Q: I have some questions about post-college life. In my engineering career, will I confront problems that are much harder than those I have done in my classes? Thank you for any info.
A: This is a hard question, but I think the answer has to be yes. Think about the cure for cancer, alternative fuel sources, and travel to Mars. All of these are very hard problems. In your engineering career, you will confront problems that have never been solved before. You will create value for your employer by solving these problems in creative and novel ways that will lead to products, sales, and scientific breakthroughs. In school, the problems you solve have already been done a thousand times before by other students. I think it all depends on how you define hard. I define hard as something that is excruciatingly boring to do. To me, working on alternative fuel sources that will save our planet is the most exciting thing in the world. I will work that problem everyday for the rest of my life because I believe in the benefit to humanity and the world. It is super easy for me to work on stuff like that, but making progress is hard work.
I like to say that science is the explorer’s paradise. As a scientist or engineer, it is your job to explore uncharted territory. It is your job to passionately apply your skills to creating engineering marvels. It is hard to explore and hard to create, but these are the hard problems that are so easy to do. Yes, I believe that you will find problems that are infinitely harder, if not impossible, to solve. Remember though that the world was flat, air flight used to be physically impossible, and the Star Trek communicator used to be science fiction until someone invented the cell phone.