The reason this has gone on for so many years is because engineers are not represented by any organization that is willing to address these issues. Forming or even joining any kind of professional union seems to be an anathema to the independent nature of engineers. It is up to the educators to make young engineering students aware of the situation and encourage them to stand up for their rights.
Joseph Hofler Jr. 58
I noted the letter of Norman Zelvin 51 in the June issue. I can readily agree with his point that engineers are underrecognized for their contributions to human well-being. I would suggest that one reason is that people generally do not experience what engineers do for them on an immediate one-to-one basis as they do, for example, with medical practitioners. Another reason is that for a long time what engineers do has increasingly been done as part of a group rather than as individuals and not even necessarily in a group led by engineers
Earnings are Norms second point. In my view earnings for a profession are related to supply and demand. The high earnings for medical specialists as compared to general practitioners and pharmacists (as well as engineers) can be explained by the fact that the supply of specialists has not been growing fast enough to meet the demand of a growing and aging U.S. population. The July 21 issue of Forbes reports a predicted shortfall of 150,000 specialists by 2020. If the supply of engineers (including the supply of those in Second and Third World nations able to perform some tasks formerly the province of American engineers) increases faster than demand, then earnings will suffer. I thus find it difficult to see how Norms suggestion of subsidizing engineering education as a way of attracting more students thus increasing supply will contribute to higher earnings and/or greater recognition.
Funds for attracting better students and faculty, supporting research and providing more teaching of advanced topics might better address ...the woeful lack of recognition in the form of salary levels... that rightly concerns Norm.
Robert Pavan 51
Valley Forge, Pa.
Remember Prof. Lichtenstein
I was deeply saddened to read of the passing of Prof. Lichtenstein, and troubled that it received little more than a footnote in your magazine. I think he deserved better.
I took several graduate level physics courses with Prof. Lichtenstein in the 1970s (Theoretical Physics I & II, Electromagnetic Theory) and found him to be the most impressive scientist Ive ever met. Many of us who became physics majors in the 60s and 70s were inspired by the famous German physicists of the earlier part of the century. I believe Prof. Lichtenstein, in his manner of teaching and approaching problems, provided us fortunate students with a direct link to that old school, something I doubt few living physicists could do. His brilliance combined with his eccentricities made him an amusing and inspiring, if intimidating, teacher.
I also recall his use of an ancient and obscure tensor notation that seemed oddly fitting for the problems he solved. He memorized the entire classs names by the end of the first class, and would spend weeks on a single complex tensor derivation without once referring to notes, completely without error as I recall.
Prof. Lichtenstein was an old man when I last saw him, around 1980. He led a full life, but I suppose its always sad when a link to the past is broken. I suspect he was the last of his kind.
Scott Moore 74
Mount Kisco, N.Y.
Exemplary Service: Alpha Phi Omega
I was pleased to see the emphasis on student service to the community in the June issue. However, it was disheartening that the Epsilon Zeta chapter of Alpha Phi Omega was not mentioned. This service organization has been serving the campus (lost and found, test files) and the community (food banks, Meanest Man on Campus contest, scouting, Habitat for Humanity, etc.) for more than 55 years at RPI.
An article on outstanding service provided by RPI students that does not mention Alpha Phi Omega seems incomplete considering the chapters long history of service to the Rensselaer community.
Colleen Dargie 82
Farmington Hills, Mich.
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