Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘industrial engineering

Big Fish, Little Pond phenomenon: Never listen to the prevalent common sense

Big fish eats little fish, and the smaller the pond the quicker the trapping.

And when you are accepted in an Ivy League university, and your “intelligence level” (IQ test scores and other tests) is in the third tier of the all the admitted students, and you lack the required character for the long haul, then you drop before graduating.

You keep comparing your “performances” with the brighter students.

And you end up switching university and discipline and you graduate as lawyer, accountant, tax expert… anything but your “dream field” of study.

You were capable of graduating in your dream field, but you selected the wrong kind of universities.

It is Not the program, the professors or the courses offered in the Ivy League universities that generate “geniuses”: It is the bright students graduating from these universities who are.

You still make plenty of money, but how happy is your life?

Innate intelligence can be downgraded by diseases, sicknesses, harsh conditions, inhospitable situations… that alter the necessary characters required to improve your intelligence level.

For example, you cannot reach a satisfactory level of smartness if you lack this stubbornness of doggedly resolving any problem, of solving the easy exercises as well as the hardest at the end of each chapter in math, physics, chemistry, biology… and using paper and pencil for the that matter, and writing down the solution in neat handwriting that demonstrate determination.

And you need this capacity to completely focus during the class sessions and concentrate on the detailed information.

I attended a university that didn’t rank anyway on top of the elite institutions in the USA: It was a Little Pond, not in size of campus or number of students or variety of disciplines and departments, but mainly one of the newer universities that didn’t enjoy “historic” funding of private or State or federal funding in order to set up these rigorous selection processes for applicants.

It is was not a university that had Nobel Laureates and funded Chairs for illustrious professors or recognition to be listed among the Ivy League.

I think there were or must have been many Big Fish in many disciplines and fields of study, but Not in my new field of study called Industrial Engineering. That was in 1975, and this department was a new comer among the disciplines.

When I applied from Lebanon, I didn’t even know what was the program of study or the courses offered. I assumed from the name that it must be a hands-on engineering related to whatever the industry needed from graduates. Even if I had the luxury to have a detailed list of courses, I wouldn’t be the smarter or changed my application.

As a foreigner lacking laboratories, I figured out that this discipline in a developed nation will offer plenty of opportunities for hands-on facilities.

It was Not of this sort by any long shot. Actually the field lacked laboratory or any hands-on facilities. The course materials were indeed more of the same bookish, theoretical and mathematical handling of problems.

It turned out that the objective was to spew out new breed of graduates capable of handling the management part in any production and manufacturing industry, like optimizing production, inventory, scheduling, transportation

Even today, I am harassed and hard-pressed to explain what I was trained for or “how I can be of aid” to industries.

I felt there was a lack of brilliant students in my disciplines to look at and emulate. And I let myself drift off to lazy study behaviors.

I guess not many high school students knew of this relatively new discipline and anyway, the connotation was to be desired.

Note: I had graduated with MS in physics. I covered exotic courses such as quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear physics, solid state, thermodynamics, organic chemistry, all the fundamental physics courses taught for engineers, and the mathematical foundations and basics…

I loved and comprehended most of the course materials, but it didn’t improve my grades, and much less improved the IQ tests scores substantially.

The few courses that I loathed were the methods used to resolving the problems: the methods were lengthy and defied my patience.

I recall that in taking Relativity, the method to solving most mechanical problems was clear, quick and straightforward: It took barely 30 seconds when the classical method required me half an hour.

“Did I choose to be a social designer?” And “Did the will and opportunity collide?”
My niece Joanna Choukeir Hojeily posted on FB:
“Did I choose to be a social designer, did it just happen, or did the will and opportunity collide?
I will be reflecting on how I got to doing what I do now; a practice and industry that didn’t exist 10 years ago when I first started out as a designer. Creating Futures Symposium this coming Tuesday at the ICA in London.
Did I choose to be a social designer, did it just happen, or did the will and opportunity collide?  I will be reflecting on how I got to doing what I do now; a practice and industry that didn't exist 10 years ago when I first started out as a designer. Creating Futures Symposium this coming Tuesday at the ICA in London.
I replied:
“Your field existed since 1942 when designers tried to minimize the frequent pilot accidents in the air war with Germany. It was called industrial psychology, then industrial engineering, ergonomics, Human Factors in Engineering
The advent of fast computing, personal computing and fast graphics facilities shifted the trend to social graphic engineering or design…
It is the varied opportunities in developed countries that upgraded your passion for “social graphic design” projects: Giving priority to the health, safety and ease of use of products and services…”
I have posted about 50 articles on that topic in the category “Human Factors in Engineering”
I have in a previous article, in a short sentence that may have gone unnoticed, mentioned that the main objective of Human Factors in Engineering is designing interfaces between complex systems and targeted end users.
Modern days are an accumulation of very complex systems that societies can no longer live without and have to suffer their consequences in health, safety, comfort, risks or fatal accidents. 
Modern days rely on communications systems, on health care, on educational, on information, on transportation, on energy, on financial, on tourism, on diplomatic, and even on political systems.
Usually, there are purposes for establishing any system and the money generated could only be the consequences of satisfying human specific demands that a developed standard of living requires, or are encouraged through advertisements, or are initiated by new laws to regulating a society.
This modern world, more than in any previous centuries, is plagued with complex systems that are automated in many portions with no human understanding of how a system functions or can be repaired or be redesigned except a few rare professional experts.
These vast and very costly systems are created, assembled, maintained and run by different specialized personnel who have no serious interconnections among one another.
Every section of any system requires an interface with another section so that the end user can communicate with another section without any obligation to know or understand the details of the other section.
These interfaces have to be designed to be used with minimal skills, knowledge or special training.
Consumers require easy to use objects, safe objects, error free and accident free objects.
Consumers need to access these complex systems quickly, cheaply, without the requirement for extensive training or intermediate personnel to doing business or making the objects function according to their idiosyncrasies.
The Human Factors engineering discipline should be the application of the body of knowledge, information and facts about human abilities, limitations, (physical, mental and psychological) and characteristics to the design of tools, machines, systems, tasks, jobs, and environments for safe, comfortable and effective human use.
The Human Factors engineering discipline is expected to direct its research toward practical design purposes and offer data that can be readily applied by engineers from different discipline”.
Here is a brief story of how I went about finishing my PhD dissertation.
My adviser had a business in forensic of accidents in workplace, safety consultancy and was focused on the lack of safety signs and pictorials since it was the rage of suing in consumer liability cases.
He proposed that I work on safety signs for my proposal and I didn’t feel hot about it: I sensed this topic was at best good enough for a Master’s thesis. The effects of safety signs were very short term, unless the system includes safety behaviors as an important part in the proper functioning of the corporation.
I recall that I worked for a year on a PhD proposal related to graphics of safety signs and pictorials. There were no personal computers and no graphic facilities. I toiled by hand.
My idea was to gather the used and adopted safety pictorials in many fields and try a taxonomy of elemental parts that designers could assemble in their jobs.  This proposal was killed by the team of advisers within half an hour of the session.
I tried another proposal related to cognitive engineering and it was not accepted. I was hooked to the cognitive field but my adviser would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation: he was not interested in such a field and it was not in his line of business.
To be fair, Dr. Purswell was more than patient with me and let me write two proposals related to cognition that both were turned down within a year.
I spent two years on idiosyncratic topics that my main advisor was not comfortable with, and I had no support system to guide me.
Two years earlier, my advisor told me: “Get on with my idea of a proposal. Get you degree and move on. At your age I had already three children...”
Two years earlier, one of my classmate obeyed the same advisor to the word and finished his dissertation (no experiment was conducted) and was accepted at a university as assistant professor, while I was toiling uselessly.
Finally, Dr. Purswell had to deliver an ultimatum or he would have no choice but to suspend my scholarships.
I was ordered to stop all part-time jobs. I obeyed and within a semester I wrote the proposal, designed the experiment, finished setting up the fictitious chemical lab and carried out several intelligence testing protocols just to divert the true objective from the over 120 “subjects”.
The subjects were mostly first year Psychology students because they are required to submit to experiments for credit-hours. That semester was hectic but a lot of fun.
The next semester was the worst of all semesters because I had to input thousands of data and read hundreds of pages of computer statistical results and the gruesome task of writing up my dissertation.
I had Dr. Schlegel in my advisory team and he forced me to use a specialized word processing program, simply because the print was professional and versatile. The problem was that no one could interpret the error in the program and fix it when I got stuck except him. I occasionally had to wait a couple of weeks to meet with him in order to untangle stupid word processing glitches.
By the time I submitted the final written copy I was totally depressed and I had erased from my mind any academic prospect.
To make matters worse, the US was experiencing a depressed market and universities had put a moratorium on hiring professors.
What a foreign PhD graduate with the wrong nationality and in a bad job market is to do to survive?
I asked for what I deserve. My temperament predicted this outcome.
I don’t complain in real life, but the blog is supposed to write about the oddities in life.

My diploma happened to be called “Industrial Engineering”:  Thesaurus for academic fields?

At an advanced age, I decided to engage in a PhD program, out of boredom and lack of expertise in anything, I guess.

It was 26 years ago when I thought that PhD programs provides some kind of expertise in something… I was single and still is.  My former university student colleagues were now my professors, married, and marrying their children.  The program dragged on forever, over 6 years, while a few clever undergraduate students got their PhD at the same year as I did.

The program was a Calvary:  After the first semester paying full tuition as a foreigner, I could no longer afford taking more than a couple of courses:  Quarter-time and then half-time scholarship for correcting tests and exams were leisurely coming my way, while I toiled under several part-time minimum-wage jobs.

In order not to “waste time”, I would enroll in requisite courses as auditor.  A few professors were kind enough to give the full grade without re-attending the next semester as I could afford the tuition.  The administration was quick catching up and put a brake on my “circumventing” method of actions.

I had to work 4 minimum-wage jobs within the university, as constraining laws on foreign students, to make ends meet.  This post is not about the troubles I encountered and the difficulties of my academic program: I already described at length in my category (autobiography).

It happened that the Industrial engineering department lacked professors to open up enough graduate courses to satisfying the schedule.  I was thus dispatched to several academic departments to satisfy the graduate course requirements.  It was my good luck that carried my adventure to a variety of fields such as MBA, finance, economics, marketing, accounting, psychology, sociology, and higher education…

My good luck wanted that most of these graduate courses were tailored-made to applying computer statistical packages for particular designs of experiments.  Thus, I learned varieties of math models, design of experiments, ran experiments (in hard and soft sciences), and analyzed statistical results adapted and used in many academic fields.

I learned that we don’t necessarily design cause and effects experiments, and that there is a wide array for designing experiment and collecting data.  There are not only numerical designs but also qualitative and categorical designs and data.

Every field, depending on levels of math requirement, adopted the easiest set of equations to interpret statistical results, and not necessarily what is the best in providing optimal information on interactions among the factors.

I learned that, actually, experiments designed in hard sciences were mostly antiquated and very inefficient compared to well-developed designs applied in social sciences (involving live subjects and people such as in psychology and sociology…)  

I learned how complex, biased, difficult, and detailed are experiments done on human subjects and how they can hide serious confounding factors that have strong effects but left uncontrolled (due to incredible amount of variability) and how time-consuming they were.

There were times where courses turned out to be like rerun of bad dreams:  I was proficient in the usual model and statistical packages,  but I had to finish the course:  I used these courses as opportunities to learning the terminologies of the field and comparing them to other fields. I discovered that different terminologies in different fields had the exact same meaning.

It was obvious to me that most fields of study were the same from an experimental perspective:  All you had to do is learn the appropriate terminologies since the fundamentals of experimenting were basically the same.  Thus, this idea of issuing a thesaurus of academic terminologies.

My diploma happened to be called “Industrial Engineering”, a very broad field researching the physical and mental capabilities and limitations of people so that workers can be used efficiently and more productively in the management of safer and healthier workplaces.

I learned that the diversity of fields I was engaged in entitled me to work in any field I desired, if it were not for the fictitious constraints and limitations set by syndicates and academic associations intent on giving priority to their own graduates.

I know that I can earn a new degree every two semesters if I am allowed to apply, without undue stress on course load. All that I need is getting initiated and familiar to the few key-words bounced around in the field and reading typical peer-reviewed articles.

Working democracies must structure their academic courses to focusing on how to think right, scientifically, rationally, and practising designing and running experiments.

I wish this openness to other fields of study be instituted and graduates be hired on capabilities of doing the job instead of based on nominal diplomas.

I also wish that mathematicians are encouraged to earning a degree in other fields of application since every statistical analysis is based on a math model. We need statistical models that are closer to how nature and people behave rather than these simple equations used in the packages.  The computers are very powerful to accommodate complex models.

Note:  Statistical analysis packages are driven by math models of a set of constraint equations and an objective equation (mainly operations research models).  I conjecture that it is the moral values and ethical standards of scientists for equitable behaviors toward mankind and sustainable environment that ultimately guide most scientists to conceiving the appropriate constraint and goal equations.

There are an abundance of data to suit or validate any model that scientists can imagine and thus, earning them a Nobel Prize, especially in economics.

 “An exercise for taxonomy of methods”

Article #14 in Human Factors

I am going to let you have a hand at classifying methods by providing a list of various methods that could be used in Industrial engineering, Human Factors, Ergonomics, and Industrial Psychology.

This first list of methods is organized in the sequence used to analyzing part of a system or a mission;

The second list is not necessarily randomized though thrown in without much order; otherwise it will not be an excellent exercise.

First, let us agree that a method is a procedure or a set of step by step process that our for runners of geniuses and scholars have tested, found it good, agreed on it on consensus basis and offered it for you to use for the benefit of progress and science.

Many of you will still try hard to find short cuts to anything, including methods, for the petty argument that the best criterion to discriminating among clever people is who waste time on methods and who are nerds.

Actually, the main reason I don’t try to teach many new methods in this course is that students might smack run into a real occupational stress which they are not immune of, especially that methods in human factors are complex and time consuming.

Here is this famous list of a few methods and you are to decide which ones are still in the conceptual phases and which have been “operationalized“.

The first list contains the following methods: operational analysis, activity analysis, critical incidents, function flow, decision/action, action/information analyses, functional allocation, task, fault tree, failure modes and effects analyses, time line, link analyses, simulation, controlled experimentation  operational sequence analysis, and workload assessment.

The second list is constituted of methods that human factors are trained to utilize if need be such as: verbal protocol, neural network, utility theory, preference judgments, psycho-physical methods, operational research, prototyping, information theory, cost/benefit methods, various statistical modeling packages, and expert systems.

Just wait, let me resume.

There are those that are intrinsic to artificial intelligence methodology such as: fuzzy logic, robotics, discrimination nets, pattern matching, knowledge representation, frames, schemata, semantic network, relational databases, searching methods, zero-sum games theory, logical reasoning methods, probabilistic reasoning, learning methods, natural language understanding, image formation and acquisition, connectedness, cellular logic, problem solving techniques, means-end analysis, geometric reasoning system, algebraic reasoning system.

If your education is multidisciplinary you may catalog the above methods according to specialty disciplines such as: artificial intelligence, robotics, econometrics, marketing, human factors, industrial engineering, other engineering majors, psychology or mathematics.

The most logical grouping is along the purpose, input, process/procedure, and output/product of the method, otherwise it would be impossible to define and understand any method.

Methods could be used to analyze systems, provide heuristic data about human performance, make predictions, generate subjective data, discover the cause and effects of the main factors, or evaluate the human-machine performance of products or systems.

The inputs could be qualitative or quantitative such as declarative data, categorical, or numerical generated from structured observations, records, interviews, questionnaires, computer generated or outputs from prior methods.

The outputs could be point data, behavioral trends, graphical in nature, context specific, generic, or reduction in alternatives.

The process could be a creative graphical or pictorial model, logical hierarchy or in network alternative, operational, empirical, informal, or systematic.

You may also group these methods according to their mathematical branches such as algebraic, probabilistic, or geometric.

You may collect them as to their deterministic, statistical sampling methods and probabilistic characters.

You may differentiate the methods as belonging to categorical, ordinal, discrete or continuous measurements.

You may wish to investigate the methods as parametric, non parametric, distribution free population or normally distributed.

You may separate them on their representation forms such as verbal, graphical, pictorial, or in table.

You may discriminate them on heuristic, observational, or experimental scientific values.

You may bundle these methods on qualitative or quantitative values.

You may as well separate them on their historical values or modern techniques based on newer technologies.

You may select them as to their state of the art methods such as ancient methods that new information and new paradigms have refuted their validity or recently developed.

You may define the methods as those digitally or analytically amenable for solving problems.

You may choose to draw several lists of those methods that are economically sounds, esoteric, or just plainly fuzzy sounding.

You may opt to differentiate these methods on requiring high level of mathematical reasoning that are out of your capability and those that can be comprehended through persistent efforts.

You could as well sort them according to which ones fit nicely into the courses that you have already taken, but failed to recollect that they were indeed methods worth acquiring for your career.

You may use any of these taxonomies to answer an optional exam question with no guarantees that you might get a substantial grade.

It would be interesting to collect statistics on how often these methods are being used, by whom, for what rational and by which line of business and by which universities.

It would be interesting to translate these methods into Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, or Russian.

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Clara from Nigeria: Introspection (Addendum #12)

Smiling for Three (Dec. 2002)

Dedicating this song to Clara

She responded to my numerous ads in a few of the Real Estates magazines.

I used to advertise myself as “Dr. Adonis” since I earned a PhD in 1991 in Industrial Engineering.

This story is taking place around 1999.

My odd ads occasionally generated calls for healing the sick people.

Clara actually wanted to buy herself an apartment.

She could secure a loan for a $100,000 property. She knew her limits, but a palace would be far nicer.

Clara hired me to help her buy her first real dream.

Clara is from Nigeria, living in the USA, working for an International organization.

She is beautiful, in her thirties, a young single mother raising a 10-years old boy.

We toured two dozen properties together, mostly in her car, and we wrote a dozen failed offers.

Finally, she managed to move in, in my first choice of a neighborhood, which she refused to consider 6 months ago.

When we signed the deal she was ecstatic and I was happy for a hard job done.

Clara liked me very much and stuck with me during these depressing successive failures.

Four years later, I remembered her and I am dedicating this song to Clara.

        You know Clara; I am more independent than most men.

I am single, with no children to care for.

One meal suffices and I am not picky with food.

No mortgage to pay.

You are single too,but you have a kid.

You have to work for two.

You have to worry for two.

You have to be scared for two.

A woman, with a child and no family support, emigrating from modern Africa.

A harsh life there, but still a harsher life here in the USA.

        You know Clara; you still have more life than me.

If you smile, you are smiling for two.

When you are happy, you are happy for two.

When you laugh, you are laughing for two.

Not often.

But how could my feelings come close?

        You said: I don’t mind working, worrying, and fearing for more than two people.

I would like, one more time, to be happy.

      I want to smile and laugh for three.

Something about my profession (#53)

Introspection within introspection

I started this chapter in September 13, 2007 as a personal introspection concerning my profession which generated later into a life introspection; I am basically editing this chapter.  Personal rambling set aside, I presently focus on the core of the subject that started my introspection into the industrial and human factors engineering. I have already written over 50 articles and later published them on in the category “Professional articles”.  Thus, this chapter should be technically redundant, but it is for my benefit that I am recapitulating the story.

This chapter is sort of introspection within introspection.  I did not attempt to copy/paste sections from what I had published because I want to discover how my positions and inclinations have changed since then:  It is very revealing to compare texts after a lapse of time and ponder what statements were fundamentally true to you and what were for the consumption of the general public.

Industrial engineering

I spent years pondering on the importance of industrial and human factors engineering and how to communicate their relevance in this fast pace environment of computer aided, computer simulated and computer controlled experiments that generate alternative solutions.  I was baffled on how to explain the difference between industrial and mechanical engineering when prompted: “So you are kind of a mechanical engineer?”  The two fields have not much in common except the pre-requisite courses in the first two years and the connotation to something having to do with machines and geared toward the manufacture and production of goods and the inevitable design of equipment and tools.

By the way, I never had the opportunity to take an industrial drawing course: everytime I tried to enroll for this course, I discovered that priority was given to the undergraduates.  The Dean had failed to include this course as a pre-requisite to satisfying my undergraduate program in 1975.  My guess is that the Dean might have figured that it is not actually that necessary for the graduate industrial engineer, since no industrial drawing would be contemplated, but I beg to differ.  How can any engineer whose basic general function is to design systems and tools not be trained in his mind and with his hand at viewing things in many dimensions?  Frankly, when I graduated I had many offerings in quality control of mechanical specifications to matching standards; I was too honest to declare that I had no industrial drawing schooling or training and declined jobs that were perfectly within my capabilities if I had the guts to lie.

May be the most damaging reason that inhibits me from socializing among people is the first unsolicited question asked: “What is your job?”  This is a question that I struggled very hard to identify and clarify for my own benefit first. I could take the alternative of returning a question by a question and try to find out what a “job” means in the mind of the inquirer. This technique in communication might means that I feel an interest in the person, that I like him to talk, that he would be willing to resume the conversation. I want to take a chance of investigating his reactions first; do we really want to communicate or the question is flatly a socializing gimmick?  Frankly, if I had something to sell or to buy my job should not be complicated.  The problem is that I probably have nothing to sell or buy either product or myself.

I don’t have a vocation and I am not interested wholeheartedly in anything that comes to mind.  I must discover myself and what gives me a sense to fight and struggle; I must know what drives me to wake up early and go at it.

Is my job what I currently do to earn a living or what I have studied and was trained to practice? Should I focus my explanation first on industrial or rather on the human factors engineering issues?  Is my real vocation my undergraduate (in Physics), Master’s (industrial), or Doctoral (human factors) program or what I have read lately?  Am I to disseminate the concepts that I hold to heart or to sell the company or the main product?

These wonderings are not abstract notions to me because I have been affected differently at various stages.  These questions are valid for someone who believes, deep down, that he never had a vocation and never really practiced what he should have been trained to do as a profession.

I consider myself a generalist in knowledge with no specific skills in any job specifications.  What is a job specification if not first, expertise in a very restricted job, and second, a thorough communication of the terms and vocabulary of the job?

Compensation: An Experimental mind


I recall my advisor telling me once in frustration “At your age I was professor and had raised a family”.  He had two grown up sons and a daughter who just got married.  I didn’t need this reminder to comprehend my desperate situation: I am just plainly stubborn with no imaginations on earning money.  These long years in a PhD program in the specialty of Human Factors, at the age 35 to 41, should be considered a waste of time for any career-minded student but they were valuable for my mind. My exposure to the methods and vocabulary of five other different fields of study in psychology, business, marketing, economics, and education permit me to think that I acquired an experimental mind, a mind that not many could claim to explicitly have.  I was exposed to various experimental designs, not necessarily cause and effects designs, and inevitably to different statistical results and interpretations.  I witnessed graduates focusing on the technicality of terms and so many “point statistics” that basically means nothing, and a fortiori meant nothing in the minds of the graduates but their experimental minds were lacking in comprehension.  The end result is millions of graduates publishing papers not valid scientifically and unable to interpret results.   

When someone asks “how” (the mechanical process or procedure) it is tacitly understood that he comprehend the why and what of the subject matter or the system; that he knows all the factors and variables that may affect the outcome of a system, including the human element within the system.  Maybe a practicing or a professional knows his particular system, (he should though implicitly most of the times, as engineers learn), but the fundamental question remains “has he acquired the generalized method and rationality to investigating systems outside his discipline?” 

I know what I am talking about but the difficulty is to express and disseminate the problem.  I have taught engineers who had no understanding for discriminating among variables such as dependent, independent, or controlling variables; you think that they implicitly know how to differentiate among the variables; wrong, they don’t. Even after three sessions coupled with examples they were still in the dark and still wondering what is all the fuss about. You think that they can interpret graphs, extract wealth of information and comprehend pages of written materials from one meaningful graph, they generally cannot.  I can testify that 30% of my engineer classes could not read; another 30% could not understand what they read.  It was a pleasure to educate a couple of good minds.  I have written several articles on that subject in my category “Professional articles” for further detailed clarification.

Worst, undergraduates are almost never exposed to research papers.  Most Master’s graduates barely comprehend or interpret correctly research papers.  Graduates join the “work force” of the rational minds practically illiterate; they cannot resume any continuation learning programs for a simple reason: they are illiterate in reading and comprehending research papers.


My contention is this.  If you acquired an experimental mind then you should be eligible to comprehend any field of study by reading the research papers in the field.  The major contraption devised my professions to discriminate among one another is a flimsy mask targeted in changing the technical terms and vocabulary; a secret ritual inherited from ancient times to creating castes of literates. Other than that, the experimental methodology is fundamentally the same.  When you acquire an experimental mind then all disciplines are one course away; you need to learn the slang, a new language that sound familiar, but with terms that have different meanings and connotations.  The ultimate goal of teaching is for every university graduating mind to be trained to comprehend research papers of other disciplines.

May I refer the reader to my current article “Rationality Fraud: Can our leading minds pass Socrates’ dialogue test?”

The Tunnel (Ch. 37 of autobiography)


The Dean, who was from India, refused me a grant as a former graduate in Industrial engineering. Dr. Foote, my former MS advisor, failed to actively support me as I expected of him.

I had no choice but to enroll in order to straighten my visa status from business to graduate student. I paid the full exorbitant tuition for 12 credit-hours and was completely broke by the end of the semester.

I had to take three undergraduate courses, two of them I had taken but the third one (Experimental Design) turned out to be the most interesting and very important for my field.  I settle for the Human Factor specialty within the industrial engineering department because Dr. Purswell agreed to be my advisor the next semester.

Dr. Purswell managed to offer me a quarter-time scholarships that allowed me to reduce the tuition rate.  Dr. Purswell was more interested in the health and safety aspects in this field: he had a private company in forensic engineering for work related accidents. 

There were not enough graduate Human Factors courses in the industrial engineering department for a PhD program: the human factors field was not well developed as the other industrial engineering specialties and the university lacked qualified professors in that field. I was lucky to complement my course requirements in many other departments which offered me new perspective and approach to the human element in all these artificial human made systems.

            I enrolled in a couple of graduate courses in the Psychology department and I felt at home; my heart got set on the cognitive aspect of human capabilities and limitations, instead of the physical aspects that is known as Ergonomics and the modeling of the human body versus the functions of the brain.

Thus, I ended up taking courses in various departments such as marketing, business, economics, education and others to fulfill the required number of graduate credit-hours.

I had taken many courses in cognitive psychology and various statistical modeling and software analysis programs that are frequently used in marketing, business, psychology and econometric  

One professor by the name Getty gave me credits for the Pascal programming language that I had audited and did all the homework and exams as I paid for the course the next semester.  

I was hooked to the cognitive field in Human Factors but my advisor would have none to do with cognition for my dissertation: he was not interested in such a field and it was not in his line of business.  To be fair, Dr. Purswell was more than patient with me and let me write two proposals related to cognition that both were turned down within a year. 

Finally, Dr. Purswell had to deliver an ultimatum or he would have no choice but to suspend my scholarships.

I was ordered to stop all part-time jobs. I obeyed and within a semester I wrote the proposal, designed the experiment, finished setting up the fictitious chemical lab and carried out several intelligence testing protocols just to divert the true objective from the over 120 “subjects”

The subjects were mostly first year Psychology students because they are required to submit to experiments for credit-hours. That semester was hectic but a lot of fun.

The next semester was the worst of all semesters because I had to input thousands of data and read hundreds of pages of computer statistical results and the gruesome task of writing up my dissertation.

I had Dr. Schelegel in my advisory team and he forced me to use a specialized word processing program, simply because the print was professional and versatile. The problem was that no one could interpret the error in the program and fix it when I got stuck except him. I occasionally had to wait a couple of weeks to meet with him in order to untangle stupid word processing glitches.

Something about my second university period in the USA (1986-1991;continue 35)

I applied for a Canadian emigration visa in 1984 in Jounieh but it was denied me; the representative in the interview did not interview me at all; he told me never to apply again.  The unique question that he asked me, but that he was not interested in hearing the answer, was: “Why did you lie saying you had no job?”  I have been told that my job is at an end since the construction project was over in Maameltein.  But the arrogant Canadian representative did not wait for an answer; probably, Canada had reversed its decision for further immigration of Lebanese due to the desires of the Maronite Patriarch.  I thus decided for a PhD program at the same university, the University of Oklahoma at Norman, with a tacit understanding that I would benefit of a partial grant.

I obtained a visa to the USA for 5 years and bought a returned ticket; I never used returned tickets in both trips. I did not apply for graduate studies or anything.  It was a decision of the moment and I obtained a business visa. My parents were taken by surprise as a climate of peace was rumored to last.  A month after I landed in the US, civil war resumed in Lebanon and this time it was between the Lebanese Army of General Aoun PM and the “Lebanese Forces” of Samir and it was localized in our district. This round of civil war was among the Maronites and in the mainly Christian districts and it was the worst; people huddled for 6 months in their basements.  I had to contact the Red Cross in Oklahoma for news on my folks and relatives.  I received encouraging news two weeks later by mail from the Red Cross.

I left with $5,000 of my own saved money, much devalued by inflation. Again, I had no one to receive me at the airport and had no acquaintances to shelter me; it was the same lonely and frustrating process as my first travel, it was as if I never learned anything, but I knew my destination this time around and what to expect to see. There were no internet facilities at the time and no versatile communications means.

I stayed two days at the temporary university boarding building.  A bright Lebanese undergraduate student in electrical engineering named Ghassan visited me at the dorm and connected me with a Lebanese graduate student in Environmental Engineering who rented a house far from campus; he agreed to take me in for a week and I used to accompany him in his car mornings and evenings.

Ghassan was to obtain his PhD in the same year of my graduation and worked with Cisco in Oklahoma City. I forgot the name of the Environmental engineer: my memory is the weakest element of my brain, especially in recall. I remember that I aided this student during his PhD project; I connected him with the specialized person in data design and acquisition and then I helped him imputing data for statistical analysis; he insisted on paying me and when I finally asked for $100 for a whole month of work (I was totally broke at the time) he got furious for accepting money since he took me in for free, 5 years ago for a week.  This is a typical Lebanese testing gimmick for loyalty or whatever you label it; they insist and your role is to continue refusing, but I was not proficient in that custom and abhorred it.

Note:  Most of my jobs and positions after graduation in 1991 with a PhD in Human Factors Engineering were not related to my specialty, a specialty that I am still trying to define and explain to myself.  Luckily, 15 years later, I had the opportunity to teach at a university in Lebanon, on part-time basis, two courses related to Human Factors in engineering and I ended up writing over 50 professional articles to explain this discipline to myself and also for lack of textbooks and professional magazines that the university dragged its feet in acquiring them.  Twenty five of these articles were my way to re-discover what this field is all about and transmit its concept; I thus published on the category “What is that concept of Human Factors in Engineering?”.  I think that I learned to think properly in designing experiments in my PhD years and getting familiar with the various Statistical packages mostly used by social and economic disciplines




October 2020

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