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Am I being foolish?

  1. Feb 14, 2008 #1
    I realize this isn't very anonymous, but what the hell.

    A little background:
    I started out at the community college as a "pre-med" (who doesn't?) and decided quickly that I am not a big chemistry fan and that I was not cut out for it. I decided to move on to engineering of some sort, but found the engineering classes somewhat dull. I loved physics in high school, and that appreciation carried through into my lower division classes at the community college. I finally transfered and currently attend UC Davis, and I am a fourth year student (taking third year classes) majoring in Physics.

    When I transfered I took some upper division math classes (definitely not my crowd) and some general education, which was nice. I also thoroughly enjoyed my first flirtation with quantum mechanics with my final lower division modern physics course. Because I had changed my major as a community college student I had to putz around a bit when I transfered and finish up some general education, which was a nice intro to UC Davis life.

    I managed to get work over the summer and spent it trying my best to learn about the STAR experiment at Brookhaven Nat'l Lab and enjoyed immensely the experimental aspect of things with the data analysis and such. In fact, I really disliked computer programming because all I had done with it was make cute little drawings dance around the screen, but when I started learning ROOT and C++ and doing real analysis it was a good deal of fun.

    Now I am a fourth year stuck in a third year's classes and I am feeling very burned out. Particularly on my second quarter of analytical mechanics. I took it first quarter, and it was my first C+ in my major (big deal, right?). I was glad I passed but I was not as thrilled with physics anymore. It affected my performance in other classes and I earned a B- in a math physics class I should have done better in, though I did pull an A- and an A+ in my analog circuits and computational methods courses. (BTW, my overall GPA at this point is a 3.23; I am not one of the many supposed 4.9 students on this website with 6 publications in Nature). I still have 4.5 possible quarters to go.

    Anyway, I think I might fail my mechanics course, so I am thinking about withdrawing. That means I will need to change my major to Applied Physics, and the natural choice for me is to place emphasis on Physical Electronics. I have no desire to go to grad school at this point in my life; my heart is not really in it right now. I want to enter the work force when I graduate, and particularly I am hoping to get involved with green/clean technology and sustainability with some sort of technical bent. I am planning on staying in Silicon Valley, so those jobs are fairly plentiful. Perhaps someday I will return to school for a masters or even a Ph.D, perhaps become a lawyer or something, but for now I just want to put some money in the bank and get married (I am completely serious).

    Changing means I will have to take a few upper division electrical engineering courses, which I am not really worried about. It also means I can graduate early by one quarter, which is a really big perq to me.

    I am really second guessing myself here. My advisor (also a professor that I work with, also heavily involved with graduate admissions at UC Davis) says that changing will increase my competitiveness in the job field and leave my grad school competitiveness as it is. I am also planning on doing work this summer at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab on a hardware project of some sort related to silicon strip detectors with the STAR collaboration, which I feel is a big resume booster.

    I feel guilty for dropping this class, perhaps part of it is me not wanting to admit failure, something I have never had to deal with academically before. It isn't a sure thing, but my trend is very poor and it is really killing my morale. Anyway, I just wanted to vent a bit, I am meeting with an advisor in a couple of weeks and planning on talking with the physics people tomorrow.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2008 #2
    Wow, lots of views but no replies yet.
  4. Feb 14, 2008 #3


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    If you're certain you aren't going to go to grad school (and that's how it sounds to me), the applied physics path would probably be a good choice.

    Do you think that the main reason for your poor morale is your mechanics course? If so, it would probably be a good idea to drop it, especially if you're failing it anyway. I know how you feel, I had to drop a class once just a couple weeks before the final (second quarter E&M). It was clear I was just not getting it and I had to wait a year until it came around again. I did OK the second time but I felt like a loser...physics can be so, so humbling.

    My two cents, anyway.
  5. Feb 14, 2008 #4


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    Don't worry about the classes there are alwyas a few you can't follow or fail just because of time constraints. It's normally the kids who always did well at school and got A+ in every pop quiz who worry about their first B in college.

    A (smart) employer doesn't expect anything you learned in school to be a great advantage in a job - so having a single couse in electronics eng isn't suddenly going to make you more employable. A physics degree especially if you have some background in electronics + software and relavent work experience is a good start for employers who are looking to hire smart and adaptable.

    My advice would generally be to get as 'fundemental' a first degree as possible and leave the applied stuff to either learn at work when you need it or do a specialised masters.

    Of course everyone's circumstances are different!
  6. Feb 14, 2008 #5
    I am actually planning on taking a total of 8 electronics courses: 1 lower division engineering circuits course (which I took when I was considering an engineering degree); 3 quarters of upper division physics electronics courses: analog circuits, digitial circuits, and data acquisition, and four upper division EEC courses.

    Note that I don't really care if I am more employable, I don't mind if I am as competitive as I was before (and I am going on what I hear from others about my potential to compete with people with engineering backgrounds). I just want to finish up and not fail, and I really don't want my GPA to get much lower (I would prefer it to go up a few tics if possible!).
  7. Feb 14, 2008 #6
    Any other feedback?
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