I (a physicist) have worked my entire career alongside engineers, in a field
of applied research, so I have a sense of their similarities and differences.
When I was in college at VPI, as a senior I tried to take an upper-level
course in microwave electronics in the Engineering department (because it was
more well-developed than E&M in the Physics department). It was impossible. In
order to have the prerequisites I would have had to start my education over
again as a freshman in Engineering. This was the first experience of the
difference between engineering and science.
Our educational institutions train engineers and scientists in different
ways. Engineers are licensed, and have all kinds of legal rules, licenses and
stipulations on their activities, because usually they are under contract to
build something. There are safety implications.
Research scientists may have a hard time working under such rules. I worked
under some engineers on a project at one time, didn't know the rules well
enough, and crossed some invisible boundaries occasionally. This gave my
engineer boss fits. We were both glad when I left the project.
In short, I believe that if you want to change public perceptions, it has to
begin in the colleges. If, as the proposal says, you perceive that science and
engineering play a "co-equal role" in research, then you have to break down the
artificial barriers between schools of engineering and schools of the "arts and
sciences" that typically still exist around the world.
Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-1914 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)
Code 724, NSWC, Bethesda, MD 20084