Anxious about majoring in physics — considering a switch to engineering

  • #76
WWGD
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Well, my first year has officially ended and my transfer has officially taken place. I shall see how this all turns out.
Good luck. Keep us posted.
 
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  • #77
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Good luck. Keep us posted.
Thank you, but does my conclusion follow from the premise? More importantly, do you think it is a mistake to switch into I major I have little interest in and am apathetic towards?
 
  • #78
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I cannot know that. If that is how you choose to define your action it is a recipe for unhappiness. Own your decision and proceed. And be grateful that you have your choice of two good options. And there's a pretty good chance you'll end up doing something else before you finish! Good luck.
 
  • #79
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Thank you, but does my conclusion follow from the premise? More importantly, do you think it is a mistake to switch into I major I have little interest in and am apathetic towards?
Sorry man, I tried giving my best advice but it is ultimately your choice. I cant choose for you, I can only wish you well.
 
  • #80
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Thank you, but does my conclusion follow from the premise? More importantly, do you think it is a mistake to switch into I major I have little interest in and am apathetic towards?
Interest is important. Maybe interest is VERY important. Some of the advice given may tend to becoming recycled. I remind you of what I suggested in posts #'s 15, 17, 20, 24. With continued time, and study, AND EXPERIENCE, you could make a more assured decision about Physics, or Engineering, or what within Engineering, or maybe something else related to Engineering or Physics, or include some number of useful courses and trainings.
 
  • #81
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Interest is important. Maybe interest is VERY important. Some of the advice given may tend to becoming recycled. I remind you of what I suggested in posts #'s 15, 17, 20, 24. With continued time, and study, AND EXPERIENCE, you could make a more assured decision about Physics, or Engineering, or what within Engineering, or maybe something else related to Engineering or Physics, or include some number of useful courses and trainings.
I concur, experience is the natural requirement for informed decision-making. Alas, I am required to make a decision now (although I do not feel it was a decision as much as a path circumstances have forced me to take). I suppose, to keep myself positive, I can tell myself that my goal during my undergraduate career as an EE will be to put myself into a strong position from which I may elect to attend graduate school for physics. That would hopefully keep me emotionally tied to physics and give me some purpose.
 
  • #82
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I concur, experience is the natural requirement for informed decision-making. Alas, I am required to make a decision now (although I do not feel it was a decision as much as a path circumstances have forced me to take). I suppose, to keep myself positive, I can tell myself that my goal during my undergraduate career as an EE will be to put myself into a strong position from which I may elect to attend graduate school for physics. That would hopefully keep me emotionally tied to physics and give me some purpose.
Just as a guess, you may have made a good decision. In case you are unable to later enter a graduate program, you should be able to be employable. Keep alert for changes in feelings which you might need to convert to logical rational meaning. What jobs do you want to have? Put yourself into the education and the training for it/them.
 
  • #83
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Just as a guess, you may have made a good decision. In case you are unable to later enter a graduate program, you should be able to be employable. Keep alert for changes in feelings which you might need to convert to logical rational meaning. What jobs do you want to have? Put yourself into the education and the training for it/them.
The most specific I can be about what job I would want is that the job should make use of my education (mathematics and physics) to the fullest extent. I elected to switch because I feared I would be too restricted in this regard if I remained in physics; most of our undergrads got jobs in software engineering and data science, neither of which interest me on their own. As I said, the undergraduate goal for now ought to be being in a position for physics graduate school; otherwise, I would have no motivation to study.
 
  • #84
atyy
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If you are worried about the employability of a physics major, talk to your professors, career office at your university, learn to programme, learn about machine learning, look out for industry internships etc to help you figure out what you might like to do after you graduate. The job market will be different from now when you graduate, but generally physics majors do fine.

https://www.aip.org/statistics/physics-trends/what-do-new-bachelors-earn
https://www.aip.org/statistics/reports/employment-and-careers-physics
 
  • #85
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If you are worried about the employability of a physics major, talk to your professors, career office at your university, learn to programme, learn about machine learning, look out for industry internships etc to help you figure out what you might like to do after you graduate. The job market will be different from now when you graduate, but generally physics majors do fine.

https://www.aip.org/statistics/physics-trends/what-do-new-bachelors-earn
https://www.aip.org/statistics/reports/employment-and-careers-physics
Yes, I am aware of physics majors' employment statistics. As I mentioned previously, I realized that I would be dissatisfied if I studied physics for four years and came out working as a computer coder. There will have been no point in my degree. Therefore, I placed upon myself the constraint that I must be in a position to obtain work that utilizes my education (that is, physics and mathematics). In light of this constraint, I felt I had no choice but to switch to EE, despite the fact that there is nothing in EE specifically that interests me. Regardless, alea iacta est. There is nothing left to do but to go with the flow.
 
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  • #86
Dr Transport
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So you went into a degree program that doesn't have your interest because you didn't think you could hack it as a scientist. poor choice I would say.
 
  • #87
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So you went into a degree program that doesn't have your interest because you didn't think you could hack it as a scientist. poor choice I would say.
Your summary of my reasoning is inaccurate. I went into this degree program because I am not sure that I would want to be a scientist; I wanted to know that there would be realistic alternatives I could be content in. I am at my university because I am self-taught. If there is anything I have learned about myself along the way to getting here, it is that there is nothing I cannot "hack." I've yet to encounter any subject that could defy my will. In that sense, my performance slipping considerably is not a concern of mine; I have conquered classes I have despised in the past.
Might I ask, therefore, what you mean by this being a poor choice?
 
  • #88
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Your summary of my reasoning is inaccurate. I went into this degree program because I am not sure that I would want to be a scientist; I wanted to know that there would be realistic alternatives I could be content in. I am at my university because I am self-taught. If there is anything I have learned about myself along the way to getting here, it is that there is nothing I cannot "hack." I've yet to encounter any subject that could defy my will. In that sense, my performance slipping considerably is not a concern of mine; I have conquered classes I have despised in the past.
Might I ask, therefore, what you mean by this being a poor choice?

In my experience, no passion for a degree doesn't end well.

Now, I did poorly in freshman physics, a C and a B+ if my memory is not too bad. I still got a PhD in it and am working in the general physics field 35+ years later, that is passion. If I thought like you are now, I'd have not gotten as far as I have. Basing your future success on a couple of freshman courses just may not be the best idea.
 
  • #89
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In my experience, no passion for a degree doesn't end well.

Now, I did poorly in freshman physics, a C and a B+ if my memory is not too bad. I still got a PhD in it and am working in the general physics field 35+ years later, that is passion. If I thought like you are now, I'd have not gotten as far as I have. Basing your future success on a couple of freshman courses just may not be the best idea.
As you say, you knew your passion and stuck with it. I do not have a passion. I just have things I am interested in.
What do you mean by that last sentence?
 
  • #90
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Posts #88, 89,
"Passion" is not always the same as practical. One should make practical choices. If one has interest, then one needs to ask self if this interest is enough to make the choice to make it his major field of study. Still, one should look for other PRACTICAL choices so that one is USEFUL in the field he chooses or is useful in a closely related field.

Members can role through this topic endlessly but people like dpatnd really need both more education and some experience to better gain the ability to make a decision of major field.
 
  • #91
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Posts #88, 89,
"Passion" is not always the same as practical. One should make practical choices. If one has interest, then one needs to ask self if this interest is enough to make the choice to make it his major field of study. Still, one should look for other PRACTICAL choices so that one is USEFUL in the field he chooses or is useful in a closely related field.

Members can role through this topic endlessly but people like dpatnd really need both more education and some experience to better gain the ability to make a decision of major field.
Once again, I concur. However, this educational system forces one to make a decision before said experience and education, with that decision ultimately influencing what experience and education will come about thereafter. Ideally, we would all be able to live several lifetimes and then pick the set of choices we discovered were best.
 
  • #92
symbolipoint
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Once again, I concur. However, this educational system forces one to make a decision before said experience and education, with that decision ultimately influencing what experience and education will come about thereafter. Ideally, we would all be able to live several lifetimes and then pick the set of choices we discovered were best.
Not entirely like that. This is a good time for the more sophisticated forum members to discuss the finding of temporary and part time jobs, and internships.

You must also be reminded that you should, during your education, look for courses to enroll in which GIVE you practical skills and practical knowledge, some-many of which have been discussed or mentioned.
 
  • #93
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Not entirely like that. This is a good time for the more sophisticated forum members to discuss the finding of temporary and part time jobs, and internships.

You must also be reminded that you should, during your education, look for courses to enroll in which GIVE you practical skills and practical knowledge, some-many of which have been discussed or mentioned.
Our curriculum is fairly rigid, so I will have to rely on my required courses to be the ones with "practical" skills and knowledge.
As for the rest, that is in the future and I will not concern myself with them in the present. I will have a research position next year. Besides that, I may also seek out summer research experiences. Internships may be difficult for other reasons.
 
  • #94
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Our curriculum is fairly rigid, so I will have to rely on my required courses to be the ones with "practical" skills and knowledge.
As for the rest, that is in the future and I will not concern myself with them in the present. I will have a research position next year. Besides that, I may also seek out summer research experiences. Internships may be difficult for other reasons.
Is this the curriculum for physics, or electrical engineering? I know in your thread that you have decided to switch to the latter, and engineering programs tend to have a rigid curriculum, but I don't think the same applies to the more "pure" sciences like physics.

If you are still a physics major, you should have options to take various elective courses open to you. Many physics students take computer science courses to boost their programming skills (assuming that it is already not a requirement). I know also that Notre Dame has a program in applied and computational mathematics, so perhaps some courses in that department could be of use.
 
  • #95
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Taking a slightly larger view, I would like to point out that, for a successful career, these four years represent the beginning of your education.
I think you need to worry less about a four-year plan and expand your horizons a little. Stay engaged and work hard. It matters that you are interested in what you do. You are fundamentally limited only by your imagination.
 
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  • #96
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Is this the curriculum for physics, or electrical engineering? I know in your thread that you have decided to switch to the latter, and engineering programs tend to have a rigid curriculum, but I don't think the same applies to the more "pure" sciences like physics.

If you are still a physics major, you should have options to take various elective courses open to you. Many physics students take computer science courses to boost their programming skills (assuming that it is already not a requirement). I know also that Notre Dame has a program in applied and computational mathematics, so perhaps some courses in that department could be of use.
I was referring to EE. My transition to EE has officially taken place (humorously, I was unintentionally tricked into making the change official while I was still thinking about it).
 
  • #97
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Interest is important. Maybe interest is VERY important. Some of the advice given may tend to becoming recycled. I remind you of what I suggested in posts #'s 15, 17, 20, 24. With continued time, and study, AND EXPERIENCE, you could make a more assured decision about Physics, or Engineering, or what within Engineering, or maybe something else related to Engineering or Physics, or include some number of useful courses and trainings.
I'd argue interest is essential, indeed the most important thing when it comes to doing a degree in STEM. Id on't see how one can do well in a STEM degree if not interested or apathetic towards it.
 
  • #98
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I'd argue interest is essential, indeed the most important thing when it comes to doing a degree in STEM. Id on't see how one can do well in a STEM degree if not interested or apathetic towards it.
My record gives evidence in favor of my ability to succeed regardless of my level of interest. That is because I view grades as important in and of themselves; the class to which they apply is irrelevant. My upbringing caused me to tie my self-worth to my grades. Ignoring the obvious negatives, this has made my near-perfect record possible. My academic performance is, therefore, unlikely to be affected.
 
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  • #99
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My record gives evidence in favor of my ability to succeed regardless of my level of interest. That is because I view grades as important in and of themselves; the class to which they apply is irrelevant. My upbringing caused me to tie my self-worth to my grades. Ignoring the obvious negatives, this has made my near-perfect record possible. My academic performance is, therefore, unlikely to be affected.
One may wonder if what you say is realistic; or if it is realistic for most people.
 
  • #100
I'm late to this thread, just joined PF the other day. @dpatnd, I'd say you've received a lot of great feedback here, even if some of it was worded a bit harshly.

Having been raised in a culture that trades in shame as a parental negotiation currency, I recognize that, silly as it may be to direct your choices in response to it, for many of us that's just a very difficult to escape fact of life. I do urge you to move past it, but I also recognize that may take many years for you to accomplish.

What worries me the most about your responses is the level of apathy you have stated feeling for your new major. That's never a good sign, and even more so when you feel that way so strongly from the very start. In fact, I'd make that job one as you go forth in your new major, to seek avenues within it that move you away from that preconditioned sense of apathy. You might be surprised with what you find, and then you'll be in a much better position.

The other wisdom I would add, is that looking for top achievement as the status marker for your success and suitability in a field is shortsighted at best. As one other commenter suggested, it's important to have commitment to the path you are choosing, and if at first you don't succeed as much as you might have wanted, persistence and a willingness to try harder is essential. And not just because that's what you do to ward off shame, but because it's what you truly want to do going forward.

I've walked through some of the same decision points you have described yourself, with similar feelings and impressions. Not sure I made the best choices myself, but I'm pretty sure if I'd kept these two guiding principles in mind throughout, I might have navigated them more effectively.

I started off as a Physics major, then took on a Chemistry minor for poorly considered reasons. After receiving my bachelor's degree, I launched myself along software engineering trajectory in the field of computer graphics, in the era when photorealistic rendering was just starting to emerge. Like you, I didn't enjoy software engineering enough to keep at it, and I self-funded myself through graduate school in an Electrical Engineering master's program. I had similar feelings about engineering as yours the entire time I was in it, and for me it ultimately became a bridge to nowhere.
 

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