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Kudos to Alums
I received my master of science in mechanical engineering in 1995 from UNL. I just received the Fall 2004 issue of Engineering @ Nebraska and found the “Huskers in Baghdad” article particularly interesting as I was in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years. In our media today, I can honestly say I don’t think I have seen any articles that portray any positive advances our troops, civilian contractors and the Iraqi people are making.

Many kudos to Thomas O’Hara, Anthony Risko and Douglas Plachy.

Cliff Simmons, USAFA ’76, UNL ’95

No-nonsense Professor
I enjoyed the recent issue (Fall 2004). I liked the article, “The Air Up There”—great photo with the professors lined up. Professor Dennis Alexander was my counselor in my mechanical engineering program—arbitrarily assigned to me when I switched from a math major after my first two years at UNL. I’ll never forget how kind but no-nonsense he was, which presented a very favorable impression since those are probably the most important attributes a kid needs in a counselor. Later I worked for Professor Alexander—taking care of his dogs while he was on vacation. I appreciated the trust he showed in me by asking me to do that duty.

And Professor Woollam, though we never have met each other, I appreciate what he has done with his ellipsometry work as it applies to the semiconductor industry. I have been in the semiconductor industry my entire 22-year career. At one point, while at Motorola Advanced Products Research & Development Lab in Austin, Texas, in the mid-90s, I was in charge of all photolithography, etch and metrology equipment. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the connection to the Woollam Ellipsometer and UNL!! So, as you might imagine, when the service technician arrived from Lincoln, it was like the king had arrived as far as I was concerned!

John O’Reilly, ’82 BSME

Cultivating Complete Engineers
I read with considerable interest the article “The Integrated Engineer” in the Fall 2004 issue of the magazine. I worked in a large company in the chemical industry for over 35 years. During much of that time I was in supervisory/management positions that involved hiring new chemical engineers and, in the subtitle of your article, “cultivating complete engineers.” At one point my entire job was to develop and administer a training program for these new people throughout the research division of our department.

The article did not deal with the two deficiencies that we almost always encountered in the new employees: (1) they couldn’t write and (2) they couldn’t give a proper oral presentation. I will admit that I have been out of the industry for a number of years but I feel quite certain that the same two deficiencies exist today. Students who are studying things technical seem to have little interest in these two areas.

I would strongly suggest that efforts to graduate a well-rounded engineer should include both an English course that involves technical writing and a speech course. When I was at the university I took an excellent two-hour English course for engineers, taught by Dr. Scott. The course involved reading non-technical English literature, which opened the eyes of many students who had read little other than scientific textbooks. It also required students to pick a technical topic, research the literature and then write a report. The one-hour speech course I took gave invaluable insights into how to prepare and give an oral presentation. (The course also led to meeting my wife, but that’s another story!)
I agree fully with the points that co-op experience and campus activities are important. I often made job offers to applicants with one of those backgrounds but with a not-so-good GPA rather than to someone with a 4.0 who had done nothing but study.

Here are some other areas the college might consider in cultivating complete engineers. We found all of these beneficial to our employees, whether they were career research people or were headed for supervisory positions in research or production. (1) Systematic problem solving including, as a first step, the importance of defining the problem exactly. Too many graduates are accustomed to a situation where all of the necessary information is provided and the question is stated. (2) Techniques to improve creative thinking. There seems to be a certain rigidity in thought by engineers, which needs to be broken down. (3) Managing interpersonal relations. This skill is important for relationships with peers as well as with subordinates (or with your manager). (4) Management skills. Exposing students to time management, as you suggest in your article, is a start in this direction. The entire area of management skills is undoubtedly too wide for the curriculum for engineering, but a brief contact with the subject might cause the graduate to think about it.

Sincerely yours,
Lewis A. Kremer
ChE ’48 (would have been ’45 except for WWII)