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Overlaps in our knowledge structures

Henry Tan's picture

Each one of us developed his own knowledge structure. After graduation we followed different research interests, took different projects, and adopted different approaches, analytical, numerical, or experimental. Therefore the knowledge structure is unique for every person, coming from his/her education background and scientific experiences.

There are several levels for the overlapping in our knowledge structure.

  • Level 1: for people of the same interests, or from the same research group, or even further with collaborations of many years, overlapping in this catagory is high.
  • Level 2: for mechanicians coming from different corners of mechanics, we basically share the same common knowledge on the undergraduate level.
  • Level 3: for those people from different backgrounds, such as physics, geophysics, chemistry, biology, etc., the overlapping level in our knowledge structure is even lower than an undergraduate level.

For most people in iMechanica, I believe our knowledge structure overlapping level are at the Level 2.

The level of the knowledge structure overlapping affects the depth of a discussion. For frontier the discussion, there are lesser overlaps and therefore fewer comments. Scientific communications follow this pattern, and we repeatedly observed this phenomenon in iMechanica.

Further to the issue of involving undergraduate students in iMechanica, basically I think they feel the same as most of us (Level 2) do in reading other people’s posts, except that they have very little research experiences.

Comments

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Henry and All:  This is an excellent start for a discussion on extending our reach to undergarduate students.  By "our" I do not just mean iMechanica.  As you and others have remarked before, there has been a general feeling that engineering has not been an attracting career. 

Now before we begin to address the problem, perhaps we need to understand the problem better, e.g., by gathering some numbers and charts.  I certainly share that feeling, but have never seen any hard numbers, and I have not seen any good analysis as to why engineering is not attractive to students 

Can anyone point to a good souce of information on that?  Or even better give us a synopsis of the issues? 

Mahdi Kazemzadeh's picture

 

I definitely agree with Professor Suo’s idea that the level (II) has a bit ignored in iMechanica. It is, if I want to focus on iMechanica and on its efficiency. Considering this fact I wrote a topic weeks ago, in which I mentioned an idea of building a new section for students. This section could be for more academic proposes ( not hot research). The section which students could find the worlds admirable scientists lecture notes, sorted and categorized in different groups. Anyway this was just an idea.

I also believe that still there are lots of students who are following iMechanica topics and papers. As an student and in his point of view, I think there can be few parameters that prevent them to involve actively in topics or to write comments. Although there are some other undergraduates who are more or less active. I can mention these parameters as:

1) The topics or posted blogs mostly describe hot topics of today’s world research, for students it is difficult to find this self confidence to write comment about such a paper. To be honest that is the reason!! Lack of enough academic experience.

2) Less experience and range of knowledge also makes it really difficult to start scientific discussions with expert mechanicians of the world.

I think there is a solution for this. Student is studying, so he is learning and one of the most significant factors of learning is asking questions, this is possible in iMechanica and I always say that this is a great advantage. Whatelse can be done here for this major portion of academic world, is a new section. In which they find notes of scientists ( Categorized), they start close discussions about basic concepts of Mechanics (instead of hot research topics) with their teachers, they share their coursework and by all these they learn more and they build a nice foundation for their future academic life.

 

Mahdi Kazemzadeh

I think it's great that we want to get undergraduates
involved with iMechanica, but the question that persists is how to get
undergraduates interested. Going back to the idea of making iMechanica like a
classroom, where undergrads can ask questions, I think the main obstacle to
learning on iMechanica would be the same as learning by email. It's hard to
understand these ideas through email, which is why students prefer to go to
office hours to get help. Getting help in person makes it easier to ask
questions and learn.
iMechanica is heavy on research, which I agree is hard to understand for
undergrads. Another point which I don't think anyone has mentioned is that
besides the research articles being too difficult, not every engineering
undergrad is interested in doing research. Some engineering students want to go
into other fields like finance, business, health, management, etc. Therefore
these students don't really see the purpose in trying to read complex research
papers. It seems that our goal should be to recruit those undergrads interested
in engineering grad school.

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Mahdi:

Thank you for your suggestion for a student section on iMechanica.  I've seen occational questions raised by students.  I myself have tried to post notes of my graduate courses online.  However, I'm not sure they are effective for students who don't know the subject.  I tend to agree with Eloy that Q&A online may not be always effective for detailed questions that involve equations and figures.

This said, I'm really interested to hear more ideas about how we might implement things that will help students (graduate and undergraduate).  Would you be willing to ask some of your fellow students to participate in this discussion? 

Nicola Bianchi's picture

Dear Mechanicians,

I'm a student from Pisa University in Biomedical Engineering.

I have discovered this website three months ago and I have found very interesting topics and discussion. Aniway the problem for a student as said Mahdi above is that most of the discussion are level 1 then it is difficult to comment or discuss about it. 

I think a section where students can talk with expert of your level about basic concept of mechanics it would be great!!!

 

Nicola Bianchi

Henry Tan's picture

The atmosphere in iMechanica depends on who used it.

Currently most users are faculties, postdocs, and PhD students, so iMechanica looks more like a blog focusing on research. I think that if more user are researchers from industry, then iMechanica will become more application focused.

Very few undergrads are here. But if lots of them join in, I believe iMechanica will become undergrads friendly (or even dominant), and many topics that they are interested in will be posted and commented. So I think the solution for involving more undergrads in iMechanica is the question itself: to involve more undergrads in iMechanica.

The atmosphere in iMechanica totally depends on whoever used it.

Mahdi Kazemzadeh's picture

 

Dear Prof. Suo and all;

Thank you for considering these suggestions. I really appreciate your help in improving all aspects of iMechanica. The first step might be attracting current students in iMechanica. This will lead in making the student section interesting for prospective members also. I have some ideas which with your advises and viewer’s comments, it is possible to make them practical. I will write a short blog as an announcement and I hope other students also join this discussion and write their comments. I like to see what the other students think.

Despite this fact that iMechanica is the best place to ask some questions but also there are some issues in understanding complicated topics using comments, but this is not the only thing that we can do. I will mention some other ideas and I am looking forward to hear other students idea in this matter.

1) Operating a section for students ( Master and Bachelor students). This section can be a separate part among iMechanica menus or it can located on iMechanica. I think if it will be an independent section, it has some benefits: all students will find out who are the people with nearly the same range of knowledge as them on iMechanica.

PS. I didn’t mention PhD students, because I thought their range of knowledge is still higher and it will make the overlap difficult to construct, but please feel free to write any idea that you have. Certainly it will be helpful.

2) Then discussions about basic concepts of mechanic will start over there. All can ask and discuss simple topics. Some exercises might mention. There will be a nice competition to answer simple course questions over there.

3) News update for this category to be post to this section. Mostly students here are interested to continue their studies in higher levels like PhD. So this news update can be about “ Membership of various institutes”, “ Courses syllabuses”, “Ideas about their universities and research over there’. “ International conferences achievable by students”.

4) After few weeks students will know each other and then they can discuss if it is possible to make groups together and to work on research topics they are interested in. We see this more developed in iMechanica on more sophisticated topics between scientists. It is some how finding overlaps. IMechanica will be there as a big brother!!! This will run parallel with other policies here.

5) I suggest that scientists and our teachers here, share parts of their research works with students. Unfortunately it is really difficult to make it practical, but possible. Sometimes there are occasions that you can leave part of a work for students. They can send it as a post to this section and interested students apply for that. It can be from writing a small part of a code to poster presentations. Then students have participated in this work which is really important.

6) What you will say??!! I am sure there are so many possible developments that looking forward to hear from you.

Mahdi Kazemzadeh

Zhigang Suo's picture

Your post contains many good ideas.  To get some of these ideas off ground, two things are essential:

  1. Recruit a group like-minded people.
  2. Reduce the ideas to a procedure that many people find easy to follow.

I suggest that you take a look at a case study:  an early thread on starting the Journal Club and the evolution of the operating notes.  Pradeep Sharma first proposed the idea in March 2006.  It took a long time for the community to reduce the basic idea to a viable procedure.  The first Theme of the jClub came out in Janaury 2007.

At this stage, you might want to begin by recruiting fellow students to participate in this thread of discussion.   Also, as a pilot project, someone can begin to discuss common courses in mechanics in Mechanics Courses Forum.

Mahdi Kazemzadeh's picture

 Dear Prof. Suo,

Thank you for your advises. I think that is more clear for me now that what the procedure for students section should be. I will read the links you provided during following week then I will have better view and start point. The discussion for common courses in mechanics is really intresting and I am sure, some fellow students will appear there soon. Thank you.

Mahdi Kazemzadeh

I believe that many of us would like to know more about areas of research that we are not experts in.  A first step in making research accessible to the average reader of iMechanica would be to do the following:

  1. Post the abstract of your paper in a form that is human readable, i.e., it should have paragraphs that break it up.  Remember that  journals have compact abstracts for historical reasons which include the ability to print a list of abstracts. 
  2. Make the abstract more personal.  Don't just copy and paste what you had sent out to a journal.  Give us some background, tell us why your work is interesting, what you have achieved that no one else has, and what more needs to be done.

I feel that once we have an idea about the work many of us may actually go and read the paper.  The work should be presented on iMechanica in such a way that we should be able to comment without having to go through a tree of references.  More serious comments will come after we have actually done the hard work of reading the paper critically.

However, presenting one's research in such a manner takes time and effort.  I think we should encourage our authors to spend that time/effort for the benefit of the iMechanica community.   The effort will pay for itself in giving us a better understanding of our work and better skills in the art of writing.

Biswajit 

 

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