Sean Lawrence

Co-founder @ High Impact Engineers



I'm completing a PhD in aerospace engineering and am a co-founder at High Impact Engineers.

How others can help me

  • Joining our network of physical engineers
  • Provide advice on community building
  • Help me learn more about the physical engineering needs in EA, both current and future

How I can help others

  • Providing access to a community of physical engineers
  • Discussing community building for a network of professionals


Topic Contributions

Civilisational resilience is a cause area that we're definitely looking to add! If you've got any recommended starting points for engineers to learn more about the area, I'd love to know.

That's a fantastic outcome, congratulations!

Feedback on the data analysis: I find the 90% confidence interval to not be very informative in some situations. For example in the case of "Computing the ratio of money raised to time spent, we arrive at an average of 786 USD per hour (CI 7 USD to 3,100 USD)", the CI range is very broad and I only really take away 'there was high variance in the data' or 'there weren't many data points' or both. In this situation, it's both and it's relatively clear to see from the figures. 

I'm unsure what would be more informative. Maybe a box plot of the direct work hourly rate and your hourly rate calculations could be a good way to visualise the uncertainty. A statistical test to compare the means of the two distributions (direct work and fundraising) could also be interesting but maybe there's too much variance and too few data points in the fundraising data for now. 

It would also be interesting to see the maximum and minimum money raised per hour of time values.

Regardless, it's a great result and I look forward to hearing how the 2022 season goes!

Thanks for the elaboration, Michael. Pleased to hear you like the new name - your feedback was significant in the decision  to debate a name change, so thank you for providing it.  Your phrasing generally describes the broader discussion we had on this argument for the name change during our deliberations - it's a good reference for others who are considering this argument.

We had an interesting point come out of our deliberation on this topic of "apparent monopolisation": we want to address a lack of community for physical engineers in EA so, in a way, we want to monopolise the space so as to collect as many engineers as possible in one place to maximise network effects. This initially updated us relatively strongly towards keeping "EA" in the name.  However,  a counterpoint is that having a name that is sufficiently recognisable to EAs - "High Impact [x]", for example - hopefully derives a decent portion of the monopolisation benefit, while reducing the risk of "apparent monopolisation". Therefore, we concluded that the "maximise network effects by monopolisation through using EA in the title" point only weakly updated us towards keeping "EA" in the name. 

We would be very excited to see more organisations doing things for physical engineers in the future. We've been bouncing around quite a few ideas as we've been developing a strategy for the org, most of which will be out of our scope. So we would be interested in discussing ideas with anyone who is interested in starting an org in this space!

(I'll note that we discussed this in some detail and that the use of 'we' and 'us' in this comment may not accurately reflect the views each team member but hopefully I've captured our average view relatively accurately)

We haven't. I wasn't aware of them; looks like there could be scope for collaboration. Thanks for putting them on our radar!

In theory, it would have the same effectiveness as a single filter as a given parcel of air will only pass through a single filter with both designs. To increase the effectiveness of the filtering, you would need to place the filters in series, ie. have two (or more) filters on the back of the fan. However, this would increase the resistance of the filter block and the fan would operate at a lower flow rate. So there's a trade-off between effective air filtering and effective air flow.

This is an interesting idea.  I've got a couple of initial thoughts, all off the cuff.

One consideration in their use is their placement relative to the flow of air in an environment. In indoor scenarios, air will likely flow in a somewhat predictable way based on the design of the ventilation, heat and cooling systems that are installed. A good location to put a filter is at the entrance to the air-return vent because it filters particles out before the air gets recirculated through the system and back into the indoor environment through the inflow vents. However, the point of this design is not to retrofit existing systems with the filter as the systems likely won't be able to handle the additional resistance to air movement created by the filter. The consequence is that not all the air in the environment will pass through the filter. The placement is, therefore, important to try to maximise the amount of air that is filtered. A location near an air-return vent seems like it would a good starting location.

My concern, from a pandemic preparedness standpoint, is that an insufficient amount of airborne pathogens would be removed and the spread of the pathogens wouldn't be halted. 

From an air quality standpoint, the value seems higher. If you place the box in a good location, it will gradually filter pollutants/allergens out of the air over time. I could see this being particularly valuable for regions of the world where bushfires/wildfires are prevalent and the smoke can hang around for a number of days/weeks. During the Black Summer Bushfires in Australia, the air quality was extremely poor and N95 masks were recommended if you were spending extended time outside. 

Thanks for the post, Michelle. I’m currently in the process of co-developing an organisation to increase the quantity of impactful work done by physical engineers. We’ll be looking to offer engineering-specific advice, examples and resources.

We’ll be sharing more information on the forum in the coming weeks and running events at the upcoming conferences. If anyone would like to subscribe to the newsletter, they can do so here:

MichaelA gave me the TL;DR of this advice in a 1 on 1 session at EA Global Reconnect last year and it has been quite valuable. I haven't applied to quite so many roles as recommended (mostly due to the demands of my PhD), however, I applied for more than I otherwise would have and got a couple of interviews that I was surprised by and got some valuable information out of the process.

Some additional points:

  • Getting to the interview stage and asking something along the lines of "was there an element of my experience/skillset that was particularly important in me progressing in the hiring process" can give you surprising and/or valuable information about the value of your experience/skills in the context of that role/area of work.
  • I've found keeping a single document with all of my application responses to be an efficient way to reuse or repurpose past responses and cut down the application time and effort. It also helps me short-circuit my propensity to aim for perfection in a response (and get stuck iterating on it for diminishing returns) because I can look at a past response and say 'well it was good enough for that application so it will do here' (even more so if I progressed in the hiring process for that application). This has saved me a lot of time.

I agree that it would be good to start an EA group at Monash. Unfortunately, I am at the end of my Monash journey and have only been introduced to EA myself more recently and can't directly help in the starting of a society/club. 

I think the best place to get information about starting an undergraduate student association at Monash is by contacting the Monash Student Association. Alternatively, if you're interested in also having a graduate student association then contact Monash Graduate Association. I could see there being a good amount of value in including graduate students as they may be able to tailor their research toward social impact or gain skills/experience that could help them have a greater impact in the future. However, my personal experience being a post-grad student is that I haven't had much time or inclination to be involved in student associations, but I don't know how generalisable that experience is. Perhaps starting with an undergraduate society should be the first step, then down the road, a post-grad component can be added once enough undergrads in the society get to that stage.

One additional idea I've had is that a Monash EA group could work with some of the organisations/groups within the Monash research infrastructure to provide pathways to summer research projects or post-graduate research/work. In particular, I have the Monash Data Futures Institute in mind as they appear to have a focus on doing socially impactful research and industry engagements. Things like sponsored events, Q&As and competitions come to mind

If you're interested in discussing ideas further, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.

Hi Everyone, this is my introduction post. I've put some info in my bio, so I'll elaborate on it here. You can find out a little more about me here
I was introduced to EA through an interview with William MacAskill on Sam Harris' meditation app, Waking Up. In the interview, William mentioned 80000 hours, which I then googled after. I began reading through their key idea and career review articles and was quickly convinced of the value of doing impactful work over my career. The articles are well written, well researched and very honest about their shortcomings, something I had rarely encountered before. I didn't have a strong conviction of any particular career pathway and was at a bit of a loss for what sort of jobs to look for after my PhD was finished. I completed the career planning guide and applied for and did a career counselling session at the start of 2021.
Now that I am much closer to finishing my PhD, I find myself with the opportunity to spend the remainder of this year doing low-cost experiments in impactful career pathways to get information about where I may have a competitive advantage for doing impactful work in the longer-term. Currently, I am considering software development, data science, R&D and becoming a founder as potential 'experiments'. After my final PhD thesis submission, I intend to spend time fleshing out what these 'experiments' would look like and what the expected value of each would be so that I can rank them and select which to do. Hopefully, I can share this progress here with the EA community as I go! I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has done, or is doing, something similar.

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