In EE/EC/CS departments, there are certain fields that are theory-based (like the algo or complexity groups), ones that lean towards systems implementation (OS, programming languages, etc) and others have a component of both (like networking).
In such a field like networking, there are professors who work on hard-core math modelling (example) and people who work on implementation and protocol design (example). From what I glean from my own paper-reading experience, the natures of these papers are as different as chalk and cheese: the math papers seem to look for ways to cast the problem in a mathematical framework and try to derive their results from such a set-up, while the implementation-oriented papers conceive of some algorithm and a protocol (based solely on logical argument rather than any rigorous mathematical premise) and present the results of their software simulations.
While on paper people argue there is no divide between theory and practice, at least to me the approach towards research differs widely between faculty members in the same field and department. Now to my questions:
- How important is math emphasis in an applied field like networking? Industry work is almost always simulation-based from whatever I have seen. After all, networks are there to be implemented and deployed, so why bother about probabilistic modelling?
- When there are two modes of research in a particular field, will the PhD student's approach play a role in faculty recruitment?
- Is there a widespread notion of one being superior to another? I know of professors and students who widely emphasise math and pooh-pooh "S-BAA: simulation based on arbitrary algorithm" type of papers.