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Practical vs. theory; industrial vs. academic – deux January 30, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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I wrote a while back (in October) on the difference in teaching topics when an academician does it versus when someone from industry does. Now I have run across another aspect of this. The two differ greatly in how they think about doing the little things in the lab, too.

In a conversation with a very well-known professor, now emeritus, but the author of hundreds of papers and of a very well known book, I was struck by how impractical and convoluted some of his ideas were on getting things done in the lab. Maybe professors lose touch because they stop doing much research after their first few years, but the nuts-and-bolts type thing is meager.

This is not the first time I have seen this. It seems that once out of the lab, the administrator’s mindset grows. The tinkering scient’s diminishs. In industry, you still work a lot in the lab, even if you have twenty or thirty or more years of experience. Yes, you have technicians, but they do the everyday work or the things that need moderate direction and oversight. For really new stuff, you often do it yourself because it takes more time and effort to train someone and look look over the work as it is done and through all the results to make sure it was correctly done. (This is one of the ironical things since most students think professors are still doing research lab work throughout a career when they really have the least exposure of any venue.)

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