Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Electrical Engineer

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Electrical Engineer

Article excerpt


Electrical engineers deal with machines and machine components that rely on electric current or electromagnetic fields. They may work in any industry but are most heavily concentrated in the electronics sector. Tom Coughlin specializes in magnetic recording devices and has worked on flexible tapes, floppy disks, and hard disks. He is now the president of Coughlin Associates, his own data storage consulting company.

Work overview

I consult for various companies and individuals and organize digital storage conferences, including one specifically for the entertainment industry. I write reports on technology trends in digital storage and applications.

To figure out industry trends, I confer with others and read a lot. Currently, new devices and new processing and memory capabilities are driving the industry. Digital storage in the cloud, making data accessible through the internet, has led to enormous changes in how we can use machines.

For my consulting work, I sometimes test storage devices and analyze problems, such as corrupted data on the device or damaged firmware, a software program on a hardware device. I may try to recover missing or damaged data, which requires specialized equipment, interfaces, and software. Sometimes I use an electron microscope to do materials analysis.

Career highlights

I like the sense of discovery that comes with understanding something and seeing how different parts work together. I've made many successful storage devices and am the author of six U.S. patents. It's satisfying to be able to make money off something you made.

I also enjoy writing. I wrote a book about digital storage and consumer electronics and blog about storage for

Career path

When I was a kid, I read a series of biographies. The people working in technology seemed so cool because they were making products that could change lives. And they were doing that by knowing about how the universe works.

In high school, I saw my first electron microscope when I visited a fossil collector's lab. I later got a bachelor's degree in physics at the University of Minnesota and then spent a year at Honeywell Research in the Twin Cities, working on magneto-resistive devices for sensor applications. …

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