Professor Perspectives on Email

Dave Alciatore, Mechanical Engineering

When to Stop Emailing and Meet

"At some point, you have to pick up the phone and confront a situation. Email is not acceptable for problem/resolution situations or when you need to sit around in a group and fire ideas at one another. You can start discussions via email, but eventually you'll need to meet. You should especially avoid email whenever tone of voice is important. "

Information Transfer

"Email is limiting in terms of what you can do visually. Engineers often sketch when they talk, putting up transparencies, drawings--it’s technically feasible to attach drawings, but it’s easier to post things on the Web and say, "Go look at it here."

How Professionals Use Email

"Email is a large component in industry. . . . like keeping everyone on a project up to date. Everybody is working on different things and there’s a need for cross-talk. Email is a perfect form for that."

Patrick Fitzhorn, Mechanical Engineering

Email Etiquette

"Email requires appropriateness. For example, one student was hopping mad about something that happened in class. He fired off an email afterwards and copied it to the instructors of the course. Clearly, the student should not have written what he did. If that had happened in industry, he would have been fired. "

Information Transfer

"Information content isn't very high over email. Often, senders and receivers rely on high amounts of information communication, so the information transfer rate needs to be as high as possible."

Neil Grigg, Civil Engineering

How Professionals Use Email

"I use email for everything. We, fellow engineers, exchange files through email; we send things to multiple lists and distribution lists."

Derek Lyle, Electrical Engineering

Email Versus the Telephone

"Email allows you to communicate similar information as a telephone does, only the other person doesn't have to be there. With email, you don't have to wait for an answering machine to turn on or to leave a message with another person. Instead, you just write your message and send it--even during the early hours of the morning! Also, with email, tone of voice is not there. You've got to realize that a person is going to be reading this and it's going to impact them emotionally. At some point, you have to pick up the phone, and you'll need to know when it's time to do that."

Carmen Menoni, Electrical Engineering

How Professionals Use Email

"In industry, everyone uses email. Even within groups, people communicate through email. For example, at Hewlett-Packard, they do that all the time. It’s a very convenient tool. . . . to communicate with their bosses. Or for example, you can send a program over email. Lots of publications expect email. Physical Review expects this. Also, for example, I’m expecting pictures today to be sent so that I can look at them on my computer."

Ken Reardon, Chemical BioResource Engineering

Using Email to Collaborate

"Email is a great vehicle for collaboration projects. For example, with one of my projects, my collaborator was in Oregon. We completed the entire project without ever meeting face-to-face. This type of situation is becoming more common."

How Professionals Use Email

"In companies, it seems to be used for setting up meetings, discussing the progress on a project, due dates. We can forward parts of documents via email also."

Tom Siller, Civil Engineering

How Professionals Use Email

"We do a lot of notification of . . . meetings and such. . . . I use email mostly for reminders . . . . I think students are starting to use it to coordinate group projects. . . . I’d like to see it move to group writing via the network with documents."

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