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What Does a Research Engineer Do?

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  • Written By: Kenneth W. Michael Wills
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Working in a diverse range of scientific and engineering industries, a research engineer works to research, develop and evaluate new engineering processes and end products. A research engineer is usually assigned a project with specific goals outlined or a particular problem to solve. Given a great degree of latitude, he or she will train and direct others, while managing the entire research effort to include testing of final results or products. The role involves in-depth analysis of issues, process, and procedures, in addition to application of engineering and scientific principles. Good judgment, reasoning abilities, a sound understanding of the scientific process, and engineering principles is required to be successful in the position.

Development and research is the main area of focus for a research engineer. Objectively, he or she will conduct research and develop theories based on that research to address a problem or tackle an initiative set forth by the organization for which he or she works. Such research might be applied to development of a new technology in one industry, or in another, such as agriculture, this might involve researching more effective farming methods.

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Testing is another main concern of the research engineer. This may involve testing new processes and theories developed, or it may involve testing equipment used in conducting the research project. Particularly during the construction of research facilities, he or she will test all phases of construction to ensure facilities will contribute to the research process. Once a new product or method is developed, the engineer will also test those results to ensure reliability.

Inherent to the function of testing, a research engineer will also analyze and evaluate the results of testing to determine their meaning. Understanding the results of these evaluations helps him or her decide which direction to take the research project. Involved in evaluation is supervising the collection of data, ensuring its validity, and publishing the results of the evaluation so that other team members understand the status of the project.

Aside from the core responsibilities, a research engineer may also use his expertise to support other research efforts within the organization, or with external clients. Planning and estimating a budget is another responsibility required in relation to assigned research projects. Included in this process is requesting and securing the required equipment, human capital or other resources needed to conduct research and bring results to fruition. Regardless of the phase in research or development, he or she will need to exercise good judgment and be able to effectively solve problems as they arise.

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