What's Up, Postdoc?

How to climb the academic ladder

5 min read

Late one night, Richard J. Radke was at his desk, putting together applications for faculty jobs. Nearing the completion of his Ph.D., he was hoping to embark on an academic career. A senior professor he knew well took Radke aside and said, ”I hate to tell you this, but it’s going to be brutal,” he recalls. Radke, now an assistant professor in electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y., admits that his professor was right. Even once he’d landed a job, for the first few years he was constantly busy and stressed out as he learned the ropes and started worrying about tenure.

Roughly 28 percent of all electrical and computer engineering Ph.D.s follow the academic career path, according to a 2003 survey of doctoral recipients by the U.S. National Science Foundation. After five or six years as graduate students—a grueling stretch of time spent in proving that they can develop their own ideas and become well versed in research methods and goals—freshly minted Ph.D.s find themselves at the bottom rung of the academic ladder. Now their objectives must be to prove themselves in their fields, contribute to the learning in those fields, and in countries where it is offered, get tenure.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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