you make some very good points, I have to point out that the Liberal Arts are equally important and shouldn't take a backseat to the STEP skills. Ironically, there is no better proof of this than simply reading the paragraphs that you just posted. It's fraught with basic grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, almost to the point of embarrassment. I understand that not everyone is proficient at everything, but if you are going to make such a long and strongly opinionated comment regarding Liberal Arts skills vs. STEP skills amongst Americans, you really should have made some effort to make your writing of at least average quality. I agree with the point you are making, but the way you expressed it is almost an excellent example for those that have an opposing view.
I do not agree with what he says at all. See there is this issue with engineering not working without prior knowledge. Yea i give thumbs up to the first engineer to figure out that throwing a rock at someone hurt.... But generally how many engineers have invented a diode without a mathematician figure out geometry, then a physicist(scientist) apply that geometry to solid state physics, figure out band gap, find out that this band gap changes when matrix is not pure etc.... I could go on forever. Let’s go back to basics that an engineer is a physicist that can do the same thing using less math. At the end of the day an engineering success is an engineer correctly applying scientific knowledge and an engineering failure being an engineer incorrectly applying that same knowledge. As for grammar we all need improvement.
I cannot believe the number of commentors who have advanced the patently ridiculous notions that, firslty, either science alwas preceedes engineering, or secondly, and even more ridiculous, that because a scientific discovery or two once resulted in an engineered product, that science always preceeds engineering. The first notion might be a result of engineers not paying attention in history class - if they took history as a liberal arts elective at all. The second notion is simply a failure in logic which is inexcusable for an engineer.
Large scale engineering began in Mesopotamia about 10,000 years ago when canals were dug between isolated city-states. Those ancient civil engineers are, of course, anonymous siimply because writing had not been invented back then. We do know the name of the engineer who built one of the pyramids, Imhotep.
While there some historically earlier acientists/alchemists, astrologers/astronomers, recreational-puzzle-solvers/mathemeticians, for all practical purposes, modern science began as a hobby for ilde rich men duriing The Enlightenment.
And yes, today's engineers use math and some scientific principles, but still and all, engineering is mostly empircal and only partly theoretical.
For a modern example, the thermionic effect was discovered by Thomas Edison. Vacuum tube engineers kept refining the design of tubes up until the 1990's belive it or not (in Russia for miliary applications because tubes are not susceptible to EMP). But most vacuum-tube applications were obsoleted by the development of the transistor in 1948 or so (and I don't want to hear that the transist was developed by scientists, please!). The point I am trying to get to, is that It was not until much after 1948 that physicists finally developed a theory for the rather puzzling phenomon of thermionic emission.
or, as another exapmle, metalugrists continually develop new allows and heat treating processes. Sure they studied the crystaline structures of metals in college. But that knowledge is of no practical importance to them.
And finally, once again, it wa engineers, and not "rocket scientists," who put men on the moon.
@charlessmart18: I realize I'm replying to a comment you made back in October, but I didn't see it until now. Your statement that the knowledge of the crystalline structure of metals is "of no practical importance" to working metallurgists is simply not true. Take it from me, a working metallurgist.
It's true that, many years ago, metallurgists developed alloys and heat treatments based primarily on trial and error. That's not true anymore. In fact, integrated computational materials engineering is a hot topic these days, and companies like QuesTek are having success developing alloys beginning from first principles calculations. But even for things like failure analysis, a thorough understanding of microstructures is mandatory.
In fairness, those of us in the materials field occupy an unusual position somewhere between science and engineering. My undergraduate program was called "Metallurgical and Materials Engineering" when I started. It was called "Materials Science and Engineering" by the time I graduated. This term points to the fact that we have to know about more than just metals these days, and that we have to be both scientists and engineers at different times (and sometimes at the same time).
I have to tell at least a dozen people a year that I am not an engineer... I'm not a scientist either (and I've not been accused of that lately ;). I frequently do things that each of those holding said titles have been through many years of schooling to learn to do.
I’ve always thought that an engineer had a degree from a university stating that they had passed a course load of required math and physics... which gave them that title...
I've also heard that in the old days a company might 'make' someone an engineer due to their continued performance of duties normally requiring that degree. I guess the same might apply to ‘scientist’… No?
But as to ‘news’ reports being inaccurate… What else is new? There are so many mistakes in an average newspaper that I don’t see how anyone can believe them at all. Mostly, I think this is because there are so many things to know now-a-days that generic reporters can’t keep up.
To report on something, you should have at least a basic understanding of the subject. Knowing what questions to ask requires this as a minimum. Not to mention as this article points out… what terms/lingo to use in the report.
I was first registered in FL in 1973. I didn't need to be registered for my main line of work (EE employed in electronics industry) but got it for a sideline consulting business (in HVAC, family business). Despite moving around the country (I call myself a "technomad") I maintained my registration in FL for convenience plus the parochial attitudes of the Boards in various states made it difficult to transfer. Around 2000, the FL Board decided to implement a mandatory biennial continuing education requirement. This included 3 hours of class on the Board's rules & regulations (which rarely changed) and 3 hours of something else; the sticker was these courses had to be taken from someone who had paid the Board to become a licensed CE provider. Since the Internet was already fairly mature for these types of things, numerous people and organizations opened shop as "Florida-Certified PE CE providers." For the first couple of biennial renewal cycles, I played this silly game and paid my extortion fees for training that was of absolutely no use to me professionally. The third time (2006?), I had just taken a full week course (40 hours) of training on a new CAD system (at the insistence of my employer); that was both considerably more hours than required, and actually relevant to my engineering skills. I did take the silly on-line course of R & R of the Board for $35; the only change the Board made that cycle was to redesign the required impression-type seal (no thought given to something important, like electronic signatures) to force every single Florida PE to buy a new obsolete-technology seal. The Board rejected my renewal application because the CAD company (one of the very biggest in the world) hadn't paid their $250 to the state to become a "certified provider." Incidentally, at that time, by their rules, i could have gotten a PHD in EE from MIT, and THAT wouldn't be accepted either (no $250 from MIT)! (the next year they decided to accept any course from an accredited engineering school). I decided to let them suspend my registration rather than continue to tacitly support this rotten system. By the way, with all of the "improvements" in the "quality of the engineering profession in the state of Florida" due to CE, enforcement activities rose every year, with more and more "CE-trained engineers" being cited for substantive rules violations every year, and in many cases sanctioned or expelled.
With this as an example of the incredible stupidity and bureaucratic nonsense that pervades ALL state Boards of Professional regulation, why does anyone think that MORE of this would improve the public image of engineering? By the way, as a Life Member of IEEE, I have always found that the IEEE Code of Ethics is both stronger and more relevant than that of ANY PE organization! Just MHO....
I'm concerned you might have the 'saving drill' a little mixed up. Very likely several scientists lead by a Science Advisor determined what were the needs of the issue. Then used an Engineer to make and test the final product. How this works is thusly:
An issue is brought up by senior management. The President or CEO would assign the job to the Advisor. The advisor then selects from his scientific and engineering team of experts a small team of one to three and they would apply themselves to the issue. They would fix or advise engineering what to change to make a fix.
I was a Sr. Scientist and acting Engineer - notice the modifier. I was used world wide to isolate problems and with that, find solutions. Engineers are very practical, but are often unaware of all things that can get into their 'stuff'. I constantly created hardware and software or documentation to the extent that the design engineers would take the project and make a pretty one.
Therefore I believe it depends on the company and science backgrounds of the scientists.
A Physicist is best matched with Electrical/Electronic Engineering. While a Chemist with a Chemical Engineer and then into the Bio Engineering disciplines and so forth. Physics is again applied with the Mechanical Engineers. Likely one of the neatest concepts - simple in design but worth a pile of gold - is the measuring of very high voltage and high current of the high tension lines. It was simply solved and the engineer fitted the connectors and electronics package. The Scientist used light rotating in a fiber optic cable. The engineer was stumped until a simple loop was demonstrated in the lab. Then the eureka moment occurred.
As a person who became a NON-DEGREED ENGINEER and a SCIENTIST on the " bleeding edge " at Cray Research, let me offer my thoughts on the subject...
A SCIENTIST PROVES OR DISPROVES A THEOREM WITH THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD.
" If an experiment has REPEATABLE RESULTS, the THEOREM becomes a FACT or LAW OF NATURE "
Then the ENGINEER can use that FACT to create SOMETHING OF VALUE to the population/business at large.
I will probably end up discussing some of the problems related to this very issue in the " Sherlock Ohms " blog that I subscribe to here...
I have literally been at the crux of this issue and have had to work out the difference as I have worn both " Lab Coats " ( and have actually run labs ) and " short sleeve Engineer shirts " ( with no tie that cuts off curculation to the brain ) in my professional career.
That is my two cents on the matter. It is already a known FACT that Main $tream Media has no clue about how to do REPORTING ( the 5 Ws and an H ) these days.
A dictionary definition of an engineer is someone who uses scientific principles to design, maintain or repair equipment. From that, I guess that a scientist is someone investigates the way things are ... be it throught physics, chemistry, biology etc, and formulates theories on those investigations. As someone else has said .. engineers take those theories and occassionally disprove them !.
Another debate: Distinguishing between engineers and technicians.
I suggest that an engineer does stuff through an understanding of what is going on, and often write proceedures that give technicians what they need to do their job ... usually without actually understanding the principles involved. Being an enginer doesn't require any formal qualification, just an understanding, be it through intuitition, or education. The guy(or gal) who comes to tune your TV, or fix your phone, generally, is a technician doing what he has been shown how to do. Dilberteven as a child is an engineer, because he can design of fix almost anything, without ever having seen the device, or manual before. He examines and draws conclusions from a general understanding of the processes involved.
I have to take exception to your statement that engineers "understand" while technicians follow rote instructions. Although I have many years experience as an Electrician and a Millwright, I have worked with engineers who believed that their title automatically makes them superior. I have often had the title Field Service Engineer on my business cards, but I don't claim to be an 'Engineer'. What I do claim is that my job is to take what was designed by an Engineer, and then fix it so that it works. As a 'technician', I have especially had to train 'engineers' on the correct application of industrial robots.
I apologize if the engineers reading this post are insulted - but how many senior engineers have had the experience of having to teach junior engineers the difference between 'book learning' and 'real world' application ? Isn't that why new engineers work under the supervision of senior engineers ?
And I take exception to the belief that a 'real' man/engineer/technician does not need a manual or schematics. The reason that I have fixed equipment that more senior technicians couldn't was because I did read the instructions. That was how I learned where the hidden circlip was, what parameter enabled the acceleration profile, at which degree angle the brake was supposed to disengage, etc.
While Professor Petroski's points are all well taken, and I agree with him about the common misuse of the terms, what really sticks in my craw (and forgive me for going off on a slight tangent) is the commonly believed shibboleth that theres a shortage of engineers in the United States. No; there's a shortage of companies willing to pay what US engineers were making before they were laid off in droves. Many (most?) of those laid off engineers are highly capable. They just don't fit the desired hiring profile.
The problem goes beyond the headline writers. Most of the consumer media -- even those who serve as science/technology writers -- came up as general assignment reporters. In some cases, at the big dailies, those general assignment reporters are very knowledgeable. In many cases, however, the general assignment reporter was covering education a year ago, city hall two years ago, and the fashion beat three years ago. The result is a reporter who may think science and engineering are synonymous, or may think that engineering and air conditioning repair are synonymous, or may think that engineering and driving a train are synonymous.
Good points, Chuck. In the trade press, too, there are many folks who come up through the general media w/out technical training. The other thing which really bugs me is the widespread innumeracy in our society. You see this all the time in the mainstream media. I've seen many cases in the NYTimes where the age and year of birth given for somebody don't correlate. My other pet peeve is doing what should be a comparison as an absolute, as in "It's 90% faster." Ninety percent faster than what?
Regarding innumeracy: When a judge earlier this week sentenced former-Illinois-governor Rod Blagojevich in months, rather than years, it was said that some of the reporters were scrambling to figure out how to convert months to years.
"Regarding innumeracy: When a judge earlier this week sentenced former-Illinois-governor Rod Blagojevich in months, rather than years, it was said that some of the reporters were scrambling to figure out how to convert months to years."
I have 45 years of hands-on science. Actually much more as I designed and built my own guitar amp at age 13. As a scientist doing what most people would consider engineering, I have noticed a few differences. Most importantly, when authoring a paper, scientists get to put their names first. While engineers generally loathe calculus, scientists find it merely a necessary inconvenience. The main difference seems to be focus - perhaps to general - engineers focus on how, scientists focus on why. Of course there are the outliers - theoretical physicists who live in an unimaginable world and by-the-book engineers who apparently are never curious. But the majority of both are much closer and the opposite tails of the distributions very much overlap.
Personally, I have always found that hands-on engagement is a great way to stimulate discovery. Engineers tend to favor the build it and see approach to validating a concept while scientists tend to favor starting with a mathematical proof. Both approaches have pros and cons. The engineering approach is an efficient methodology when treading known territory e.g. applying known techniques to a well defined problem. This is the fastest way to get the job done in many cases but also leads to the path of rework (expensive and time consuming) and inertia (overattachment to a bad solution). The scientific approach is more efficient when known best practice is thin. It can take a good deal of time and effort to model the problem which is extra overhead when a tried and true solution is in the offing. On the other hand, this is a powerful way of understanding the underlying rules of engagement when tackling new problems. Generally, where both fail is in the cases where we don't know what we don't know.
Are some scientists impractical? Definitely: there are always challenges in turning basic research into economic product. But, it does no good to understand everything about manufacturing technology if the result is to ignore the principles that make a product or process work ... and vice versa. The bigger problem seems to be a lack of scientific literacy amongst engineers and the lack of mechanical knowledge amongst scientists, or more like, an appreciation of the need. Worse, money men and managers often have no clue. This often leads to dumbing down the problem with resulting command decisions that insult scientists and engineers and esily go wrong. Also, I would not discount the input of technologists. Many of my best engineering projects have depended heavily on the skills of technologists to actualize the designs. I may even have learned a thing or three from them.
Sadly, the popular press and even the scientific press is pretty clueless. That's why we frequently see articles trumpeting some 'revolutionary' discovery that never sees the light of day. Usually, I stop reading when I read of something that will greatly drive down the cost of a thing based on an experiment at a millionth scale using platimum electrodes ...
I'm inclined to think that scientists are more about creating models, while engineers are more about using them. So naturally we almost always find scientists doing a little engineering and engineers doing a little science. That's a good thing.
One of my most fun engineering jobs was supporting a research scientist doing an interesting product development project. We would talk, and he would explain that he needed to find out about some response of some material to some condition, and then I would come up with a means of obtaining that data, and explain the process that I had chosen. At that point he would often have questions, and sometimes it would turn out that my plan would need to be revised, but mostly there were questions about how fast could it be done, and how accurate could the results be, and what were the cost relations between speed and accuracy of the results. IT winds up that nearly everything is a compromise, and as time and cost approach infinity the accuracy gets much higher. But we seldom went to that extreme. But it was fun because there was something new every few days, and I got to do both electronic and mechanical designs and see them all work.
The unfortunate thing was that we wound up showing that current technology could not produce some of the required materials at anything close to the targetede price, in the quantities required. The very good part is that we were able to determine this before any production equipment was procured.
In the current business I'm employed in, I see a very stark difference between a scientist and an engineer. An engineer detects a variance in equipment performance and designs to minimize it's effect. The scientist sees the same thing and whines that you have to fix it for free.
My experience with those who claim to be scientist, not lowly engineers, has not been too endearing to the kind, but I do know this; remove all of the engineers and scientist and the world becomes much worse, remove all of the jouralist and the world becomes much better (and take the lawyers with you while your at it). I know, that was harsh.
I don't know how to separate the two. I've never met an engineer that wasn't a scientist, and visa versa. Engineering achivements are also scientific and mathematical ones. maybe it's because i work for a car company and we all wear many hats, and things are different at other companies.
I see the distinction often in materials development. Some materials are being developed without specific use in mind. That's science. Taking those new materials and using them to solve a problem. That's engineering.
Another simple way to understand the difference between engineers and scientists is to look at what they do. Right now a bunch of astonomer type folks who call themselves scientists are investigating what appears to be happening at the edge of the universe, viewing images that they claim to be light emitted thousands of years ago from objects moving away from us at incredible velocities. If their conclusions are wrong, who could possibly tell. And yet they believe it is important to know.
Meanwhile, groups of engineers are working very hard to produce cars that use less energy and are safer to ride in, while other engineers are developing means to filter water in parts of the world where there usually is no water fit to drink. And other engineers are developing ways for these folks to raise more and better food so that they can live longer.
Sometimes you tell the difference by what people work at. Not always, but often.
An ongoing frustration I have been experiencing is the difficulty of integrating science and engineering in an R&D project. The scientists appear to want to have free rein to carry out scientific investigations. While at first the investigations are related to the project's goals, increasingly the investigations wander from the path to the soluton to what is fundamentally an engineering problem. The engineers may need more scientific datapoints, but they are not getting them in a timely fashion. Whether the project keeps on schedule seems to depend to a great extent on whether the project is managed by a scientist or an engineer.
That is an interesting situation. Of course it does seem that usually scientists are not as focused as engineers. Sometimes it seems like nobody is as focused as some engineers. Sometimes that is me.
My most fun job as an engineer was supporting a research scientist in the development of a fundamentally new product. I got to do all kinds of things and projects. Of course we were quite focused because we needed to report to a team of potential users and co-developers every week.
But those scientists that don't have such a wonderful motivating team could easily wander. If one includes astronomers as scientists, they have already wandered far away from developing any useful ideas, let alone useful things.
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