Structure Magazine has published a series of forum articles about engineering education for structural engineers. An entry in November 2012 is entitled, “Reform in Education and Training” by Glenn Bell, the Chief Executive Officer for Simpson, Gumpertz and Heger. The column discusses several issues that frequently pop up related to this topic, including the need for formal education above and beyond an undergraduate degree.
Mr. Bell also includes discussion of a topic not so frequently mentioned. In the section, “The Relationship Between Practice, Education and Research” he writes:
"For structural engineers to meet future challenges, we must radically redefine the relationship between practice, education and research. The practice, education and research should be so integrated as to be incestuous. A highly productive, creative, value-producing structural engineering profession of the future will engage in a continuous chain where research leads to innovation, leading then to teaching and learning, then feeding back to more research, innovation and teaching.”
What Mr. Bell describes seems to make a lot of sense. Unfortunately the current system is much different. Engineering academia and practice tend to function in separate silos, warily recognizing each other’s existence. Bell refers to examples from other professions such as medicine, where the crossover between academia and practice is systematic, expected and understood to be an important part of maintaining overall professional success.