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Professional Student

A University-hired full-time interdisciplinary student.
  (+7, -4)
(+7, -4)
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against]

Now that we're in the 21st century, we've hit the age where disparate fields are finally beginning to overlap in ways we've never imagined. Mathematics and biology, number theory and electrical engineering, etc.. but the question remains, how many of these links are we missing?

The top universities of this world could choose the top students of those universities, and invite them to stay permanently as students. Contrary to the professor/academia track, this student's purpose would be to gain as much knowledge over as many different fields as possible, but on a deep enough level so as to be able to make deep interdisciplinary connections. By the end of one's career, it should be possible to have the equivalent of roughly 10 completely different PhD's, otherwise impossible in today's society. These people, chosen already for their abilities in deep thinking, could make brilliant discoveries that elude even the most brilliant thinkers involved in a single field of study. They could make the links that in the end, show that all subjects in science are one and the same. That certain facts in biology would be helped by economics. That computer science could be deeply aided from a thorough knowledge of chemistry, etc...

xercyn, Jun 04 2003

(?) A brilliant publication about brilliant things which brilliantly confuse idiotic autodidacts like me. http://www.bridges23.com/aboutus.html
An interdisciplinary publication for interdisciplinary academicians. [idyll, Oct 04 2004]

Fred Cassidy http://zelazny.corr...k.php?book=doorways
A book about a professional student. [ato_de, Oct 04 2004]

[link]






       wow sign me up! +
flyfast, Jun 04 2003
  

       Sure wish lewisgirl was here to weigh in on this one.
thumbwax, Jun 04 2003
  

       This is the purview of the research scientist, no? After all, if a body is busy becoming an expert in a subject, there's no time left over tie one area of study to another... Or maybe not. I've always been under the impression that this is why cross-disciplinary scientific journals exist.
phoenix, Jun 04 2003
  

       This idea reminds me of the Scholar-in-Residence program, except in extension. From my searches, which have been cursory, I have obtained the perception that career academicians generally apply their studies across an interdisciplinary array. Thus, the only aspect that remains un-baked within this idea seems to be the actual deliberate hiring, by a place of learning, of interdisciplinary career scholars. More will follow, should I determine this concept fully baked.
idyll, Jun 04 2003
  

       Professional Student, wow - even the title is a contradiction in terms...   

       Ok, so I guess you're talking about combined degrees like:   

       Marketing & Archaeology - Parallels between modern day advertising and ancient egyptian burial techniques...   

       Religious Education & Digital Signal Processing   

       Oceanographics and Mechanical Engineering... unless your talking about terraforming it's difficult to think of applications for this   

       or, how about:   

       Sociology and Psychology (:   

       Edison
ThomasEdison, Jun 05 2003
  

       Funding a student for life and not expecting any exchange of ideas (teaching or publishing) is not likely to result in enlightenment, be it academic or spiritual.   

       Inter-disciplinary skill is useful, up to a point. Such as a neurophysiologist studying computer control systems, or a fluid mechanics buff studying insect flight, or an expert in ancient languages studying graphic design. But these are examples of bilateral, not multilateral, multi-discipline study. Most truly multi-faceted individuals are like that naturally, not through the breadth of their study.   

       Many great minds came up with their world-changing theories in their twenties or thirties. An additional couple of decades in study is unlikely to help those who are yet to show that spark of genius.   

       It is, however, an excellent way to graft off the system.
FloridaManatee, Jun 05 2003
  

       Another SF story features a future interstellar society with specialised scientists supported by autistic children who had total recall. These children were given complete freedom to study everything and only rarely left their compound.   

       The actual story was a bit weak as exploration of a new world resulted in deaths due to cause that, alledgedly, only someone with complete recall to older, forgotten scientific knowledge could solve.
Aristotle, Jun 05 2003
  

       Like applesoft basic?   

       PEEK-1136
FloridaManatee, Jun 05 2003
  

       That would be bizarre. You're in the future and the aliens you encounter have standardised their software for their spaceships and dimension engines to applesoft basic ...   

       No, it was a poisonous element so forgotten, due to alledged obsolence, that it no longer detected in atmospheric scans. I must admit I found it a tad hard to suspend my disbelief than an entire element would be forgotten by chemists in the future ...
Aristotle, Jun 05 2003
  

       I think Asimov once had this idea. He seemed to think that missing a more general knowledge would produce problems, as in the end all knowledge overlaps. Also, this idea would create a huge gap between people's knowledge, and knowledge is power...
git, Jun 06 2003
  

       Given that lawyers bill you for the time they spend learning/researching the law for your case, can't we just call them professional students?
DrCurry, Jun 06 2003
  

       Oh no - we most certainly cannot! We can more accurately call them <libelous text removed>.
Jinbish, Jun 06 2003
  

       "It's all so clear! After 150 years of constant study, endless exams, and top honors in 28 universities, it all makes sense! _Everything_ is connected - and can all be described by a single equation:" (clutches chest) <thud>
Worldgineer, Jun 06 2003
  

       What about leeches? You know, dullards who won't look for jobs because they're students - forever.
thumbwax, Jun 06 2003
  

       What do you get when you finally retire? A diploma or a watch?
k_sra, Jun 06 2003
  

       Sign me up. I'd love to do it. [WorldEngineer "Its all so clear.." :) That's the ironic beauty of it.
thecat, Jun 12 2003
  

       Great idea! The world needs more people paid to think.
JimX, Dec 21 2003
  

       There is nothing preventing anyone from doing this. In fact you don't even need the schools. 90% of things that you are taught in universities you can learn on your own from a library or the internet.
DanDaMan, Jan 30 2008
  

       But researchers in universities can already do this, provided they keep producing publishable, high-quality research. And there's nothing to stop you doing a degree in one subject and then doing a completely different degree. I have three degrees, only very loosely related.
hippo, Jan 30 2008
  

       I can't figure what it is, but there is something wrong with this idea. By the time a person has completed all the classes at a University would be dead before they could ever combine it all together. People can spend their entire lives in one field and never quite understand it. All engineering requires math and physics it would be hard to argue that a person who understand micro-biology could make an argument for or against using a certain size steel beam. Universities can be confining to people. Most graduates have no real world experience in the first play.
Antegrity, Jan 30 2008
  

       //all subjects in science are one and the same//
Or as Ernest Rutherford said, "All science is either physics or stamp-collecting".
neutrinos_shadow, Jan 31 2008
  

       And as Dick Feynman said, "Physics is like sex; sure, it may give some practical results but that's not why we do it."
angel, Jan 31 2008
  

       My wife just ask me yesterday, if you never stopped being a student would that mean you never have to pay back your student loans?   

       This idea intreges me, but I think it goes too far. There should be incentves to major in diverse fields. Maybe an award at graduation based on all the unpaired combinations of degrees from a university. That way someone would be incouraged to take say, Physics and Anthropology. And then incourraged again to come back and take Journalism. Then all of the interconnects would be made, but by different people. They would each still be young enough and could then enter the workplace and see how their varied viewpoint interacts with reality. Then gather them all together once a year, and see if new answers could be found.
MisterQED, Jan 31 2008
  

       How about incentives to major in sensible fields, those for which there is a purpose. For example, if someone wants to take a degree in 14th century Lithuanian literature, all they need to do is pay for it, or find someone else willing to do so. If we're short of engineers, industry will be prepared to fund lots of courses for engineers, so we get lots of engineers. When we have enough engineers, industry stops funding them. If you want to study engineering anyway, you pay for it yourself.
angel, Jan 31 2008
  

       //industry will be prepared to fund lots of courses for engineers// You think? If they don't have a guarantee of owning the resultant engineers, then wouldn't it be quicker and easier to import them from, say, India? And if they *do* have such a guarantee, then won't that be hard on the engineers in question - a kind of indentured labour?   

       Also, re. //sensible fields, those for which there is a purpose//, how you find out whether there is a 'purpose' to, for example, basic science, until after it's been done? Are you confusing enquiry and education with apprenticeship (not that there's anything wrong with apprenticeship - but it's a different thing)?
pertinax, Jan 31 2008
  

       [pertinax]: It could be a requirement of sponsorship that the student take employment for a certain period with the sponsoring company after graduating. This could be regarded as indentured labour, but it could also be regarded as quid pro quo; effectively, the student is employed by the company from the start of his course, and if he doesn't like the terms, he doesn't take the sponsorship.

On your second point, speculative research can still be funded by industry; that's what R & D departments are for. They exist because the company hopes to gain a competitive edge from their results. Expecting taxpayers to fund study which is, by definition, useless (because no-one is prepared to fund it voluntarily) is plain wrong.
angel, Jan 31 2008
  

       Sponsorship is a good idea and maybe it is a form of indentured service, but if it works for doctors why wouldn't it work for engineers. (I assume that "Northern Exposure" must have based on some facts.) (Also the navy offered to sponsor me in Physics) I'd like to limit this to realistic degrees, but that is purely my bias, which may not be valid. I took Physics and don't claim to understand the reason for getting degrees in say, Ancient Russian History and Molecular Biology, but then maybe once it is done then they could explain it and the important interconnects drawn from those two wildly diverse degrees.
MisterQED, Jan 31 2008
  

       //I'd like to limit this to realistic degrees, but that is purely my bias, which may not be valid.//

Of course it's valid. Anything, including a course of study, is useful exactly to the extent that someone will voluntarily pay for it.
angel, Jan 31 2008
  

       //that's what R & D departments are for//   

       That's not what I've heard; the consensus among post-graduate scientists that I've heard from on this subject is that industry R&D is all D and no R. Admittedly, what I've heard may be wrong, but it seems plausible to me.   

       //useful exactly to the extent that someone will voluntarily pay for it//   

       I'm sorry if the following sounds like a flame, but I can't think of a less emotive way of phrasing it: do you, according to the logic above, consider your upbringing to be useless because you didn't pay your parents for it?
pertinax, Feb 01 2008
  

       Not at all; they paid for it voluntarily, so it was obviously valuable to them, although not necessarily in monetary terms, of course. (To expand on this notion, I paid significantly over market price for a guitar which previously belonged to a good friend who had died. If it had not been his, I would probably not have bought it at all even at market price, and I certainly wouldn't have paid what I did for it. But I paid that price voluntarily because that aspect means that it's worth more to me than it is to someone else.) Similarly, I would not be prepared to pay for you to study 14th century Lithuanian literature, because it would be of no value to me, but if you - or someone else - wished to fund it, I would be perfectly happy.
angel, Feb 01 2008
  

       [-]Most of the known "great thinkers" of the 20th century were not formally educated but had most of their knowledge and wisdom from life experience. I am not so sure that you can pump 30+ years of education into someone and manufacture someone like that. But as far as the term "professional student" goes, it is very well baked and widely used. But unlike the author's description, this usually consists of people who spend the first half of their adult life in school because they are reluctant to go out into the real world. The better you do in institutions of higher learning the more likely you are able to get grants, loans, stipends, etc. and then add a part time job to that and it can become a comfortable way of living.
Jscotty, Feb 01 2008
  
      
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