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Combined Eng. Mech and Physics Degree class list. Thoughts?

  1. Dec 21, 2008 #1
    I'm currently a freshman at UIUC and a physics major. I've asked for a lot of advice on these forums and elsewhere and I think I may want to consider a double degree in some sort of engineering and physics. I have all my general education requirements done (thanks to a lot of AP credits) so all I have left is classes relating to my major. Here are the classes I would need to complete for one or both degrees. Any thoughts? I wouldn't be adverse to staying an extra year but it will be very tech and math-intensive for almost all of college (which I dont mind).

    CLASS- Full Name (Hours/Credits)

    CHEM 104 - General Chemistry II (3)
    CHEM 105 - General Chemistry Lab II (1)

    MATH 220 – Calculus I (5)
    MATH 231 – Calculus II (3)
    MATH 241 – Calculus III (4)

    MATH 285 – Intro to Differential Equations (3)
    MATH 415 – Applied Linear Algebra (3)
    MATH 441 – Differential Equations (3)
    MATH 442 – Intro to Partial Differential Equations (3)

    PHYS 211 – University Physics: Mechanics (4)
    PHYS 212 – University Physics: Elec & Mag (4)
    PHYS 213 – University Physics: Thermal Physics (2)
    PHYS 214 – University Physics: Quantum Physics (2)

    PHYS 325 – Mechanics and Relativity I (3)
    PHYS 435 – Electromagnetic Fields (3)
    PHYS 486 – Quantum Mechanics I (4)
    (PHYS 401 – Classical Physics Lab (3)
    PHYS 487 – Quantum Physics II (4)
    PHYS 326 – Mechanics and Relativity II (3))

    CS 101 – Intro to Computing: Engineering and Science (3)
    ECE 205 – Electricity and Electronic Circuits (3)
    GE 101 – Engineering Graphics and Design (3)
    ME 300 – Thermodynamics (3)
    TAM 211 – Statics (3)
    TAM 212 – Introductory Dynamics (3)
    TAM 251 – Introductory Solid Mechanics (3)
    TAM 252 – Solid Mechanics Design (1)
    TAM 302 – Engineering Design Principles (3)
    TAM 324 – Behavior of Materials (4)
    TAM 335 - Introductory Fluid Mechanics (4)
    TAM 412 – Intermediate Dynamics (4)
    TAM 445 – Continuum Mechanics (4)
    TAM 470 – Computational Mechanics (3)

    = Engineering Mechanics
    = Engineering Physics
    = Both

    <sorry, yellow is an awful choice of colour! -- cristo>
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 22, 2008 #2
    Could you have picked any worse colors? Probably not.
  4. Dec 22, 2008 #3
    Except it makes sense to anyone who's actually paying attention. Perhaps post while you're awake?
  5. Dec 22, 2008 #4


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    I guess my only advice is to really think if you'd be up for that constant hammering of math and tech intensive courses for 3-4+ years. You say you are up for it, but it can become overwhelming even for the best of us. But i'm not going to argue with you as you know yourself way better than I do.

    What sort of field you do you want to end up in? The specialization of an engineering degree is great for employment with the broad range of physics in general allowing you to gain knowledge to both specialize and generalize which can help develop some very deep perspectives when it comes to learning: that is instead of just thinking broadly at an abstract level, you get in there form constraints and conditions, plug in these rigid conditions to get engineering formula which is of course totally different to thinking in an abstract and broader manner as you do in generic physics. So the development of these two perspectives can bring a greater depth of understanding of ones subject and this is surely a bonus no matter how you see it.

    The point you should really think about in the end i believe is commitment. If you know you want to do it, then by all means because it sounds like something very worthwhile and rewarding once you finish. But realistically this is probably not going to be an easy decision because even good intentions can not be a substitute for doing the hard yards and getting exposure to what it will be really like. What really appeals to you about doing engineering and also mechanical as opposed to another type of engineering like say nuclear, civil or electrical? What do you ultimately want to accomplish as a result of this (this can tie back to your personal values and help assess your motivation)?

    I myself am enrolled in advanced math so I can't really comment about physics or engineering (although I want to learn formally at some point).

    I'm not sure if these are the right questions but having gone through periods where I have wanted to do things but when doing them have found it not what I was expecting, I guess I just want to pass this on to you in the hope that you are making the right decision. I guess i'm trying to understand your values for doing this before saying anything else.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2008
  6. Dec 22, 2008 #5
    Most colleges require some sort of general education/humanities group. Be sure to include the requirements of the college you plan to attend.

    At UMass we have to take six general education courses, and two writing courses - one taught in the english department and one taught in the engineering department. We are also required to take at least one course in biology.

    And engineering majors have the least amount of requirements outside of their major. Every other major at UMass is required to take four semesters of a foreign language (incl. physics), or show proficiency at the intermediate II level (fourth semester).

    We also have a requirement to balance engineering science with engineering design credits. The university wants graduates to have a certain degree of experience in both.

    On top of that, seniors have senior design projects which take up a class slot each semester, and the electives must meet certain requirements (e.g. two must be of at least 500 level difficulty).

    Then there are requirements within each engineering discipline. In EE, I have to choose three courses in a related field of progressively greater difficulty. Examples are chemistry, physics, mathematics, or economics. I'll be taking organic chemistry I & II on top of chem I and II that I have completed so far.

    So as you can see, fulfilling a given universities requirements can drastically change your class flow and/or intentions for double majors (or even minors).

    In order to take all the classes I want, I have extended my undergrad years to 5.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2008
  7. Dec 22, 2008 #6


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    Lots of your modules look very similar: for example, what is the difference between http://courses.uiuc.edu/cis/schedule/urbana/2008/Fall/PHYS/211.html [Broken]? It looks like there's probably one or two lectures difference. Isn't this a waste of time?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  8. Dec 22, 2008 #7


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    Say for the sake of argument Engineering Mechanics is first choice and you would need seven semesters for both. That works out to 5 classes 15 units all technical with as cristo said much overlap. Enginearing majors call such terms vacation. It would likely be bad/impossible to try and finish in 6 terms. The question is thus would it be better to replace the one red class per term with an alternative? It would be best to see how things go. Perhaps three reds are locks you take them either way. The next two reds are you know most of their stuff anyway, you want to see the different angle, you are indifferent towards them. The final two reds are much horrible, are they worth it? Also keep in mind potential scheduling conflicts and nasty regulations no one ever heard of. Don't double majors there need to take 30 punish units? Don't you need to do a special dance infront of the assistant dean of environmental ethnology while wearing a special hat for AP credits to count? Dont you want to take courses such as
    AVI 447 Human Error
    CHEM 438 Advanced Organic Chemistry
    CINE 401 Philosophy and Film
    CINE 466 Japanese Cinema
    LING 406 Intro to Computational Ling
    MATH 425 Honors Advanced Analysis
    MATH 481 Vector and Tensor Analysis
    ME 340 Dynamics of Mechanical Systems
    PHIL 441 Existential Philosophy
    PHIL 437 Semantics
    RHET 243 Inter Expository Writing
  9. Dec 22, 2008 #8
    When I looked at the post he had bright yellow and bright green which were unreadable.
  10. Dec 22, 2008 #9


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    Indeed: I edited the post this morning, since the colours were very painful to the eye!
  11. Dec 22, 2008 #10
    Sorry! I thought it was dark green and a readable yellow. My monitor is usually set differently from most people's so I didn't notice. Sorry :(

    And no, I do not have to take any more general education courses (like Poetry, Japanese Cinema, Biology 101 or whatever). UIUC is very generous with AP credits, I did well on my tests and took a monstrous amount of them which knocked almost all my non-major courses out. The rest of them were finished this last semester.

    Chiro, I'm not really sure on a concrete 'why' on why I want to double major. I like challenges and I think that an engineering degree would get me to the sort of career I want and offset the massive amount of theories but not rigorous amount of application in straight physics. I don't want to give physics up because I love it as a subject and from what I've seen, the engineering students don't understand physics very well. They have a specialized knowledge and it focuses on formulas without insight.

    I'm not sure what the differences are between certain classes since this list is just me combining the two direction of study outlines. I probably could speak to my advisor or a college advisor and they may have some sort of system in which similar classes can be substituted. This is just a worst-case scenario in which I would have to take all of these classes.

    And Chiro, your input on why doing these two fields together is exactly why I wanted to do this in the first place. Every engineering professor I haven talked to could only say great things about getting more physics and design experience and how it would help in developing new ideas and actually understanding what you're doing.

    I won't pretend to have the luxury of knowing, without a doubt, that I can accomplish this or the delusion needed to convince myself that such a course of study will be happy rainbows and sunshine all the time. I know that I'll have to stay up late at night and finish impossible problem sets or decline invitations to go out because a particular assignment is due the next day. Getting this done would require speaking to other students who are doing comparable majors and seeing how they manage it and trying out a semester that is STEM intensive and seeing how I hold out. Until I can arrange to do this, your input is greatly appreciated, positive comments and criticism both. Thank you :)
  12. Dec 22, 2008 #11


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    Obviously you are going to do this because of what you have stated with the challenge and all which I admire and because quite a lot of people in these forums do these kind of courses for roughly the same reasons (including myself).

    My only other advice would be to find other people that you can enjoy the journey with, be it professors, lecturers or fellow students. I'm sure you will do this anyway but with an intensive course load, even human beings need someone to fall back on sometimes. It can be the difference between venting out to someone close for a half hour that saves you from losing your morale dropping your course or your performance and from retaining it.

    I think the fact that you want to have both perspectives in specialization and in generalization shows a good indicator that you will have drive for the course. I'm in a similar situation actually where I am considering doing electrical engineering later on, but I have decided to just stick with the adv science (maths) degree and to focus on finishing this first.

    I think that understanding the whole process of going from experiment to model, to analysis (the physics) right up to the constraint of the model (or a somewhat simplification) which is then suitable for further minor analysis will help you immensely as an engineer.

    My advice when doing the course would be to think about and develop as much as possible the different perspectives and the connection between each perspective. Often its the difference between being mediocre and being brilliant at anything and more often than not it takes hard work and time to do so.

    A few I can think of off the top of my head include:

    1) The Mathematicians Perspective

    For example

    * How does a mathematician think of proving or trying to arrive at a result that
    possesses a particular and definite structure in itself?

    2) The Physicists Perspective

    For example

    * How does one think about deriving a model with the arsenal of tools and data available
    to a physicist?

    3) The Engineers Perspective

    For example

    * How does one calibrate existing derived models (either by engineers or mathematicians)?

    4) The Technicians Perspective

    For example

    * How does one use the calibrated models to accomplish some particular design goal?

    As an engineer you will get more because you will have roles where you have to communicate for example reports or your findings or drafts or whatever to people that don't have the technical inclination that you do. For this you get another perspective:

    5) The communicators perspective

    For example:

    * How should an audience with non-specialist attributes be communicated with when the topic at hand is one of a highly specialist nature?

    For the communicators perspective I recommend you going to actuarial societies websites and reading recommended references on communication. I know that a society in the states has published a guide on communication and I have read it and I recommend it because it gives a lot of good advice in this regard.

    There are many more (including for example Management perspectives) but thats not really relevant here.

    Thanks to economics applied to knowledge, each section (faculty) will no doubt specialize in their given area and will try to transfer their perspective across to the student (or at least set them up to help them develop it properly). This is advantageous because it helps develop the particular perspectives labelled above and with further work those perspectives will begin to evolve in ways that will help you hopefully see easy pathways through complex problems.

    If you become aware of how thinking has developed over time you can also gain an advantage. One paradigm that mathematicians have over say physicists and engineers is that they generalize like no tomorrow. One of their goals is to create an abstract object that encapsulates everything else in some way at the broadest level without losing too much detail. Now certain levels of abstract thinking can help solve many problems due to the fact that the problem may be considered an abstraction in itself. This could be considered part of the development of the mathematical perspective.

    In short I guess I'm saying if you can organize these perspectives in your head and think about some sort of way of how you can develop them early as best as possible, it might help you out and also help you reach your goal of having real understanding of the field and possibly doing it in quicker time than some of your colleages or counterparts.
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