Doctoral update

I have significant updates on doctoral progress for my wife and me. No, we’re not imminently graduating, but still good news.

Jennifer completed all her major doctoral steps before Ethan was born. That means all she has left is being hazed putting in her research time until it is considered “enough,” whatever that means. Then she does the dissertation.

The dissertation is around 200 pages but not as hard as it sounds. Huge swaths are already in Jennifer’s prior papers and reports. I’ll be $1 she’ll graduate in a year or less; she’s not as confident.

I am finally progressing on my own praxis. I finished all coursework in December 2007 and then accomplished nothing in the next 1½ years. Well, I did do things, including aborting an impossible praxis topic and considering switching to a PhD program.

The PhD would have been in Civil Engineering with emphasis in Traffic Management. My M.S. Computer Science and D.E. coursework matched up almost perfectly. All I would have had to do is two more 3 hour courses and a dissertation. But it is not the great deal that it may sound like.

First, I am genuinely interested in traffic operations. However, I have no other civil engineering background, so I would not have been very employable as a traffic engineer. Even then, I am not sure I want to work in a transportation department. Career-wise, it didn’t make much sense.

Second, it is enough of a challenge just to do the 12 hour praxis for my Doctor of Engineering. This is the first time in my life that I’ve had to say “no” to so many invitations for events or volunteer activities. My free time crunched a little with the arrival of the second kid (but not as badly as everyone says it does!), and praxis work easily expands to gobble any leftover time. Not only is a PhD dissertation twice as many hours, the topic is completely original–as opposed to the praxis’s practical orientation–so the work is more difficult. On top of that add 6 more course hours, and I just don’t know if it would have been achievable.

Third, the largest difference between a PhD and Doctor of Engineering may be eligibility for tenure-track professorship. My department chair likened it to the “union card” of tenure. Since I do not aspire to that, PhD has no additional professional merit for me over the D.E.

What’s my praxis topic? I am studying whether there is a statistically sound way to correlate trends in ticketwriting, motorist behavior, and safety. For example, does writing a lot of tickets cause a safety benefit? All prior studies appear to be highly localized, like trying to answer how long after seeing enforcement activities do motorist revert to non-compliant behaviors. I am attempting a broader or systemic approach. I hope my research may be good enough quality to be published in transportation journals and meaningfully guide jurisdictions.

I am collecting data on all traffic tickets written by Dallas County’s 33 jurisdictions. This includes 31 cities with boundaries in the county, the county itself, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. So far I have data from 10 jurisdictions, and several more are currently working on my request.

Most cities have been amazingly helpful. I’ve had a few frustrating sticks in the mud, but they are the exception.

Jennifer and I have come a long way, but we still have a year or so in front of us. Wish us luck!

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