IN THIS CHAPTER
Performing various kinds of research
Developing industrial and consumer solutions
Keeping things safe
MATLAB is an excellent tool that performs a great many tasks. However, you might perceive it as just a tool, not a means by which to earn a living. Be ready to be amazed! Adding MATLAB proficiency to your résumé may be the thing that gets your foot in the door for that bigger, better job you’ve been wanting. In other words, MATLAB is the job, rather than a tool you use to perform the job, in at least some cases. Employers have learned to ask for MATLAB by name.
Monster.com (https://jobsearch.monster.com/search/?q=matlab) clearly shows that proficiency in using MATLAB is the main educational requirement for getting some jobs. At the time of this writing, Monster.com had 5,106 postings specifically stating a need for MATLAB proficiency. Another good place to look is Indeed (https://www.indeed.com/q-MATLAB-jobs.html), which had 10,322 job listings that require some level of MATLAB experience. In fact, you can find online job recruiters, such as ZipRecruiter (https://www.ziprecruiter.com/), offering MATLAB-related work. You could also work at MathWorks (https://www.mathworks.com/company/jobs/opportunities.html). The following sections describe some of the more interesting ways (and just the tip of the iceberg, at that) to get a job with your newfound MATLAB skills.
Working with Green Technology
At an earlier point, energy came from one source — a power company. The grid could be simple because the energy went directly from one producer to multiple homes and businesses. Yes, there were interconnected grids, but the connections were relatively simple.
Today the energy picture is far different because many homes and businesses now produce energy in addition to using it. A solar panel on a home might produce enough energy to meet the home’s needs and the needs of a neighboring home, which means that the grid has to be able to deal with a surplus from a home at times. In addition, the power company sources may now include wind farms or other green-technology energy sources in diverse locations. The number of green-energy sources is constantly growing, and you can see some of the more beneficial sources at https://www.epa.gov/greenpower/what-green-power.
The old grid system doesn’t have the intelligence to manage such diverse power sources and sinks (the article at https://instrumentationtools.com/difference-between-the-sinking-and-sourcing/ provides several examples of sourcing and sinking), so new smart grids are used to replace the old system and make the new system more robust and flexible. Developing and implementing smart grids is a lot more difficult than working with the grids of old, and MATLAB can help you perform the math required to make these new grids happen. You can read about this exciting job at https://www.modelit.nl/index.php/matlab-webserver-user-story. (See https://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/answers/561482-smart-grid-project-energy-management-system to learn about a graduate student’s research project.)
Creating Speech Recognition Software
The need for computers to recognize what humans are saying is increasing as humans rely more heavily on computers for help. Although products like Siri (https://www.apple.com/ios/siri/) are helpful, the uses for speech recognition go well beyond the basic need of turning human speech into something a computer can understand.
Consider the fact that robots are becoming part of daily life. In fact, robots may eventually provide the means for people to stay in their homes at a time when they’d normally move to a nursing home (see https://waypointrobotics.com/blog/elder-care-robots/, https://www.robotics.org/blog-article.cfm/The-Future-of-Elder-Care-is-Service-Robots/262, and https://time.com/longform/senior-care-robot/ as examples). These robots must recognize everything a person is saying and react to it. That’s why ongoing research is important (see https://emerj.com/ai-sector-overviews/ai-for-speech-recognition/ and https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8632885 for details). There are also incredible hurdles to overcome, such as perceived racism (see https://analyticsindiamag.com/new-research-suggests-speech-recognition-technology-may-be-racist/ for details).
Expect to find a lot of jobs that work in the areas of speech in the future. Most of these jobs will require the ability to use math software, such as MATLAB, to speed up the process. Efficient use of math to help solve speech recognition problems will become more essential as the market for various types of computer-assisted technology increases.
Performing Antenna Analysis and Design
Antennas appear everywhere, and often you don’t even realize that an antenna is present. An antenna doesn’t necessarily appear on a tall mast and present an imposing figure. In fact, your contactless credit card (and other Near Field Communication [NFC] devices) has an antenna in it that would be tough to see even if you removed the plastic (see https://wallethub.com/answers/cc/inside-a-credit-card-2140719924/). The MATLAB Antenna Toolbox (https://www.mathworks.com/products/antenna.html) helps you perform a wide assortment tasks to make antennas work. The documentation at https://www.mathworks.com/help/antenna/gs/antenna-modeling-and-analysis.html and https://www.mathworks.com/help/antenna/ref/antennadesigner-app.html supplies details about the toolbox. No matter how large or small, you need good math skills to design antennas that work well.
Any time a technology becomes wireless, you can be sure that an antenna is involved. You might not see the antenna, but it’s there somewhere. So, it’s no surprise that a recruiter like Glassdoor (https://www.glassdoor.com/Job/antenna-design-engineer-jobs-SRCH_KO0,23.htm) would have 1,469 antenna-design engineer listings as of this writing. Lots of jobs are available now, and the need will only increase as more technologies become wireless.
Getting Disease under Control
Even though eliminating every disease may not be possible, MATLAB has an important role to play in the never-ending quest for the cure and management of disease. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses MATLAB for poliovirus sequencing and tracking. (See the story at https://www.mathworks.com/company/user_stories/centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention-automates-poliovirus-sequencing-and-tracking.html.) Of course, the poliovirus has been around for a long time. MATLAB also gets used in Covid-19 research (see https://www.mathworks.com/solutions/covid-19-research-and-development.html) in many interesting areas, such as studying the effects of Covid-19 on the retina (see https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(20)30294-7/fulltext for details).
The clock is ticking, and health organizations need every second they can get to chase down and kill off virulent diseases. Lest you think that modern medicine has been hugely successful in eliminating such diseases, think again. Only two serious pathogens have been eradicated to date: smallpox and rinderpest. (See the story at https://asm.org/Articles/2020/March/Disease-Eradication-What-Does-It-Take-to-Wipe-out.) We have a lot of work to do. Using products such as MATLAB makes researchers more efficient, creating the possibility of eradicating a virus or bacteria sooner — but only if the researcher actually knows how to use the software.
Becoming a Computer Chip Designer
Knowing how computers work at a detailed level — all the way down into the chip — opens an entirely new world of math calculations. A truly in-depth knowledge of computer chip technology involves not just electronics or chemistry, but a mix of both, with other technologies added in for good measure. (Strong math skills are a requirement because you can’t actually see the interactions take place; you must know that they will occur based on the math involved.) The people who design chips today enter an alternative reality, because things really don’t work the way you think they will when you’re working at the level of individual atoms. Yet, jobs exist for designing a System on a Chip (SoC) or Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). And given the advances in chip technology, you can count on lots of opportunities in this area.
Working with Robots
Many movies and television shows contain examples of robots interacting with humans in both the home and business environment. We’re slowly getting there. For example, many people have a Roomba (see https://www.irobot.com/roomba for details) in their homes today to do the mundane task of vacuuming, although, help is sometimes required to make it happen. Oddly enough, you can use MATLAB to program a special programmable Roomba (see https://www.usna.edu/Users/weaprcon/esposito/roomba-matlab.php for the toolbox description). A Roomba is nothing like having the humanoid robots shown in I, Robot (https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005JN0T/datacservip0f-20/), but it’s a practical example of what is available today.
Whether you’re working with a reprogrammable Roomba or not, MathWorks has tools you can use to interact with robots (see https://www.mathworks.com/discovery/robot-programming.html, https://www.mathworks.com/help/robotics/ug/build-a-robot-step-by-step.html, and https://www.mathworks.com/help/robotics/getting-started-with-robotics-system-toolbox.html). These tools help you create robots for all sorts of environments, such as the industrial applications described at https://emerj.com/ai-sector-overviews/robots-in-retail-examples/. Because the use of robots is increasing dramatically (see the report at https://ifr.org/ifr-press-releases/news/record-2.7-million-robots-work-in-factories-around-the-globe for industrial use increases alone), you can be sure that plenty of jobs exist in this area.
Interestingly enough, the Boston Dynamics dancing robots described in the Anderson Cooper Gets a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Dancing Robots on ‘60 Minutes' article at https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/anderson-cooper-gets-behind-scenes-072111140.html rely on MATLAB. You can learn more about this use in the “The First DRC Event: Guiding a Simulated Robot in a Virtual Environment” section of the Designing a Nonlinear Feedback Controller for the DARPA Robotics Challenge article at https://www.mathworks.com/company/newsletters/articles/designing-a-nonlinear-feedback-controller-for-the-darpa-robotics-challenge.html.
Keeping the Trucks Rolling
Designing better trucks may not seem like something you can do with MATLAB, but a modern truck consists of complicated machinery that has to operate safely on increasingly crowded roads. For example, just designing the air suspension systems used to couple the truck to the trailer and ensure that the two remain attached is a difficult task. You can read about this particular need at https://www.mathworks.com/company/user_stories/continental-develops-electronically-controlled-air-suspension-for-heavy-duty-trucks.html. The point is that designing trucks is a complex task.
You can easily extend this particular need to other sorts of vehicles. The amount of engineering to design a modern car is daunting. Think about everything that a car needs to do now — everything from braking so that the car doesn’t slide to ensuring that the people in the vehicle remain safe during an accident. Modern vehicles do all sorts of nonvehicle things, such as entertain the kids in the back seat so that you can drive in peace. All these capabilities require engineering that is better done using math software. Also consider self-driving cars. MATLAB can help you design a self-driving car using the Automated Driving Toolbox (https://www.mathworks.com/products/automated-driving.html).
Designing Equipment Used in the Field
Even though the story at https://www.mathworks.com/company/user_stories/electrodynamics-associates-designs-high-performance-generator-controller-for-the-military.html tells about a generator designed for use by the military, the story speaks to a much larger need. Every outdoor activity, such as a construction project, requires equipment of various sorts to make the task feasible. Generating power is a huge need. Trying to build something would be nearly impossible without the electricity required to run various kinds of tools.
Generators, tools, appliances, and all sorts of other devices require special design today. Not only does the equipment need to work well, but it has to do so at a low energy cost, reduced use of materials, nearly invisible maintenance costs, and with a small environmental impact. Trying to design such equipment without the proper math software would, again, be nearly impossible.
Reducing Risks Using Simulation
Many endeavors that businesses or people need to undertake entail the risk of failure. At issue isn’t whether you have enough money to throw at any problems that may arise; rather, you can’t know whether the project has a chance to succeed at all. Using simulation can greatly increase the likelihood of success, however. For example, consider the salvaging of the Russian submarine Kursk. (See the story at https://www.mathworks.com/company/user_stories/international-salvage-team-brings-home-the-kursk-submarine-using-a-simulation-developed-in-simulink.html for details.) It wouldn’t be possible to know whether the salvage could ever succeed without simulating it first. Simulations require both math skills and plotting, both of which are found in MATLAB.
However, just knowing that the project can succeed isn’t enough. Using a simulation lets you identify potential risks at the outset, before the project is under way. Risk identification and management are important parts of many endeavors today. Beyond having procedures in place that guarantee success, you need procedures for those times when things do go wrong. Creating a great simulation helps an engineer with the required knowledge to figure out the risky situations in advance and do everything needed to avoid them, and then also create procedures for when things go wrong anyway.
Creating Security Solutions
Feeling safe is an essential human need. Consequently, you find security solutions for a huge number of needs — everything from protecting a home to protecting a website. Security statistic sites such as Statista (https://www.statista.com/topics/2188/security-services-industry-in-the-us/) boggle the mind with the vast range of security solutions they list. It doesn’t take long to figure out that there are a lot of security jobs available. Variety isn’t a problem, either. Most MATLAB direct-security solutions involve website data (see https://www.mathworks.com/help/mps/security.html and https://www.mathworks.com/products/polyspace/application-security.html for details), which makes sense given that you use MATLAB to interact with data. However, when you consider how the various MATLAB toolboxes are designed, you could also create secure solutions for just about any industry today, such as the home security system at https://www.mathworks.com/help//stateflow/ug/modeling-a-security-system.html.