Discussion Thread

Best Advice (from Professors)

  • 1.  Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 06-07-2021 09:58 AM

    I wanted to start a thread, perhaps a series of threads, if people find it interesting.

    The prompt: What was the best advice you received from a professor?



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    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Brooklyn NY
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  • 2.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 06-07-2021 02:58 PM
    I'll go first, My freshman professor, Professor Ronan, said: "If an answer doesn't look right, it probably isn't. 
    This simple piece of advice has saved me numerous points on tests throughout my education. Additionally, I use this in everyday work. If I'm sizing up a simple beam and the beam or connections seems overdesigned I go back and check my math and usually, I'll find an error somewhere.

    Looking forward to learning from others!  

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    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Brooklyn NY
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  • 3.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 06-11-2021 10:34 AM
    Hey Daniel,

    The best piece of advice, or rather mindset, that was taught to me by a professor came during the preparation of my senior design project, and more specifically, our final presentation. The advice was to always refer to ourselves during the presentation as we rather than I. For example, we designed this portion of the project to solve this problem, rather than I designed. It's a simple concept, but one that can be very impactful. The point was to instill that sense of team and community into our engineering work. Though we all may work on individual pieces of the puzzle for (sometimes very long) periods of time, it's important to remember the big picture and that we won't get there without the help of everybody involved. I have carried this with me into my career, and always try to keep in mind that when working on an engineering solution, we are all on the same team, working towards the same goal, even if we all may have different roles or specialties in how we get to that end goal. Even when working for a client, although the relationship can sometimes become more adversarial depending on things going well or poorly, we are still working toward the same goal, and we are on the same team, and I find it to be important to convey it as such when discussing the project with those outside of the team. I thank Dr. Oyler at the University of Pittsburgh for that advice.

    Dennis
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    Dennis Wilson P.E., M.ASCE
    Associate Project Manager, Transportation Engineering
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  • 4.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 06-13-2021 10:52 AM
    Best advice that my professor told me was "Who you know is more important than what you know". Over the course of my career, I got PhD assistantship, job offers all through contacting and talking to friends and the right people. So networking, networking and networking!

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    Tung Nguyen, PhD
    Water Resources Engineer
    Sacramento, CA
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  • 5.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 06-13-2021 04:36 PM
    One of our professors starts off each course with a diagram with time on the x axis and % correct on the y axis.
    He draws the curve starting at the origin and then quickly increasing up until around 90% correct. At that point it begins to level off as you continue in time.
    He used it to illustrate that in the real world, getting to the final "perfect" answer sometimes takes double the time as getting to 90% correct with little to show for it. He then explained that in practically applying engineering concepts to real world projects, we make reasonably conservative decisions for safety, constructability, and budget. We don't need to spend another 50% of the project budget figuring out the absolute smallest beams for each location on the structure. What you spend calculating it may well surpass any savings on materials, you increase risk of beams being used in the wrong place from over complicating the plans, etc.
    I think for many people that go into college for engineering, we like finding the mathematically optimal solution. However, for the safety of the public and the health of projects, we have to step back and redefine what the "right" solution is. The "right" solution isn't necessarily the lightest structure allowed by code. It can also be a structure that is both safe and reduces the risk of construction errors.
    That advice has helped me not get hung up on some of the estimating we have to do on our site development projects, especially in runoff calculations which contain multiple inputs with ranges of acceptable values. We make our best (still conservative) judgement and move forward with the designs.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 6.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 06-15-2021 07:21 PM
    The best advice I get from my Professor is don't accept the findings of research papers blindly and start the topic by defying their findings, then only good and effective research can be done. Till now, I am finding his advice a great help, to me.

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    Prithvendra Singh S.M.ASCE
    Ph.D. Research Scholar
    Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
    Mumbai MH
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  • 7.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 06-18-2021 06:22 PM
    One quote I remember from a professor who taught senior design (and was also an engineer in industry). "All of the problems in the world come from a difference in expectation between two parties".  I took this to mean that clear communication is critical in the workforce. And every day I find another way that this rings true somewhere in my job.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 8.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 07-13-2021 07:58 PM
    RC Smith was the best teacher I ever had.  He said a lot of good stuff, but the one I remember most:  Well, students, that's like beating yourself on the head with a hammer.  It feels so good when you stop.

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    Edward [MiddleName] Bell P.E., P.L.S, M.ASCE
    Public Works Director
    City of Marysville
    Marysville WA
    EdwardEdward
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  • 9.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 07-15-2021 12:59 PM
    Paraphrasing - Attention and detail to the simple aspects (projects, reports, etc.) provides the promise that the same attention and detail was applied to the more difficult aspects.

    I pass this along to clients following some visual inspections of structures, structural assemblies and structural elements, particularly where some general contractors are involved; if they are not going to utilize professional standards of care (and follow the design plans or minimum code requirements) for the structural items one can actually see, the promise that the highest standards of care are utilized in those structural elements one cannot see are in question.

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    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal/Owner
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA
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  • 10.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 07-19-2021 09:25 AM
    Hello every body!

    Just seeing this topic makes me want to participate, it returns me to the first grade of civil engineering studies at my "alma mater" Faculty of Civil Engineering - Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, in the class "Civil Engineering in Mexico" taught by the then Faculty Director Ing. José Muñoz Chávez (with his singular style) who in his class told us: "Mathematics and physics are a science but ... engineering is an Art" to refer to the fact that engineers must be like artists to make our work something that helps the welfare of society; I remember that in those moments I felt inspired by that class to take advantage of my time at the university. Now I always try to keep in mind that my role as a civil engineer is to make my work contribute well-being.

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    Horacio Galicia-Gaona Ing., S.E., M.ASCE
    Morelia
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  • 11.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 07-22-2021 08:23 PM
    When studying different pavement design methods my teacher used to say,

    "There are no good or bad design methods, there must be good information about traffic, subgrade, and materials. That makes the difference".

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    Luis R. Vásquez-Varela. Aff. M. ASCE
    Head of the Civil Engineering Department
    Universidad Nacional de Colombia - Manizales Branch

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    Luis Vasquez-Varela Aff.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Manizales
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  • 12.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 08-18-2021 11:45 AM
    "I hope you approach your graduate engineering studies as a graduate student, rather than as a graduated senior".  Anonymous professor.  While a bit rough on the delivery, he actually prepared me that to be successful in my chosen (niche) field, that hard work was going to be required.

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    Douglas MannP.E., D.CE, M.ASCE
    Lake WorthFL
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  • 13.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 08-18-2021 02:14 PM

    I received advice  in 1958-9 from City College of New York professors that made such an impression on me that I included it in my recent book, "The Engineering is Easy/Memoir of a Project Manager":

    "I still recall tips from some of my civil engineering professors. Professor Bernard Kaplan explained the merits of prior planning before commencing design, while Professor David Muss stressed the value of having an executive summary at the front of a report. Professor Donald Brandt showed how to criticize the action but not the person, when he'd say, "That's a way," to a student's flawed approach to a problem, before describing the proper approach. And Professor William Brotherton's response, "The better one," to the question, "Which officer salutes first when two officers of the same rank meet for the first time?" taught me that it's more important to be courteous than egotistical. While these tips were not directly part of the curriculum, remembering them eventually helped me become a better manager and leader."



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    Bruce Podwal P.E., F.ASCE
    New York City NY
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  • 14.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 08-19-2021 09:43 AM
    Professor Mortimer said F = ma and you can't push a rope. That is, understand theory, apply it with common sense, and you will produce useful results.

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    Stu Walesh PhD, PE
    Consultant - Teacher - Author
    219-242-1704
    www.HelpingYouEngineerYour
    Future.com
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  • 15.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 06-15-2021 04:26 PM
    I agree with Tung! While I don't recall any specific words of advice from a specific professor, most of my professors throughout college reinforced this notion of how important networking is and encourage us to attend events hosted by our local professional organizations!

    For example, the local ASCE Philadephia Younger Member Forum's Board when I was in school at Drexel had 22 board members that represent 13 different companies. By attending their events while I was a student, I was able to build my network and when my resume sent to one of these 13 companies during my internship search, I had already built a networking relationship with them through meeting them at multiple ASCE Philadephia Younger Member Forum events. ​

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    Danielle Schroeder EIT, A.M.ASCE (She/her)
    Associate Engineer
    Pennoni
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 16.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 07-20-2021 01:25 PM
    Hello from Mexico! I'm here as a graduate student right now.

    We emphasize "the art of engineering" or the "art of possibility" a lot at our company. (It expanded to the art of possibility when we extended our services beyond just engineering.)

    Here's a quote from our website that echos what your professor said: We believe that the art of possibility means helping our clients succeed through the artful application of technical principles. 

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 17.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 07-22-2021 09:26 AM
    Good! Congratulations on your studies! I am surprised that you are studying a postgraduate degree in Mexico and that you come from the USA, I think it is not common for this to happen!

    I also saw your company's website, they seem to have a long history, congratulations on that too!

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    Horacio Galicia-Gaona Ing., S.E., M.ASCE
    Morelia
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  • 18.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 07-22-2021 11:53 AM
    When I was in undergrad I ended up getting degrees in both Spanish and Civil Engineering. I had an opportunity come up to be a student exchange intern at an international campus ministry, and I decided that would be a great way to use my Spanish again after 7 years with very little practice. I could have gone to Spain, but I liked the graduate program at UDLAP better than the program in Valencia.
    I have 3 trimesters left to earn my masters in Gestión de Proyectos de Construcción.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 19.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 08-23-2021 01:06 PM
    This is great advice! Graduate school is a different type of education than undergrad.
    I am currently pursuing my graduate degree and my first semester back in school was the hardest due to balancing my job and schooling.

    I'm not sure if this is a common experince so I thought it worth sharing.

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    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Brooklyn NY
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  • 20.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 21 days ago
    Stu, if I may..

    Approach it with uncommon sense.
    Common sense is usually the culprit.
    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

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    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 21.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 20 days ago
    Bill:

    Good thought, especially if "common sense" is interpreted to mean "let's do it like we always did."

    Stu

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    Stu Walesh PhD, PE
    Consultant - Teacher - Author
    219-242-1704
    www.HelpingYouEngineerYourFuture.com
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  • 22.  RE: Best Advice (from Professors)

    Posted 16 days ago

    Interesting discussions. In particular, I like to delve into the metamorphoses of the topic, Best Advice to something important – that we grow up hearing from our elders, teachers and well-wishers. It is the common sense of doing things. But is common sense really common? We got some glimpses of an answer from Prof. Hayden's uncommon sense or from Dr. Walesh's let's do it like we always did.

    While describing some basic and fundamental hydraulic tools that lie in our backyard – in my piece, Common Sense Hydraulics I have attempted to see it from two perspectives. These two are: the commonest of the commons (borrowing the term from the elitist British; from the system of British Parliament, of the less dignified (?) House of Commons, compared to the elitist House of Lords) – and the educated common. The former – is like seeing water always flowing downslope finding the steepest gradient, or when one feels light dipping in water. These are everyone's intuitive common knowledge, but many do not understand why they happen – unless they become somewhat educated in aspects of them.

    Things turn into educated common when we know the existence and importance of them as effective tools lying in our backyard. Examples of them are some established relations – like the basic hydraulic principles – of Chezy's and Bernoulli's, defining first-order solutions of hydraulics. I tried to argue in my piece that many of our hydraulic engineering problems can be addressed by using such educated common tools – before thinking of and embarking upon more elaborate methods. Only requirement is that one has to know when, where and how to use those tools.

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    Dilip

    Website

    ORCID ID

    Google Scholar



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    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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