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Advice from Professor

  1. Oct 28, 2010 #1
    I am currently an engineering major switching into physics. I was working in a lab in the engineering department and when I told them I am leaving the professors both gave me their two cents. The more senior professor derided following the physics path saying that most real classical physics is done in engineering now and that people only want physicists who are involved in things like String-Theory or other "sexy" topics.

    He also said that it is easier to go from BSEE to Physics grad school than BS physics to EE grad school and that Engineers make better physicists than physicists

    They also told me most physics departments don't really give you a chance to do much research and learn how to do science in undergrad. And finally, said I don't seem like the type who would do physics that involves crazy hardcore math like string theory or general relativity. Not really sure why he said this because I've only been working there a few months and mostly doing simple work like constructing circuits.

    Is this guy crazy? Any comments?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2010 #2
    He probably regrets not making your decision when he was in your position.
  4. Oct 28, 2010 #3
    It's quite obvious when engineers start talking trashy about scientists.. no research in undergrad? Moreso in science than engineering I would say.
  5. Oct 28, 2010 #4
    He's being dishonest. Physics majors study EM far more deeper than a EE.
  6. Oct 28, 2010 #5
    He probably means they study EM on a deeper level in its applications. But that is obvious because Engineering is applied sciences.
  7. Oct 28, 2010 #6
    Ah. Yeah, I should have said theory, too, for physics majors.
  8. Oct 28, 2010 #7
    Well I'm no expert, I'm graduating with my B.S. physics in 2 months. But he seems a little crazy to me. I disagree with everything he said.
  9. Oct 29, 2010 #8
    He's biased, and might value your help.

    That being said, you should consider his advice at the least.
  10. Oct 29, 2010 #9


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    Reading between the lines, it sounds like they value you around the lab and don't want you to go. So you may want to take what this professor says with a grain of salt.

    In my opinion, there are advantages and disadvantages to each path - I wouldn't say that one is better than the other. Engineering research involves a lot of physics. Physics - the experimental side anyway - involves a lot of engineering.

    The transition from one path to the other is difficult to assess. It would depend on factors such as the student's motivation and interest levels, the specific courses taken, and what you want to do for a graduate project in the other field.

    Research opportunities for undergrad vary from department to department. One point that's worth considering is that if you have a good research position now, do you want to give that up for something unknown?

    And as far as seeming like that type who would do hardcore mathematical physics - I would ignore the comment. It sounds like he has some preconceived idea about the personality characteristics of a theoretical physicist.
  11. Oct 29, 2010 #10
    To the OP: That's funny. I've been considering switching from EE (in my 2nd year now) to Physics (which would put me back a year), and basically imagined that scenario happening when I told my EE professors about it! So far I haven't told them. For now I'm riding the double major train until I make up my mind between the 3 options (EE, Phys, or both).

    There have been some interesting comments in response to your post. I agree with the ones saying that his comments are biased, but still deserve to be considered. It does sound like they may value you and don't want to lose you.

    The comment your professor made about research in physics undergrad departments may or may not be false. In my university, if you want to do undergraduate physics research, you can. There's actually a shortage of physics students to do the work. And they're paid to do it, too. So definitely go find out what is available at your school firsthand!
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