Advice on switching from physics to (biomed) Engineering?

In summary, the speaker is a first year student at a UK university studying joint-honours in maths and physics. They have realized that they do not have a passion for pure maths and physics, but rather the idea of becoming a theoretical physicist. They also find the maths too abstract and are interested in the applications of physics and maths. They were pressured by their family to study physics, but now regret not pursuing medicine. They have discovered biomedical engineering as a potential field of interest and are wondering if they should apply for it on UCAS this year or take a gap year. The expert advises them to work hard in their current program until a clear alternative presents itself and reminds them that the grass is always greener on the other side. They
  • #1
Mabey
5
0
So I'm currently a fresher at a UK university doing (joint-honours, but not actually missing any first year physics) maths and physics but I've come to realize I don't really have a passion for pure maths and physics. I've realized I fell in love with the "pop-culture" idea of physics and becoming a theoretical physicist rather than the physics itself. I've also found the maths is extremely abstract, and I'm not sure I want to spend my time at uni proving increasingly abstract ideas, despite its importance and beauty. What I do enjoy however is the applications of physics and maths.

I was really close to doing medicine but I was pressured by my family into physics because "It's what I'm good at". I realize now it's too late for medicine(apart from grad entry), but I've recently discovered biomedical engineering and it seems like the perfect mix of everything I'm interested in. I still really like the idea of doing research and/or moving on to a PhD, and from what I can see, it's still possible to be a research scientist in BME?

My main question is, would it be worth applying for BME on UCAS this year and swapping next year if I'm still unhappy? Take a gap year? Honestly, I would just like some general advice and information if anyone can help!
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
With an undergraduate degree in physics, you are intellectually prepared to enter almost any engineering field. The reverse is not true.

Yes you can do research in BME. Many do so with physics degrees.
Are those who say you are "good at" physics really telling you that they think you are not emotionally equipped to do medicine?? If so you should listen to them. If not then what do you care?
If you think at this point in your life you can write an immutable script for its completion you are very mistaken.

My advice: work hard at the physics program until you see a clear alternative. Make incremental changes that seem appropriate (less theory...more practical perhaps? I am in the US and I don't understand the nuances of the UK system).
Remember the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
 
  • Like
Likes Mabey
  • #3
hutchphd said:
With an undergraduate degree in physics, you are intellectually prepared to enter almost any engineering field. The reverse is not true.
Yes you can do research in BME. Many do so with physics degrees.
Are those who say you are "good at" physics really telling you that they think you are not emotionally equipped to do medicine?? If so you should listen to them. If not then what do you care?
If you think at this point in your life you can write an immutable script for its completion you are very mistaken.
My advice: work hard at the physics program until you see a clear alternative. Make incremental changes that seem appropriate (less theory...more practical perhaps? I am in the US and I don't understand the nuances of the UK system).
Remember the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Tbh the people saying I'm good at physics have said I'm not emotionally equipped to do medicine, so you've got a point there. Anyway thanks the advice, it was really helpful and I feel a bit more confident now.
 
  • #4
Mabey said:
would it be worth applying for BME on UCAS this year and swapping next year if I'm still unhappy?
Sorry, I'm not able to understand UCAS yet...

https://www.ucas.com/ucas/after-gcses/find-career-ideas/explore-jobs/job-profile/biomedical-engineer
Is it distance learning, or a physical university in the UK? And my impression is that BME is more of a graduate school option, not an undergrad option, but I could be wrong about that. It seems like a strong background in physics and/or engineering would be needed before specializing in BME in graduate school.

Paging @Choppy @gleem
 
  • #5
hutchphd said:
With an undergraduate degree in physics, you are intellectually prepared to enter almost any engineering field.
I'm not sure what "intellectually prepared" means, but I'm pretty sure you can't put it on a resume. Just to be clear: a physics degree is not an engineering degree and is not the optimal qualification for an engineering job. It may be ok for some jobs, but others it won't be and it will just about never be preferred over an engineering degree. So please be careful when potentially projecting the idea that 'if you can't find a job in physics you can always get one in engineering' (interpretation/paraphrase). It is only partially true.

A person seeking a job in engineering should get an engineering degree and a physics major should not consider an engineering job to be an easy fallback to not being able to find a physics job.
 
  • Like
Likes phinds and gleem
  • #6
Mabey said:
I was really close to doing medicine but I was pressured by my family into physics because "It's what I'm good at". I realize now it's too late for medicine(apart from grad entry), but I've recently discovered biomedical engineering and it seems like the perfect mix of everything I'm interested in. I still really like the idea of doing research and/or moving on to a PhD, and from what I can see, it's still possible to be a research scientist in BME?

My main question is, would it be worth applying for BME on UCAS this year and swapping next year if I'm still unhappy? Take a gap year? Honestly, I would just like some general advice and information if anyone can help!
Does med school start in undergrad in the UK? In the US it starts after undergrad so you can major in just about anything and still get in (with the requisite science courses). Otherwise, starting over in medicine would only cost you this year, so if it's what you really want, it seems like the shortest path to get what you want.

Anyway BME is a highly regarded and actively researched branch - and one where an advanced degree is probably worth it. And it's medicine-adjacent, so it could be a good fit.
 
  • Like
Likes Mabey
  • #7
berkeman said:
Sorry, I'm not able to understand UCAS yet...

https://www.ucas.com/ucas/after-gcses/find-career-ideas/explore-jobs/job-profile/biomedical-engineer
Is it distance learning, or a physical university in the UK? And my impression is that BME is more of a graduate school option, not an undergrad option, but I could be wrong about that. It seems like a strong background in physics and/or engineering would be needed before specializing in BME in graduate school.

Paging @Choppy @gleem
https://www.imperial.ac.uk/study/ug/courses/bioengineering-department/biomedical-engineering-meng/
This is the course I am mainly interested in. And yes I am British and enrolled in a "physical" university.
 
  • #8
russ_watters said:
A person seeking a job in engineering should get an engineering degree and a physics major should not consider an engineering job to be an easy fallback to not being able to find a physics job.
I can only rely on my experience. With PhD in theoretical physics I eventually held a series of R and D posts that were mostly engineering development. I never regretted my choice as to training, nor conversely did I ever regret hiring a physicist.. As a consultant for 20 years I have seen the inside of many companies and the physicists were universally valued and thriving in various engineering realms. I do admit there will sometimes be issues getting your foot in the door.
 
  • #9
You can get a BS in BME and a job with a BS too, at least in the US. Many hospitals have BME or clinical engineering departments. These are service department to manage the technology in the hospital which may include repair, maintenance, calibration, electrical safety and purchase specs especially in support of cardiology, CCUs, pulmonology, dialysis.
 
  • Like
Likes berkeman
  • #10
hutchphd said:
I can only rely on my experience. With PhD in theoretical physics I eventually held a series of R and D posts that were mostly engineering development. I never regretted my choice as to training, nor conversely did I ever regret hiring a physicist.. As a consultant for 20 years I have seen the inside of many companies and the physicists were universally valued and thriving in various engineering realms. I do admit there will sometimes be issues getting your foot in the door.
Fair enough; I would agree, at least, that the overlap becomes more significant at higher education levels.
 
  • #11
berkeman said:
Sorry, I'm not able to understand UCAS yet...

UCAS is an acronym for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It is the centralized service that students in the UK use to apply to university. Anyone who wishes to pursue an undergraduate university degree in the UK must apply through UCAS.
 
  • Informative
Likes berkeman

1. What are the main differences between physics and biomedical engineering?

Physics is a broad field that focuses on understanding the fundamental laws and principles that govern the natural world. Biomedical engineering, on the other hand, combines principles from physics, engineering, and biology to develop solutions for healthcare and medical challenges. This includes designing medical devices, developing new treatments, and improving healthcare technologies.

2. What skills from physics are transferable to biomedical engineering?

Physics and biomedical engineering share many fundamental concepts, such as mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and thermodynamics. As a physicist, you likely have a strong foundation in these areas, which can be applied to solving problems in biomedical engineering. Additionally, skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and data analysis are highly transferable between the two fields.

3. What additional skills or knowledge do I need to switch from physics to biomedical engineering?

While many skills from physics are transferable, it is important to have a basic understanding of biology, anatomy, and physiology in order to excel in biomedical engineering. Additionally, knowledge of computer programming and design software is also beneficial, as these are commonly used in the field.

4. Are there any specific courses or programs that can help with the transition?

There are several courses and programs available that can help with the transition from physics to biomedical engineering. Some universities offer specific programs in biomedical engineering that are designed for students with a background in physics. Additionally, there are online courses and workshops that cover the basics of biomedical engineering and can help you gain the necessary skills and knowledge.

5. What career opportunities are available in biomedical engineering?

Biomedical engineering offers a wide range of career opportunities, including roles in research and development, medical device design, healthcare technology management, and clinical engineering. With the growing demand for innovative solutions in healthcare, there are many opportunities for physicists to make a meaningful impact in the field of biomedical engineering.

Similar threads

  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
13
Views
367
Replies
2
Views
695
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
11
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
3
Views
768
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
9
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
3
Views
374
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
12
Views
926
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
24
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
5
Views
1K
Back
Top