Paul Penfield, Jr., "Your Department's TURF," NEEDHA Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA; March 18, 2000.

Your Department's TURF

MIT logo            

Paul Penfield, Jr.

Dugald C. Jackson Professor
    of Electrical Engineering

Department of Electrical Engineering
    and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA 02139-4307

(617) 253-2506
penfield@mit.edu
http://www-mtl.mit.edu/~penfield/


TURF

    turf   n, . . . 4 a: territory considered by a teenage gang to be
        under its control   b: a sphere of activity or influence

    [ turf   n, . . . 5: corny acronym with just a hint of truth ] . .


Your Department's TURF

Some dimensions to consider in thinking about your
department:

      Technical domain
    University mission
    Research style
    Focal length

Where is your department along these axes?


Is TURF Important?

How can one academic department differ from another?
    1. Context and objectives.
    2. Success in meeting these objectives.
Context and objectives
    Multi-dimensional space
    Can be rationally discussed and decided upon
    Excellent departments can exist anywhere in this space . . .
        but some areas offer inherent advantages.
Success in meeting objectives
    This distinguishes excellent departments from others.

What is quality?
    Fitness for intended purpose.


Assumed Overriding Mission

Help your students be successful individuals
    . . . in both their personal lives and their careers
They need   (this is my list -- what is yours?)
    Personal strength and confidence
    Understanding of human nature
    Social skills
    Communication skills
    Global perspective
    Independent learning ability
    Leadership skills
    Creativity
    Depth
    Technical breadth
    Engineering sciences
They will have multiple, unpredictable career paths.


Your Department's TURF

Where is your department along these axes?

   -->Technical domain
   University mission
   Research style
   Focal length

Any point in this multi-dimensional space is OK.

Excellent programs can exist anywhere.


Technical Domain Axes

Information or Energy
    This was once called "light current" or "heavy current."
Similar but different axes
    Electrical or System
    Physics-oriented or Math-oriented
    Digital or Analog
Specialties: Planned or Opportunistic
Discipline or Sector
    Are you defined by skills or by the industry you serve?
        Ocean Engineering, Aeronautics, Urban Studies, . . .
Inclusive or Exclusive
    Historically EE has been inclusive. Just look at IEEE.
    How will you deal with new substrates for computation?
        Molecular, biological, quantum, . . .
EE or ECE or CE or EECS . . .


Should EE be together with CE and/or CS?

Most think so.
    Almost all EE departments have CE or CS activities.
Graduates need both EE and CS.
    Modern products are information-intensive.
        Functionality can be realized in hardware, software, etc.
    Designers need to optimize across moving boundaries.
Research respects no boundaries.
    CS ideas inform EE research and vice versa.
EE and CS face the same fundamental limit.
    Among engineering disciplines, EE is blessed:
        Simple components (R, L, C, gate, . . .)
        Linear connection laws (Maxwell, Kirchhoff)
        Models accurate over wide dynamic range
        Low manufacturing cost
        What is it that limits an electrical system? Complexity.
    Software is man-made; no manufacturing, distribution cost.
        What is it that limits a software system? Complexity.


Your Department's TURF

Where is your department along these axes?

   Technical domain
   -->University mission
   Research style
   Focal length

Any point in this multi-dimensional space is OK.

Excellent programs can exist anywhere.


University Mission Axes

Local or Global
    Or state, national, regional
Residential or Commuter or Distance
Associates or Bachelors or Masters or Doctors or Lifelong
Special Aspects or Not
    Land grant; Religious tradition; Urban campus; . . .
General or Professional
    Do your programs benefit from the rest of your institution?
Commercial or Not-for-profit
    Will there be for-profit universities in the future?
        Perhaps enabled by new technologies?
Education or Multi-purpose
    Are non-education activities prominent?
        Athletics -- who is served?
        Public service, e.g., agricultural extension
        Faculty consulting, starting companies, composing operas, . . .
Efficient or Creative . . .


A University is Not a Company

.edu not equal .com
Company mission:
    Make money
        . . . without causing social harm
University mission:
    Make the world a better place
        . . . without losing money
What business practices are appropriate for universities?
    The public and the government do not know.
        Neither do universities.
    Who is the "customer?"
        In business, customers are paramount because they bring in what
            is valued most, namely money.
        What is the corresponding constituency for universities?
    How are efficiency and creativity balanced?


Danger Areas

TQM, re-engineering
    or some other management technique du jour
Intellectual Property licensing
    IP comes from both research and teaching.
    Greed can poison the intellectual atmosphere.
Need-blind or Need-based Admissions
    Should economic competition prevail in admissions?
    The U.S. government thought so in the 1980s:
        Government considered scholarships a discount.
        Universities said they were dispensing charity.
        The government won. Anti-trust suit stopped some practices
            that had supported need-blind admission.
    Should universities subsidize wealthy students?
    This topic is timely:
        Consent decree will expire in May 2001.
    How is your department affected? (another axis)


Your Department's TURF

Where is your department along these axes?

   Technical domain
   University mission
   -->Research style
   Focal length

Any point in this multi-dimensional space is OK.

Excellent programs can exist anywhere.


Why is Research Done at Universities?

For faculty
    Research keeps you sharp.
    Research is fun.
For students
    Research demands independent creative thinking.
    Research provides a motivational context for learning.
For university
    Research is exciting.
    Research brings prestige.
    Research pays off in IP income.
    Research reveals the future, so it can be taught.
For sponsors
    Research trains graduate students.
    Research produces results.
        Aren't research results really just by-products?


Research Style Axes

Dominant Activity or None
    Don't forget the needs of undergraduates.
Research or Teaching
    Not "Research or Education"
Applied or Fundamental
    Basic research can have unexpected applications.
    Applications expose fundamental unanswered questions.
Sponsors
    Government or Industry
    Civilian or Military
Proprietary research: Yes or No
    Issues:
        Deliverables
        Intellectual Property
        Publication Restrictions
        Secrecy in the Academic Environment


Your Department's TURF

Where is your department along these axes?

   Technical domain
   University mission
   Research style
   -->Focal length

Any point in this multi-dimensional space is OK.

Excellent programs can exist anywhere.


Focal Length Axes

Time: Long-range or Short-range
    Employers want immediate usefulness.
    Students are starting 40-year careers.
Curricular Material: Contemporary or Eternal
    Contemporary technology
    Sciences that are important today
    Sciences that will be important tomorrow
    Engineering context today
    Engineering context that will prevail tomorrow
Awareness: Inward or Outward
    The What-and-How or the Why
        Leaders understand the significance of what they do.
Balance: Technical Education or General Education
    What does the successful person need?
    What does the citizen need?
    What does the creative engineer need?


Your Department's TURF

Where is your department along these axes?

   Technical domain
   University mission
   Research style
      Focal length

Any point in this multi-dimensional space is OK.

Excellent programs can exist anywhere.

Where do you want your department to be?


URL of this page: http://www-mtl.mit.edu/users/penfield/pubs/needha00.html
Created: Feb 12, 2000   |   Modified: Mar 22, 2000
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