While I may not be the most experienced person on the faculty search committee, I definitely know what I think the students want and what we need. I explained previously how I would like another industry ex-pat because they can help bring some more connection to the jobs the students want, and the money the faculty members need. I want to be alive to see my research realized, and I know that industry has the greatest motivation to build stuff, use them, and sell them. I understand that some research is very conceptual and it can be many decades before the usefulness is realized, but for a department that claims to be applied science then I feel they need to show some of the ‘applied’ side of things and bring in someone else with industry contacts and motivation. I’m not saying the other PIs here are unmotivated, but I feel they definitely are unmotivated to get the fruits of their labor to appear in anything more than a publication. The publications are great to disseminate their work and share with others that may build upon it, but without pushing the research further (again we claim we’re highly applied) the research will ultimately just sit in the archives collecting digital dust.
One person told me off the record that many don’t want this turning into an industry department that’s solely motivated by money. I get that. I left industry partially for that exact reason, but federal funding is dwindling, the public often makes fun of academic research, and people are starting to believe that nothing good comes out of academic labs. We need to be creating collaborations not only across departments and schools but also with companies. If you have research that could make flying safer, treat a disease, or eliminate our dependence on oil, let’s find a way to take that publication and turn it into reality. And whether it’s right or wrong, we’ll need industry’s money. Or at least someone from industry’s know-how to turn that concept into a tangible object that can help society, regardless of whether we’re turning a profit from it. We need other people that have done “practical” design work, to contact the proper vendors, and get the research into the hands of subject matter experts or customers.
I know this is a contested topic and I’ve been accused of being less interested in science and more interested in ruining the sanctity of academic research. I’m wildly interested in science! I understand that science can do amazing things. But ultimately money keeps our labs going, and the vast majority of our students will go into industry. If I could just have one other faculty member on my side that has experienced something beyond the tower I would be grateful. Funny thing in this is the faculty members that I’ve had on my grants to a couple private companies used to be anti-industry, but in these arguments, they’re on my side. I’ve definitely converted them that industry isn’t so evil (though trust me, they are evil…kidding….mostly…..). What do I have to do, fund every one of these prof’s labs to show them that more connection to industry, the better?