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Engineering Chemical Engineering Vs. Electrical Engineering

  1. Jun 16, 2009 #1
    As you can tell from the title, I am curious to the advantages/disadvantages of majoring in Chemical engineering or Electrical engineering in regards to nanotechnology, as well as other job opportunities if nanotech doesn't fall through(currently a freshman in college). I recently read a thread where someone mentioned that job outlooks from when you are in school will change four years down the line. Although it is common knowledge, I guess i never really took it seriously. My goals are to basically to major in CE with a minor in maybe physics or something that will go along with my major, and work in nanotech as a means of using technology to benefit medicine(trying to cure diseases etc.), but what if in four years this is still just a fantasy, or perhaps the job outlook is bleak for that type of goal. So now I have began looking at backup plans. It would seem that an EE degree has many more options available that could still come close to my goals but does not focus on the chemistry that is primarily used in nanotechnology in regards to the medical side. I have a love for both science and technology, and I feel that nanotech is the best common ground for both, and can hopefully help me with my goals. Any comments/tips/info will be greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 17, 2009 #2
    I'm fresh out of college with a degree in ChE (CE is for Civil Engineering). The bulk of Chemical Engineering is on chemical and biological reactions, thermodynamics, and fluid flow. Our school's nanotechnology research was in the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering departments.

    However, if by nanotechnology, you mean things like the "nanobandage" and not necessarily dealing with nano robots, then Chemical Engineering would be a good major for you. There is a whole new frontier in optimizing the bodies healing process using special chemical bandages instead of just regular bandages.
  4. Jun 17, 2009 #3
    (thanks for the clarification) To be more specific, I want to get involved with drug delivery, cell repair machines, nanobots, medical imaging, and nanobiotechnology. So would that fall under chemical engineering or electrical? As I understood it, current medical nanotechnology is chemistry based, or so ive been told, since the technology to actually manipulate objects on the nanoscale does not exist, it is chemistry based, hence why I was focusing on chemical engineering. Do I have the right idea or am I going about this the wrong way? Also, if you dont mind, what do you plan on doing in regards to your career with your degree? What were your classes like? Thanks again.
  5. Jun 17, 2009 #4
    I'm going on to get my Ph.D and get into reactions & catalyst research. The classes that I had weren't too bad. Only in my Senior year did all of the work begin to pile up (a lot of projects and lab reports all due at the same time).

    I only dealt a little bit with nanotechnology, but I do know that we do play a major role in the drug industry. I'd go and talk to your department head if you hadn't already. Also, I'd talk with the other department heads who's major would apply to nanotechnology. They should know the professors and researchers who dealt or are dealing with what you're talking about. Don't worry about using up their time. They actually do enjoy helping you out, it's their job.
  6. Jun 18, 2009 #5
    From what I understand, unless your school offers a significant advantage in the medical/biological direction in its ChE program by way of collaboration with laboratories or relevant coursework in these areas, its a really a bad idea to use this criterion to decide between EE and ChE.

    Nanotechnology involves a lot of different things, and I am sure you can supplement both your ChE and EE education with the relevant knowledge and skills to get into medical nanotechnology.

    On the way, there will be a LOT of NON-nanotech stuff you are going to have to study in BOTH branches of engineering. Using nanotech to decide between EE or ChE isn't a very good idea imho. I'd go with what bucher said about talking to department heads, professors and postdoctoral students to get an idea of the direction. Also remember that you will do so at most at your own school (I guess). This will generally be only a fraction of the picture of the entire world research. If you find EE more conducive to doing nanotech at your school, it obviously doesn't mean ChE is less conducive everywhere else.

    Sorry for the long thread, but if you want to make things better for yourself, find out about the undergraduate courses in both majors and see which side your inclinations lie more. I believe nanotech is totally open to both ChE and EE. What you do in and after grad school will matter a lot.
  7. Jun 19, 2009 #6
    You both make great points, and maverick I understand completely about what you are saying, my fear was that by choosing one I would be missing out on something from the other. I want a blend of science/technology that can benefit medicine so that's where I picked out EE and ChE, it just seemed as though EE was more technology based and I don't want to leave the science out. As I understand it, the nano part of it all doesnt really come until grad school, or so I have been told. I would just like a solid foundation in a science and or engineering discipline to take me to the next level and hopefully help some people out along the way.
  8. Jun 22, 2009 #7
    Not that I'm recommending this, but can you do a dual major? :wink:

    Somehow, most people think about EE this way -- but there's a lot more to EE than what your first impressions may tell us (unless of course you looked at a detailed undergrad curriculum to form them). It really depends on how you are taught EE and what facilities and courses/electives you have access to. It can be really boring or extremely exciting. Somewhere in the middle, you'll have to work hard to stretch it either way ;-).

    The point is, whether its EE or ChE, an undergrad curriculum is not reflective of the amount of science or technology. At some schools these days you can even do an undergrad in Nanotech -- why don't you check that out? Its a good blend of EE, ChE, ME, MME and even biosciences. I have a friend who is doing precisely that at Waterloo, and his curriculum is pretty cool.
  9. Jun 22, 2009 #8
    I intended on having dual majors, preferably with one science major and one engineering major. (EE and chem for example) so that way I could have both sides covered. I didn't want to major in nanotech because since its so specific. Where as if I majored in EE and something else it would give me more options as well as backup plans if I didn't follow through with nanotech.
  10. Jun 23, 2009 #9
    What about bioengineering? It's a somewhat new field, but assuming the quality of the program isn't worse than the other engineering majors at your university, I think it fits your criteria better than chemical or electrical engineering.
  11. Jun 23, 2009 #10
    The problem I have with bioengineering is that it seems to be more medically based and doesn't seem to involve nanotechnology from the brief research I have done(5min on google). Although one of the main goals is curing cancers and diseases and things of that nature, I also want to be able to use nanoscience in other areas. At the core its all science with the technology still under development since there are no machines capable of being produced on the nanoscale. I want to be able to use that current science to create, or futher advance existing technology, but the path in which I can attempt to do that is not very clear.
  12. Jun 23, 2009 #11
    Ok, lets put aside nanotech for a while. Do some research on what EE and ChE are like, talk to students, professors, and find out about the curriculum in either major at the university you're going to attend. You can't go wrong either way.
  13. Jun 25, 2009 #12
    I did my PhD in chemical engineering with my PhD concentrating on polymers and colloid and surface surface. So I was really quite set up nicely for a career in nanotechnology...which was never really the goal...I just liked polymer and material science and if thats the case, you'll never find yourself far from the word 'nano'.
    Im now employed in wind energy where a PhD in electrical engineering would likely be serving me a bit better. So its hard to say.
    My only advice is that if you are not completely focused on an academic career path but more an industrial one (which I was), Im seeing all types of engineering coming together to work in areas they werent specifically trained for. So based on that, just pick the engineering you like best. Cant really go wrong with that.
  14. Dec 28, 2010 #13
    I was having a similar problem deciding on what I truly wanted to do. I was initially considering doing biomedical engineering (but realized I would rather to deal with the molecular, nanoscale :), side of things) or EE (due to my love for optics). Realizing my interest in nanotech, I decided bioeng wasn't for me and stumbled upon biomolecular engineering. I had seen it at multiple universities combined with ChE and decided to check it out. It looks promising for a career in nanotech while still keeping your options open. It's definitely something to look into, especially if you are considering the nano and specifically medicinal path.

    http://chbe.illinois.edu/undergrad/whatiscbe.php [Broken]

    biomolecular engineering is summed up at the bottom of this page. Check out the courses, electives, etc...

    http://chbe.illinois.edu/undergrad/biomol_conc.php [Broken]

    A course schedule and description.

    Let me know what you think about it :)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  15. Dec 28, 2010 #14
    wow i probably should have checked the date before i submitted this lmao
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