Master?s degree Canadian style

Re: reinventing the master?s degree (Laser Focus World, Sept. 1995, p. 196), I thought you might be interested to know that many Canadian universities offer a thesis master?s degree, for which students take a few courses and then work on a project, which they write up and then must defend. The work is not necessarily publishable?though, of course, requirements vary in different programs. I think this format is useful both for producing students with skills for industry and for helping the studen

Master?s degree Canadian style

Re: reinventing the master?s degree (Laser Focus World, Sept. 1995, p. 196), I thought you might be interested to know that many Canadian universities offer a thesis master?s degree, for which students take a few courses and then work on a project, which they write up and then must defend. The work is not necessarily publishable?though, of course, requirements vary in different programs. I think this format is useful both for producing students with skills for industry and for helping the students decide if they really wish to pursue a career in research.

This format is under some attack, however, as it tends to take longer for the student to complete such a program than a course-only program. For this reason, input such as yours is helpful when defending it. It would also be helpful to know if industry would encourage such a program.

Barbara Frisken

Physics Department

Simon Fraser University

Burnaby, BC, Canada

Why ban just laser-blinding weapons?

William Arkin?s article in the December 1995 issue of Laser Focus World (p. 62) clearly demonstrates the pitfalls of modern technologies in a political correct world where the moral high ground is more coveted than common sense. The Conventional Weapons Convention (CWC) has concluded that laser weapons intended to blind soldiers are more devastating than an anti-personnel mine.

I?ve heard estimates there are well over one million anti-personnel mines laid in Bosnia-Herzegovina and thousands of dead as a result. I don?t recall laser-blinding weapons being cited for any deaths in Vietnam, the Falklands War, Desert Storm, Somalia, or Bosnia. The world?s military forces use projectiles intended to penetrate nearly a meter of armor, which in essence projects a fire ball of death into the cockpit of a tank. No discussion on the humanity of such a weapon is forthcoming from CWC. And what about high-power microwave weaponry? Could it be that the military industrial complex lobby involved in marketing and selling these weapons is too large an economic force for the CWC to take on?

With the advent of laser goggles for the 21st-century warrior and the proliferation of optical sights, the naked eye will almost never be present on tomorrow?s battlefield except in actions involving irregular forces. Any laser can be used to detect and in some cases counter in-band optical sights independent of the focal plane. So, how does the CWC or the International Red Cross (IRC) differentiate the use of an Oanti-personnel laser weaponO from one used for more Oconventional applicationsO such as target designation? Is the next logical step to ban designator-guided weapons, the very munitions whose precision accuracy limits collateral damage against civilian populations? I believe the CWC, the IRC and our government have caved in to a politically correct minority while scientific objectivity has been discarded as meaningless.

Tom Danckwerth

New Milford, CT

Clarification

Thanks for the article on the history of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Marketwatch, Dec. 1995, p. 45). I?d like, however, to clear up some inaccuracies. I was the manager of Optoelectronics at Xerox from 1977 to 1983, rather than from 1972 to 1983. Also, Bill Streifer was a Xerox Research Fellow in the Optical Sciences Laboratory and did not report to me while he worked at Xerox. Finally, Bob Burnham and Bill Streifer contributed to and directed the work at Xerox at least as much as I did.

Donald R. Scifres

President and CEO, SDL Inc.

San Jose, CA

Diversifying PhD studies

Re: your editorial on building a better PhD (Laser Focus World, Dec. 1995, p. 176), over the past several years, I have changed the way I work with my PhD students. Instead of having them work on only one research problem, I encourage my students to work on two or even three different areas for the dissertation. For example one of my students worked on e-beam fabricated holograms, on models for the human auditory system, and on new algorithms for linear programming. The student wrote excellent journal articles on each topic.

The theory is that it is better to have a knowledge of 80% of three technical areas rather than 100% of only one area.Graduates are in a much stronger position to be able to change areas of interest as they move through their careers. I also believe this produces a PhD of greater value to industry as well as to universities.

In the end, the dissertation consists of at least three of the journal publications. I tell the students that after three journal articles have been submitted (I usually don?t wait for acceptances on all three), a dissertation is complete.

Neal C. Gallagher

Charles Black Evans Professor and Chair

Department of Electrical Engineering

University of Delaware

xxxxxxxx, DE

Who should get PhD training?

We enjoyed reading your editorial on building a better PhD program and would like to add another dimension to your arguments. Numerous demographic studies of graduate schools with science and engineering research programs in this country show that, increasingly between the BS and PhD degrees, the research programs are populated by foreign students. The studies show that the US female and minority students are displaced by foreign students, more so than the white male graduate student.

Some of these foreign student PhDs may become residents, competing for the scarce assignments/jobs you referred to. Many will go back to their countries, competing from there with our scientists and engineers, which leads to additional scarcity of jobs here. Either way, in previous decades (O50sO, O60sO), this was referred to as Obrain drain.O The research universities that are training these foreign students are doing it with large contributions from tax resources.

So: the new dimension you need to address is not just a recasting of what constitutes training for a PhD in science and engineering, but who is entitled to the training, given the economic situation for our scientists and engineers and the tax source of funding for research universities.

Dr. Antonio J. Mendez

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