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3-Year Plan

  1. Jul 21, 2008 #1
    Hi Physics Forums! I've been lurking for a couple months now and decided to post after laying out a 3-year Applied Physics BS plan.

    You must be thinking why three years for a BS. Well I've been in school for three years now, and have finally figured out what I want to do for the rest of my life. Space exploration. Ever since I can remember I've always had an immense interest in space. My career was right in front of me the entire time.

    I want to develop, design, and build spacecraft, un-manned and especially manned. I'd love to work directly on the Orion spacecraft and the mission to the moon and mars.

    So I centered my plan around the concentration of Materials and Fluid. I figured that that plan out of all the available concentrations would best prepare me for a MS in Aerospace Engineering at another school.

    Here is my plan View attachment 3-Year Applied Physics Plan.doc If anyone could look over it and let me know if the classes I chose would benefit me for an MS in Aerospace Engineering. Also any pointers or useful info about my plan or aerospace engineering would be great. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2008 #2
    It looks like you are planning on taking a lot of tough upper division classes concurrently in '10 and '11. For example, in Fall '10 you would be taking Thermodynamics, Mech & Thermo Flow Processes, E&M, Quantum, and Electronics - all at the same time. It is tough to get the most out of hard classes when you are taking so many at the same time - there just isnt enough time. I think it might be better to take less classes, and dig deeper into them. There's also little room for non math/science courses in there, hopefully you've already got those out of the way.

    There's also a HUGE amount of thermodynamics in there. Is that intentional? By my count, you would be taking:
    Physical Thermodynamics
    Mech & Thermo Flow Processes
    Heat and Mass Transfer
    Thermosciences Lab

    A lot of that looks redundant, you may want to talk to the profs that teach the courses about what overlaps there are between the courses.

    One final note, I'm kind of wary of the "intro to C programming" I see there. You want to take classes where they teach the principles behind programming, not just telling you syntax of a random language that is going to be obsolete in a few years anyways. Usually you'd see names like "intro to computer science", or things of that nature. It could just be the way they name the classes at your college though, so maybe its nothing.
  4. Jul 21, 2008 #3
    I second the above opinion.
    In general, yes you may have found a way to theoretically complete the Bs. in 3 years, however, as stated above taking all those upper division classes will kill you. E&M will require an immense amount of studying and mathematical knowledge. QM will just be frustrating as it has hard to think about. Electronics ( assuming it has a lab portion) will just take up a lot of time as the labs are not really hard but usually require a lot of time. If there is no lab portion then I'm not sure how much you will learn. You can read an take notes form an electronics book but until you sit and make a RLC circuit, a differential amplifier circuit, a shot-trigger, etc.. you won't really know electronics.

    I would seriously rethink your plans unless you want to spend every waking moment for the next 3 years in the library or computer lab.
  5. Jul 21, 2008 #4
    First, are you sure this plan agrees with the requirements of your applied physics program? You have to be very careful when a major gives you freedom in choosing courses, as the department usually has strange ideas of what constitutes a credit requirement.

    The problem I see with your plan is sacrificing width for breadth. This of course isn't always bad considering you intend on grad school, but you need to consider the type of knowledge that would benefit an aerospace engineer. It's basically a mechanical engineering degree, with physics taking the place of some courses. The transition to aerospace from mechanical is easy, but there are certain classes that you shouldn't forgo.

    I see a weakness in mechanics and materials, which is a large part of aerospace work. I see "engineering mechanics" taken through the civil department, and "mechanics" taken through physics. The first course, often called statics, is usually the first of a long series. It is followed by mechanics of solids (statics 2, mechanics of solids, etc) in which problem solving with stress, strain, bending moments, and torsion is introduced. Courses like materials science, "mechanical behavior of materials," "aerospace structures" are taken later in the junior and senior year. These provide the fundamentals of mechanical design, with topics such as fracture, fatigue, creep, and failure criterion. These courses often provide valuable exposure to finite element method software that is used in modeling. I think mechanics of materials and materials science, both usually offered through mechanical engineering, should be included in your program.

    You don't include courses on dynamical systems and control. These two would be important if you wish to focus on control systems, rather than structural design.

    Though you have a variety of thermal-fluids courses, there is no aerodynamics/compressible flow or jet propulsion systems. Both of which are staples for the undergraduate aerospace engineer. Thermodynamics taken through both the physics and mechanical engineering department are redundant considering your short time scale. Not that the two courses are the same; they just don't introduce new material, rather new perspectives on the same material. The thermal flow processes course, if it is what I think, is more a mechanical class in heat exchanger design.

    To better prepare yourself for aerospace grad school:
    1. Take more mechanics/materials courses.
    2. Better foundation in electrical/control systems.
    3. Replace unnecessary thermal-fluids courses with more appropriate ones.

    It would help if you posted the program requirements for applied physics here, as well.
  6. Jul 22, 2008 #5
    C is not random and is not going anywhere anytime soon. Although you might beneficiate more from a intro to computer science, C is never a bad option. You can learn C in two hours but it takes a lifetime to master :-).
  7. Jul 22, 2008 #6
    While C isn't going anywhere, do Aerospace Engineers use it for anything?

    Talk to an Aero.E. (I'm not one) and see what they use; probably a lot of Matlab and canned CFD routines. Then see if you can replace the C programming course with a course in something more useful to you.
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