What is an Engineer?
  • Joseph Diong

What is an Engineer?

In modern times, there has been an increase in STEM, and particularly engineers and scientists. However, there is a distinction between scientists and engineers. As Theodore von Karman once said “Scientists study the world as it is, engineers create the world that never has been.”. For instance, the work that engineers do is remarkably different from scientists. So, what is engineering and what do engineers do?

Engineering is defined as the application of maths and science to solve problems [1]. Utilising scientific discoveries made by scientists about the things around us, engineers create solutions to problems or invent new machines that may make life easier for humanity. To this end, engineers can design new technologies or improve current products and systems, optimising them for better purpose.


Engineering can be divided up into different types of engineering, each engineering with a specific application. For example, biomedical engineering covers technology and design relating to medicine and health, while aerospace engineering involves developing aircraft. Emphasizing a point here, the main principle uniting these fields together is the application of science and maths for the development of each field.


But what does an engineer do exactly? Engineers design and create the solutions obviously, a little like inventors. But a typical image of an inventor suggests a lone, crazy, eccentric old man that occasionally blows up his own laboratory. However, most of the time that isn’t the case. Engineers work in teams to assemble a project or product. A set of requirements for a project or product is listed, and engineers work within the constrains of economics and those requirements to present a product.


An engineer surprisingly does not spend much of their time punching numbers on a calculator. Instead, engineers spend their time communicating with superiors or colleagues, using their time to convey reports, or researching and reviewing.

However, engineers have to keep in mind the ethics involved as they are creating a product, as they might have consequences upon the user of the product or project. It would be unthinkable to greatly risk human lives for the sake of increased profit gains, reputation or other reasons.


Engineers affect society and humanity on a whole with innovations, from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone to Gottlieb Daimler’s work on internal combustion engines (think car engines). Engineers also maintain equipment and ensure that any problems arising are dealt with. There are many roles that an engineer has, and engineers will become more valuable in the future.

References

[1] J. Lucas, "What is Engineering? | Types of Engineering", livescience.com, 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.livescience.com/47499-what-is-engineering.html. [Accessed: 07- Jun- 2020].

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