Where do the control engineering graduate?

I am applying for graduate school now. I have some research experience in control theory. I am wondering which department is more valuable
for control guys to find a job, the Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering? I am not interested in ChE department.
Thanks in advance!
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On Sun, 21 Feb 2010 18:13:39 -0800, workaholic wrote:

Don't forget the math department.
I think it depends on what you want to do, and who's hiring. I know that when _I_ was looking to replace myself at my last direct-hire job I was seeing good candidates from both EE and ME programs. But I think it depends a lot on the university.
ME programs tend to be more practice-oriented "do this and that will happen", without a firm grounding on theory -- but there's so much overlap that both ME and EE programs will graduate folks with a good mix of theory and practice.
I think the best two things you can do are to fill holes, and get practical experience. So, figure out where the holes in your knowledge are, and go to that department. If you're strong in ME kind of stuff, get your graduate degree from an EE department, or visa-versa. At the same time, look for a department where you're going to make something real work. Ultimately employers don't want you to come churn through pretty math -- they want you to find real world solutions to real world problems, which is a task that 'pretty math' types fail at often enough that it's a cliche.
--
www.wescottdesign.com

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I would add physics to Tim's list.
The local university offers degrees in mechatronics. I think this is a good place too start. I have seen too many mechanical engineers design machines that can't be controlled and electrical or control engineers that don't know enough about the whole system that they don't know it can't be controlled.
[rant] I have a few control books. Most assume that the system is known and go through a whole lot of theory as to how to control it. It must be a shock when the poor students get out in the real world and find that there isn't a transfer function stamped to the machine they want to control. I think the ultimate is to understand the control theory and use that to influence the design of the machine so that it is controllable and the degree to which it is controllable. Aircraft manufacturers must do this.
If this is not possible then being able to do real system identification is necessary to obtain the transfer functions or differential equations that define the system. This also requires understanding of the physics of the machine. For instance a heat exchanger is non linear because of the log mean temperature difference but one can compensate for changing gains as a function of temperature. Likewise, we get involved with lifting pipe from horizontal to vertical. The gain changes as the pipe is lifted into position. The effect of the gravitation force becomes less as the pipe becomes more vertical. The inertia remains the same but the mechanical advantage or the actuators on the mechanism raising the pipe changes. Forces and gains should change for every angle.
I have seen too many control people try to control the impossible and fail after much effort. One can't blame them for failing to control the impossible but they can be blamed for not knowing it is impossible. [/rant]
The point is that simply knowing the control equations and theory is not enough. Knowing the machine is a must. That is why I would look into a mechatronics course.
I believe you have posted about robotics with arms that are very compliant. How did that turn out? I think that is a good example of the kind of problems to expect in real life.
Peter Nachtwey
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pnachtwey wrote:

I agree with the rant. On the one hand it's sad, because there are a lot of folks who graduate with lots of control smarts on paper who can't do the practical work. On the other hand it's an opportunity if you can learn what you need to know to fill in the gaps. Once your boss figures out that when _you_ say "I have an advanced degree and I can do real things with it" means what you say and not "I'm a bloviating idiot with a meaningless piece of paper" you'll go far.
Knowing some physics is a good thing, but I was assuming that getting through at least 2nd-year physics was required for both EE and ME courses, and certainly there's a lot of applied physics in 3rd- and 4th-year ME and EE courses.
--
Tim Wescott
Control system and signal processing consulting
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Thanks a lot.
My project does not go well. It is a typical problem for EE department to design a much too difficult 3D flexible arms, that cannot be used at all in my lab. I only do some simulation based on a naive model, and complete my thesis. It is a sad story.
Now I have two choices for my PhD study, one is EE department with good control theory research reputation and the other is ME department in another university. I don't know how can I choose. I admit that I am very weak in mechanical engineering knowledge. But I even doubt myself to be a good control engineer or get a well-paid job hired as a control engineer. Also I have still a to-be-a-scientist dream.
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workaholic wrote:

I figured out within a few months of finding my Master's thesis advisor that I had been profoundly lucky -- I just went shopping by sticking my head into offices, and settled on the first match. What I realized was that my success at doing my thesis was strongly influenced by the style and personality of the guy I was working for, and there was some god smiling down on naive little old me the day I went looking.
I'd suggest that you look at the faculty. Look for someone who sees his grad students defend successfully, look for someone whose name shows up on papers in the company of a bunch of his grad students, and if you can hunt down old grad students of his (look in older journals) and _ask_ them what the guy is like.
Then once you find your thesis advisor, you have found your school.
--
Tim Wescott
Control system and signal processing consulting
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Yes, I figured. Perhaps if the robot was much stiffer you would have had a chance. The kinematic equations should have been easy. It is easy to find them on the internet or in books but compensating for the change in intertia, mechanical advantage as a function of position in 3D is not easy. At least now you know what I am talking about. The machine must be designed to be controllable.

I have an EE degree but knowing what I know or don't know I would be tempted to learn more mechanical stuff. If you have an EE degree then why not learn the mecahical,.
It seems to me that if you want to work for a small company it would be best to have a broader education, Small companies often rely on one person to play multiple roles. Big comanies already have people for each role. Then the object is to be the best at that role. So where to want to work? So where are the best opportunities where you are?
I can see that Tim has a completly criteria. I agree that the advisor you chose will affect the getting the PhD. I was thinking about what you do afterwards.
Peter Nachtwey
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pnachtwey wrote:

Big companies still need systems engineers that can span disciplines. There may not be anyone who _does_ every job, but there needs to be someone who has at least a "Scientific American" level of understanding of every job to coordinate -- otherwise everyone just asks the impossible of everyone else, or they each try to solve the whole problem in their own domain without pushing off their expensive stuff into another realm where it would be cheap.
As an example, I used to work on a system that had a processor that had access to every signal, that calculated the secant of an angle and put it out on a DAC so that said secant could be multiplied _in analog hardware_ by another signal available to the microprocessor and applied to another part of the circuit. Had the fellows designing the analog electronics realized that if you can take the secant of an angle in a processor then you can _certainly_ do a multiplication, then they would have saved several $$ on the board and unending years of grief for the manufacturing crew, who had to tweak component values every time the semiconductor vendor changed processes on the multiplier chip.
So there are certainly places for systems engineers who at least have a notion of how a job may be accomplished in the mechanical, electrical and software domains (and chemical, psychological, biological, etc., as applicable), and knows the right language to ask questions in so that each task gets steered to the domain where it can be done most effectively and cost effectively.
--
Tim Wescott
Control system and signal processing consulting
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