Citation. Gabbai, J. M. E., “Engineering Doctorates,” in The Aerospace Professional, May 2003, pp. 18.
After graduating you either go into industry or stay at university as a postgraduate, right? I thought that was the case when I completed my Aerospace Engineering degree at the University of Manchester. But as someone who enjoyed both the academic and industrial aspects of the degree, I looked for another route, and was ultimately drawn towards the Engineering Doctorate (EngD) with its strong industrial bias.
Each EngD has the backing of an industrial company that you’ll be working with, undertaking a commercially relevant research topic. The main part of my research, for example, is examining the issues of having large scale complex systems in organisations; as systems increase in complexity the design and prediction of their performance becomes a real challenge. BAE SYSTEMS, my industrial sponsor, faces issues from logistics through to manufacturing and my research is just one part of how the company is exploring this challenge. Working with a company requires a considerable appreciation of its market, and an understanding of how the research fits into the greater scheme of things. This, I found, made the research feel much more relevant than a conventional PhD and involved a lot of interaction with people working on different areas at BAE SYSTEMS.
As well as having all the benefits of an industrial sponsor, the EngD is complimented by a structured personal development program. At UMIST, where I undertook my EngD, this involves a set of courses covering diverse topics such as industrial law, project management, effective report writing, negotiation, team-building and stress management. Another major part of the Engineering Doctorate is a formally examined Management Diploma. This is carried out during the first two years, and has a strong focus on industrially relevant management topics, ranging from operational management to accountancy and total quality management to marketing. The personal development course coupled with hands on experience gained from industry places EngD research engineers in a favourable position if applying for full Chartered Engineering status by the end of the four-year scheme.
From my personal experience, it is a very varied and challenging experience that continually develops and tests many different skills over a relatively short period. Furthermore, as each Engineering Doctorate year group has around a dozen students who come from very different research areas and career backgrounds there is an opportunity to discuss common problems and share experiences. This definitely adds to the scheme and is a further step away from the more traditional PhD experience.