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Aerospace Engineering, Physics, or Flying.

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  • Thread starter MattRob
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Alright, I was wondering about this, and I've been researching the different lifestyles.

I've got three dream jobs.



1. Aerospace Engineering: The draw is the applications of mathematics and design to constructing vehicles, and research, figuring things out, planning, and problem solving are all things I already enjoy. I definitely love aerospace, and any kind of extreme aircraft. Really also is the love for all the technology behind it.
So, I assume the life goes something like this:

A: Big Company/team: Working in a cubicle, maybe communicating with other engineers a few times in the day about intergrating different parts and systems, designing, analyzing, and problem solving all on a computer, with maybe a small amount of wind tunnel testing, etc.

B: Small Company/team: Mostly the same, but in a less structured environment (i.e. more freedom), and much more hands-on and more communication in design, construction, and testing of systems and vehicles.

The reason I doubt this is the lack of freedom. Being stuck in a cubicle all day, every weekday from 8am-5pm sounds absolutely horrible. While the work itself is thrilling, physically being stuck like that in a cubicle 9/24, 5/7 my whole life is appalling. It would be dreamy if it was more hands-on like the lead SpaceX engineers or VirginGalactic. Where you see them set up in a warehouse, working next to the vehicle in construction right there., which would make it a dream job even if that's only 1% of the time. (I guess it's really just to see all your work is going to something real, and to tangibly see it.)



2. Physics (highly mathematical, astronomical or quantum): What gets me interested is the math, and the research of the fundamental underlying structure and workings of the universe. It really draws my curiosity, I love the challenge of trying to understand why things act the way they do, and <humor> skeptically and savagely analyzing other peoples' theories for problems </humor> and my own. For fun I like playing with equations and figuring out how to use them to solve problems. I also enjoy teaching.

This is really what warranted the thread, I really don't know what the life of a physicist is like. I take that it's mostly 99.99% math and research? Maybe a more hands-on physicist might work alongside engineers in a lab (in the most extreme case, the LHC), but still a lot of math. Though perhaps most physicists work a lot in labs?
And alongside that is the often teaching, which I assume is very common. But once again, I really have no real evidence for what this life is like.



3. Piloting: I won't really go over this much, since this isn't really the place for that. To sum it up, I'd be thrilled to be a pilot, but at the same time I'd be kinda sad I missed doing something more intellectually intense. Sure piloting airliners is intellectual, but nothing like Quantum Physics, Physics in general, or Aerospace Engineering.

One somewhat (to be decided how much) silly idea is to be a pilot and do physics on the side. Einstein came up with the theory of relativity while working in a patent office, didn't he? And piloting for airlines would offer a lot (let me repeat that, a lot ) of free time. Is working in physics so much different than back then that I couldn't pursue it to the side like Einstein did, even if I had all the education? (not implying I'll make any big breakthroughs like he did.)

I want to do piloting, I want to think physics, and Aerospace Engineering is a little of both.


To sum up, (and I know it's quiet lengthy - thanks for sticking around), what's the day-to-day life of a physicist. And don't say "wake up, go to work, go to sleep.", I want to know the work part. (<humor> hence the "career" guidance</humor>). More specifically, compared to what my mental image of the job is like. (above)

I'm a Junior in HS ATM, so it's not so specific yet, (Aerospace, Astronautical, Aeronautical. / Quantum physics, astrophysics, particle physics.) though I do want a good idea of what the different jobs are like so I can pick one, and choose my degrees around that for when I head to college. Of course I'm not making any decisions now, but I want to learn as much as I can so my decision will be a good one, which is rather important...
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
I am also a high school student, but I am a senior. I was wondering the same exact thing for what the life of an Aerospace or Mechanical Engineer would be like.
 
  • #3
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Surely being a pilot on the side would be an easier path! I know someone who taught a hardware class in a University who used to fly his plane regularly between his hardware factory and the University - he was earning loadsa money of course...

Einstein used to "space out" a lot in the patent office and do a lot of intense scribbling on paper - I'd hate to think of a pilot doing that in the cockpit!
 
  • #4
Astronuc
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One could be an aerospace engineer or physicist and still be a pilot, although not a commerical pilot, but a pilot of a private plane.

Describing what a typical aerospace engineer or physicist does normally is difficult because there are numerous areas in which an engineer or physicist can work. One could be an experimentalist or a theoretician, or both. In aerospace engineering, one can work on structures, flight or fluid dynamics, propulsion or power systems, control, navigation, communication, . . . and any of these on various types of rockets or spacecraft. Aeronautics is similar but applied to aircraft.

In physics, one could specialize in astrophysics (with various subdisciplines), relativity, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, condensed matter, . . . .

The goal should be to find a discipline that interests one and in which one can make a meaningful contribution - as well as earn one's livelihood.

One should investigate the various scientific and technical societies in order to explore the numerous opportunities.

For aerospace - www.aiaa.org
For phsysics - www.aps.org[/url] and [url]www.aip.org[/url] - see [url]http://www.aps.org/careers/index.cfm[/URL]
and [PLAIN]http://www.aip.org/aip/societies.html [Broken]

For piloting - http://www.aopa.org/ (private pilots) and http://www.alpa.org/ (airline pilots)
 
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  • #5
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Einstein used to "space out" a lot in the patent office and do a lot of intense scribbling on paper - I'd hate to think of a pilot doing that in the cockpit!
Pilots certainly need to concentrate when landing or taking off, but mid-cruise, especially if it's not near any airports, and very much so for flights over the ocean or any long flight, they just sit back, enjoy the view, and talk while the autopilot holds course, altitude, and speed. With that there there's really nothing to do for the whole hour or more at cruising altitude. Especially on long flights.

@Astronuc, Thanks for the links - I'll be looking over those. Private piloting definitely.

Though the gap in-between private and commercial is still rather large. There's something literally awesome about those huge, complex, advanced almost living machines called jetliners. And the stratosphere is a completely different world than anything else.

One problem I can see with the engineering bit is being restricted to working on only a small part of a subsystem of a part of a machine, dealing with managers, and of course being re-assigned with no real control over it. Most of all, I'd want to see the actual vehicle itself, to sort of satisfy that feeling of actually doing something worthwhile to the world.

How realistic is it to expect to work with one of the small, or rather, more loose companies rather than a big, more anonymous, more office-like environment?

And for physicists, so, am I correct that theoreticians work out mostly the mathematical concepts, experimentalists with labs such as particle colliders, etc., and perhaps they teach at universities somewhat often?
 
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  • #6
One problem I can see with the engineering bit is being restricted to working on only a small part of a subsystem of a part of a machine, dealing with managers, and of course being re-assigned with no real control over it. Most of all, I'd want to see the actual vehicle itself, to sort of satisfy that feeling of actually doing something worthwhile to the world.
I agree, do aerospace engineers only work on a small system? or could they also be involved in a much bigger project?
 

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