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Applied Physics Major with Minor in SysCon .where do I fit in?

  1. Jul 7, 2014 #1
    I am studying Applied Physics at the undergraduate level right now, and I have recently become interested in Systems and Control Engineering. I am working in a student robotics lab, and do a lot of SCE (Systems and Control Engineering) - related work there. I understand that SCE has direct applicability to robotics - feedback control systems, dynamic systems modelling - but I don't know how SCE can be useful in Applied Physics.

    I want to do a minor in SCE, but I am worried that if it may not have any relation to my core branch, it would look bad to potential employers. For example, a minor in Biology with Applied Physics makes a lot of sense; there's tons of research going on in biophysics across the world. But where is the subject which combines Applied Physics with SCE?

    At the outset, I want to make it clear that I do not plan on going into academia. I want to work in an industrial R&D environment, and I want to use the things I learn in BOTH of my areas of study. I believe nano-robotics is an upcoming field which I might be cut-out for, but I really don't know if the higher level concepts I learn in SCE will be useful there.

    I enjoy working on robotic control systems...but won't I be outclassed by other people with backgrounds in say, Mechanical Engineering (SCE seems closely related to it) or Electrical Engineering? I am interested in product development, not researching very specific things. I want to know if there are such R&D projects out there where having an Applied Physics degree can be an advantage and put me above traditional engineers in terms of my ability to contribute to those projects?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2014 #2
    Really hoping for some pointers, guys...
  4. Jul 7, 2014 #3


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    Im fairly young (1 year out of undergrad) so take what I say with a grain of salt.
    I have a BSEE. I would say my primary skills are in SCE

    I think that would depend on the job in question and your background. If you are applying for a job doing 3-phase motor control, I think the employer would prefer an EE over a physicist nine times out of ten. However if you have some background in electronics, then that would most likely not matter, and the playing field would be even.

    The cool thing about systems and control engineering is its related to almost EVERYTHING. Take any of the following examples: a laser, a rocket engine, the electronics for that rocket engine, a relay, steering mechanism, camera's optical systems, etc... They all have independent electrical, physical, or some other component that has to be controlled, in the which the settling time, transient time, and stability all matter very much. If you want to go into industry RAD, I very much doubt that SCE will not help you and make you more marketable.

    As for your question as to R&D project where you are at an advantage above traditional engineers, I cannot think of any in particular off the top of my head. Maybe something to do with optics, advanced electromagnetic wave propagation, etc (I have no idea what your background is). That being said, I'm sure there are high level jobs in which you will not be at a disadvantage. (Keep in mind I am an electrical engineer, therefore I am biased.)

    That being said I have always been told that once you get a job in industry, your degree matters very little. As long as the degree and classes are semi-applicable to the subject, you have a decent shot at getting the job. Granted that advice has always been given to me in response to the question "should I take this class or that class?" not "is this major better than this major."

    edit:I do know the R&D facility at my company has a bunch a phds, some of whom have degrees in physics. at that facility they do dynamic system control.
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