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Question regarding physics vs engineering undergrad for an intended physics career?

by Ishida52134
Tags: career, engineering, intended, physics, undergrad
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Ishida52134
#1
Nov13-12, 05:35 PM
P: 139
So right now I'm a senior in high school. I intended to major in engineering physics at Cornell and probably also pursue a theoretical physics double major there as well. However, I also want to go to Cambridge for my masters/doctorate in physics. Since it gives no financial aid to international students and is very expensive and my family hardly makes enough money, I thought about withdrawing my application and applying to Cooper Union instead since it's free and it also offers a good engineering education and I could also take enough math and physics courses to prepare myself for graduate school. In addition, I could probably get into either school.
1) So basically, can I go from an engineering undergraduate program to a physics master/doctorate?
2) And also, is it worth it to go to Cooper Union and save the money to go to Cambridge for masters?
3) And if so, which engineering should I go for that could best prepare me for a physics career? Can I and should I double major in mechanical and electrical engineering?

thanks.
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jimmyly
#2
Nov13-12, 05:55 PM
P: 190
i am in the same boat as you. but i am choosing physics over engineering. you should read Zapperz's thread on physics phd with degrees not in physics.

the university i am going to offers a mechatronics system engineering bachelors which is a combination of mechanical electrical and computer engineering. so there are programs out there but they are in their infancies so harder to find.

also i talked to a few professors and the point is, if you want to go into physics then do physics. going from engineering to physics is a LOT harder to do. i know people who have a degree in physics and got their masters in EE but they had to take extra courses. but going from engineering to physics is a more complicated and rare route to take.

i thought about doing the mechatronics program THEN a degree in physics but thats just not optimal. theres also engineering physics in which you can pursue grad studies in physics or engineering. this is what the professor i spoke to recommended me. but again i am going to choose physics because i absolutely love it.

thats all i got. sorry if i wasnt much help but thats what i found out so far.
jimmyly
#3
Nov13-12, 05:58 PM
P: 190
question for you, if you want to do physics research why do you want to do engineering?

jimmyly
#4
Nov13-12, 06:02 PM
P: 190
Question regarding physics vs engineering undergrad for an intended physics career?

if you want a physics career it doesn't make much sense to get a bachelors in engineering
Ishida52134
#5
Nov13-12, 06:03 PM
P: 139
because cooper union doesn't have a physics major. and like I said the reason I'm applying there is because it's free and I want to save money for graduate/doc program at cambridge which would cost a lot of money.
jimmyly
#6
Nov13-12, 06:08 PM
P: 190
ohh okay sorry i must have missed that somehow, im reading from my phone.
jimmyly
#7
Nov13-12, 06:17 PM
P: 190
http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=64966

this is the link to the thread i was talking about earlier, you should check it out
rhombusjr
#8
Nov13-12, 07:43 PM
P: 97
If you have to do engineering, electrical is probably your best bet. That being said, by doing engineering as an undergrad you're making it very unlikely you'll get into a physics graduate program. From interacting with engineers at my school, I consider an engineering education to be a completely inadequate foundation for graduate study in math/physics. You would need to go far beyond the usual engineering curriculum to have a good foundation for higher level math/physics study. To start with, you'll be expected to have a good grasp on basic quantum mechanics. Does Cooper Union even have a course on quantum mechanics? Even in classical mechanics physicists are expected to know things engineers are never taught. Furthermore (I could be wrong on this), the engineering education at Cooper Union is heavily focused on practical industry applications and not so much on theory and research. This would further dampen your prospects for a theory oriented graduate degree.

Another thing to consider is that you shouldn't only consider Cambridge for graduate school. You should also consider US graduate programs since all US physics graduate programs are fully funded.

If you want to do engineering, Cooper Union is a great school. If you want to do mathematical/theoretical physics, you're going to be spending 4 years studying something you don't want to study which will prepare you for something you don't want to do and will not prepare you for what you actually want to do. I am extremely doubtful you could get accepted into one of the most high-caliber theoretical and mathematical physics programs in the world with an engineering degree.
Ishida52134
#9
Nov13-12, 07:47 PM
P: 139
lol I only said engineering cuz cooper only has engineering.... And it's free so I could save money for grad school.
rhombusjr
#10
Nov13-12, 08:00 PM
P: 97
Quote Quote by Ishida52134 View Post
lol I only said engineering cuz cooper only has engineering.... And it's free so I could save money for grad school.
But if you don't get accepted, it doesn't matter whether or not you have money for it. You can't go. Period. End of story. To go to Cambridge, you have to get accepted, which (probably) won't happen if you have an engineering degree. If you get rejected, you can't go. An engineering degree will probably get you rejected. You most likely will NOT get into Cambridge if you go to Cooper Union.

Is going to school for free worth it if it doesn't help you get where you want to go?
Ishida52134
#11
Nov13-12, 08:04 PM
P: 139
Quote Quote by rhombusjr View Post
But if you don't get accepted, it doesn't matter whether or not you have money for it. You can't go. Period. End of story. To go to Cambridge, you have to get accepted, which (probably) won't happen if you have an engineering degree. If you get rejected, you can't go. An engineering degree will probably get you rejected. You most likely will NOT get into Cambridge if you go to Cooper Union.

Is going to school for free worth it if it doesn't help you get where you want to go?
Going to cooper union doesn't mean ure definitely going to get rejected from cambridge. you can take the gre in physics which would show ure aptitude in physics along with ure gpa which they look at.
rhombusjr
#12
Nov13-12, 09:40 PM
P: 97
Quote Quote by Ishida52134 View Post
Going to cooper union doesn't mean ure definitely going to get rejected from cambridge. you can take the gre in physics which would show ure aptitude in physics along with ure gpa which they look at.
I didn't say "definitely", just "probably". Even people with a solid physics background don't do well on the Physics GRE; it will be even harder for you with no background at all. I'm not sure if Cambridge even looks at the GRE. Also, a high score on the PGRE does NOT mean you have the same aptitude in physics as a good physics major.

You are fooling yourself if you think that an engineering degree and a standardized test score is an adequate substitution for a proper education in physics.

If you really want to go to Cambridge to study theoretical/mathematical physics, GO FOR A PHYSICS and/or MATH DEGREE. Choosing engineering over physics is like playing a tennis match with a spoon instead a racket. Not impossible to win that way, but that's not what any sane person would choose to do and chances are you're going to loose.

To go back to your original questions:
1) Technically it is possible, but it is not very likely.
2) No.
3) If you insist on engineering: electrical and/or chemical.
ZapperZ
#13
Nov13-12, 10:14 PM
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Quote Quote by Ishida52134 View Post
Going to cooper union doesn't mean ure definitely going to get rejected from cambridge. you can take the gre in physics which would show ure aptitude in physics along with ure gpa which they look at.
You seem to be obsessed with doing a Masters at Cambridge. And you seem to think that it is THAT easy to get into it.

There is a difference between setting a goal, versus singular, blind ambition for no apparent reason. Do you think the numerous other schools, offering more than decent education at the graduate level, do not exist or not even worth considering? What is it about Cambridge that has made you like this?

Zz.
Rika
#14
Nov14-12, 03:15 AM
P: 156
But tbh you won't get a job in physics (especially theoretical one) anyway so free engineering degree with strong emphasis on industry is not bad idea (at least much better than paying for physics degree and going to grad school for theory).

Unless you want to be medical physicist or programmer, from career-wise point of view physics degree is useless. Yeah, I know - pursuing knowledge is great thing but with all that books and free online lectures you don't need college degree to learn about physics.

And you will need to support yourself in this garbagety economy at some point. Engineering degree allows you to get professional licence so it's worth paying money (and you can get it for free).

In the end the most important thing is your own hapiness - if you don't mind being programmer for the rest of your life after studying physics - go for it. If you want to have maybe not ideal but science-related job for the rest of your life - go engineering.

As an engineer you will probably be closer to physics that most physics graduates anyway.
StatGuy2000
#15
Nov14-12, 09:33 AM
P: 591
To the OP:

I took a quick glance at the Cooper Union program related to physics on its website and this is what I found:

http://cooper.edu/engineering/physics

It sounds to me that the school offers enough course work to offer an equivalent of a minor in physics in addition to an engineering degree (which should give you adequate preparation for graduate degrees in physics, especially in more applied areas such as condensed matter or optics).

Since you had originally intended to study engineering physics at Cornell, it sounds like you could earn an equivalent degree by, say, pursuing a General Engineering major at Cooper Union and supplementing your course work with physics courses for a minor. Of course, you should discuss the options available with the registrar at Cooper Union.

That being said, I have a question. You had stated that you had originally intended to study at Cornell -- were you offered a scholarship, or would you have to pay tuition out of pocket or take out a loan to study there?


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