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Can't decide between medical/biology and engineering/physics

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claytonh4
#1
Nov25-12, 12:55 PM
P: 77
Hey everyone, I'm a senior in high school and have already applied and been accepted to Texas A&M, but I'm having trouble deciding what path to take. I've always wanted to be a surgeon because I'm fascinated by the human body and to be able to go in and fix the most complicated machine in existence is nothing short of incredible. However, because of a great physics teacher I had last year, I've become really interested in physics and its applications such as engineering. I really enjoy physics and learning more about it (especially, like I said how it could be applied in engineering fields), but I feel like I'm coming to a fork in the road where I gotta make a decision because these are very different paths.

On my app, they had me choose a major, and I chose biology. Now I'm kinda double guessing myself though. I know people change majors all the time, but my worry is that, because A&M is known for its engineering, that if I do decide to go that route, their engineering school will be all filled up by then and I won't get in. On the flip side, I'm worried that if I call and change my major now to engineering (which I can do) that such a major would definitely be career oriented to the point that I may not be able to qualify for med school if later on I decide that would be best for me.

If someone who has experience or has had the same problem could help me out a bit I'd greatly appreciate it!
-Thanks!
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jedishrfu
#2
Nov25-12, 01:23 PM
P: 3,097
Doesn't Texas A&M have a BioMed Eng degree program?

http://biomed.tamu.edu/
claytonh4
#3
Nov25-12, 01:33 PM
P: 77
Quote Quote by jedishrfu View Post
Doesn't Texas A&M have a BioMed Eng degree program?

http://biomed.tamu.edu/
Thanks for the link. I'll look into that.

jbrussell93
#4
Nov25-12, 02:40 PM
jbrussell93's Avatar
P: 374
Can't decide between medical/biology and engineering/physics

Yeah I would also suggest looking into biomed engineering. I was in a similar position and started out in biological engineering which would allow me to take the premed stuff if I wanted to. After the first year I ended up switching over to physics without any problems but that's the good thing about starting out in engineering if you aren't sure.
claytonh4
#5
Nov25-12, 04:27 PM
P: 77
Quote Quote by jbrussell93 View Post
Yeah I would also suggest looking into biomed engineering. I was in a similar position and started out in biological engineering which would allow me to take the premed stuff if I wanted to. After the first year I ended up switching over to physics without any problems but that's the good thing about starting out in engineering if you aren't sure.
Okay, yeah I looked at the biomed website and it said many pre-med students take that path so that might be a good thing for me to start with. Thanks for your input!
jedishrfu
#6
Nov25-12, 05:21 PM
P: 3,097
Need to remind you of the caveat that some employers view the BioMed Eng major as being half an engineer and half a biologist so they may overlook you when trying to hire an engineer or biologist. So you may need to take additional courses to bolster one or the other and/or go to graduate school.
jbrussell93
#7
Nov25-12, 05:31 PM
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P: 374
Quote Quote by jedishrfu View Post
Need to remind you of the caveat that some employers view the BioMed Eng major as being half an engineer and half a biologist so they may overlook you when trying to hire an engineer or biologist. So you may need to take additional courses to bolster one or the other and/or go to graduate school.
I second this... Definitely do some research before jumping into this major. The good thing about biological/bio/biomedical engineering is that usually the programs are very flexible in electives so you can kind of steer yourself down one of the more traditional engineering routes (electrical/chemical/mechanical) or a more science focus. This lack of focus can be a bad thing though as stated above. Most people would say that it's smarter to do a more "established" field of engineering and then specialize in biomed for grad school, but if you're set on med school and don't want to completely back yourself into a corner with biology, then biomed engineering is probably a good choice. Regardless, just remember that with bioengineering your are probably looking at either graduate or med/law/etc school after undergrad.
claytonh4
#8
Nov25-12, 05:37 PM
P: 77
Quote Quote by jedishrfu View Post
Need to remind you of the caveat that some employers view the BioMed Eng major as being half an engineer and half a biologist so they may overlook you when trying to hire an engineer or biologist. So you may need to take additional courses to bolster one or the other and/or go to graduate school.
Okay, that's fine, I pretty much plan on grad school one way or another whether it be med school or actual grad school for engineering, physics, biology, or whatever. I definitely want to get education beyond undergrad.
claytonh4
#9
Nov26-12, 07:04 PM
P: 77
Quote Quote by jbrussell93 View Post
I second this... Definitely do some research before jumping into this major. The good thing about biological/bio/biomedical engineering is that usually the programs are very flexible in electives so you can kind of steer yourself down one of the more traditional engineering routes (electrical/chemical/mechanical) or a more science focus. This lack of focus can be a bad thing though as stated above. Most people would say that it's smarter to do a more "established" field of engineering and then specialize in biomed for grad school, but if you're set on med school and don't want to completely back yourself into a corner with biology, then biomed engineering is probably a good choice. Regardless, just remember that with bioengineering your are probably looking at either graduate or med/law/etc school after undergrad.
Yeah I had planned on that either way. Like you said, I feel it might be a safe choice because it would satisfy both paths without banking too hard on one or another. Plus with biomed engineering being a rather new and expanding field, I could see a large amount of future opportunities being available with that.
Thanks for all the advice!
berkeman
#10
Nov26-12, 07:23 PM
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P: 41,320
Quote Quote by claytonh4 View Post
I've always wanted to be a surgeon because I'm fascinated by the human body and to be able to go in and fix the most complicated machine in existence is nothing short of incredible. However, because of a great physics teacher I had last year, I've become really interested in physics and its applications such as engineering. I really enjoy physics and learning more about it
One thing I usually suggest for folks who may be interested in the medical field -- try to get some patient contacts to see how you feel about working with patients. Maybe you can volunteer at a local hospital or clinic, or if you have time, get your EMT certification and do some part-time EMT work.

I'm a full-time EE and a part-time EMT, and I've found that I really enjoy the patient contacts. Even with difficult patients, I usually have a positive experience with them, and like the part where I can help them out in times when they really need it.

If you do get some patient contacts and discover that you really don't liike them much, that may help to guide your academeic decisions. But if you do find that you enjoy patient contacts, that may also guide your path. If I had known back in undergrad what I do now about the medical field and how I enjoy helping patients, I probably would have gone the pre-med route, with a goal of becoming an ED surgeon.

Best of luck no matter which way you pick -- they are both good career paths if you are willing to work hard.
claytonh4
#11
Nov26-12, 08:31 PM
P: 77
Quote Quote by berkeman View Post
One thing I usually suggest for folks who may be interested in the medical field -- try to get some patient contacts to see how you feel about working with patients. Maybe you can volunteer at a local hospital or clinic, or if you have time, get your EMT certification and do some part-time EMT work.

I'm a full-time EE and a part-time EMT, and I've found that I really enjoy the patient contacts. Even with difficult patients, I usually have a positive experience with them, and like the part where I can help them out in times when they really need it.

If you do get some patient contacts and discover that you really don't liike them much, that may help to guide your academeic decisions. But if you do find that you enjoy patient contacts, that may also guide your path. If I had known back in undergrad what I do now about the medical field and how I enjoy helping patients, I probably would have gone the pre-med route, with a goal of becoming an ED surgeon.

Best of luck no matter which way you pick -- they are both good career paths if you are willing to work hard.
I actually shadowed an orthopedic surgeon for a day, and have volunteered briefly at my local hospital's ER. I did find satisfaction in patient relations, and while I don't think that'd be my selling point on the job, it seems very rewarding to help people in that way. I'm kind of quiet though, but I think I could work with patients.
Thanks for your advice.
berkeman
#12
Nov26-12, 09:49 PM
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P: 41,320
Quote Quote by claytonh4 View Post
I actually shadowed an orthopedic surgeon for a day, and have volunteered briefly at my local hospital's ER. I did find satisfaction in patient relations, and while I don't think that'd be my selling point on the job, it seems very rewarding to help people in that way. I'm kind of quiet though, but I think I could work with patients.
Thanks for your advice.
That's really great, Clayton. I'd encourage you to keep volunteering at the ED as your schedule allows. It helps you build up experience with a wide variety of patients, and also helps you to be exposed to many different styles of providing patient care. You are on a good path forward...
Mike H
#13
Nov29-12, 12:17 PM
P: 485
Something else to keep in mind - premedical coursework (at least here in the US) is not that outrageous. You need a year of biology, two years of chemistry (a general chemistry sequence and an organic chemistry sequence), a year of physics with lab, and a year of English. I don't think a year of calculus is strictly required any longer, but will often be a co-requisite at your institution for taking these classes.

The engineering & physics majors I knew (at a large public institution as an undergraduate) had to take the year of English, well beyond a year of calculus, a year & a half of physics for the engineers (more for the physicists, of course), and the general chemistry sequence for their degree no matter what. Chemical engineering majors had to take the year of organic chemistry as well. My impression is that these sorts of requirements aren't uncommon, so it's not hard to be done with your premed courses by the start of your third year at university.

I knew people who were art history majors who were able to fit in the premed coursework without too much difficulty, for what it's worth. And they didn't have to take most of those courses.
claytonh4
#14
Nov29-12, 08:30 PM
P: 77
Hey everyone, I went to change majors to biomed engineering, but unfortunately that major was already full... A&M does offer a major called biomedical sciences, but it is in the college of vet. medicine. It doesn't necessarily focus on animal sciences, but that does bother me a little that it is technically part of the vet school. Do you think this matters? So I could choose that as a major, or would any of you recommend something else? I like physics, but I don't know about doing my entire major in it. Also, engineering wise, would looking at one of those majors be a good idea or not? Chem, nuclear, and petrol engineering are all full as well, so I guess I'm a little limited there, but I don't know if engineering's even worth thinking about if biomed engineering is full.
Thanks for any advice!
MarneMath
#15
Nov29-12, 08:53 PM
P: 439
If my good friend, the English/History major, can get into med school, then I'm sure you the biomedical science can too. In fact, if you actually spent time talking to real doctors, I think you'll be surprised on how many actually did nothing with biology. The key aspects into getting into med school is to take the pre-med requirements, high GPA, good internships. Taking the pre-med requirements is easy enough, and high gpa is best achieved by studying what you enjoy.

So with that said, if you think you'll enjoy learing biomdeical sciences, do it, but if you think you'll enjoy physics, or engineering then do it! (Also I wouldn't worry about full majors, after the first semester, when reality of college kicks people's arse, things tend to open up.)
claytonh4
#16
Nov29-12, 10:22 PM
P: 77
Quote Quote by MarneMath View Post
Also I wouldn't worry about full majors, after the first semester, when reality of college kicks people's arse, things tend to open up.
Yeah I've heard that happens a lot so perhaps biomed engineering will be an option later on. Anyways, I'm not too worried about my degree in pertaining to medicine, but rather I'm curious as to what certain degrees entail (their websites only tell me so much). Especially with biomedical science, I just don't really know what to expect from that, therefore I don't know if it's right for me.
MarneMath
#17
Nov29-12, 10:40 PM
P: 439
A lot of engineering schools have a 'intro to engineering' type class that explores the different types of engineerings. Perhaps you can take that during your first semester and see what appeals to you.


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