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Economics grad switching to hard sciences

  1. Jul 1, 2006 #1
    Hi everyone. Thanks for reading this post.

    I'm looking for a little guidance on how someone whose training is outside the hard sciences can break into a scientific career path. I know that it will inevitably involve going to back to school, but perhaps there are jobs I could do in the mean time? Maybe some lab grunt work?

    Here is the direction I'm coming from:

    My degree is a B.S. in Economics from a private Midwestern business school. I reluctantly settled on it because, well, time was running out and I needed to make money at something.

    After graduation, though, the idea of working at XYZ bank seemed a whole, whole lot more unappealing than I had anticipated. Obviously, I know jobs aren't supposed to be fun and games, but the realization that it would be like this day after day got to me quickly. I really did not like the path I took in school.

    I found an organization (http://www.rockportinstitute.com/) through a career guidance book (regular career counselors were very little help) that gave a career aptitude test, which would measure talents and give a profile for what careers I would likely find most stimulating and rewarding.

    When my results came, the files that came with it said having low scores in some areas were nothing to be ashamed of, etc., and that having high scores in many aptitudes would actually make it harder, because there are so many areas that need attention.

    I had no idea what it would look like. I knew I'd be good in something, I just wanted to know what that something was. Well, I'm still trying to get over some of the shock. I'm in the 99th percentile in four different areas, 95th and 90th of some others, and the upper quartile in the rest, except for one low score. :bugeye:

    It's not out of a random sampling. Just the group of people who look for career guidance and take the test. Feeling it was possible that I was scammed, I asked the counselor they assigned to me to estimate the number of people the scoring takes into account, and he said at least 100,000 have taken it, that other institutions do it, it's just that the school system hasn't caught on, and that he's been doing this for years. And that he appreciated the question because that showed my analytical aptitude. :rolleyes:

    He said that I belonged in the frontier physical sciences as a specialist, working on inventions for small companies, doing things like alternative energy and nanotechnology.

    He also said that my results support my not responding with open arms to your typical science education. I'm 99% spatially oriented, but schools don't have a spatially oriented style of curricula outside of Phy Ed. Also, outside of the aptitudes, I have a high "maestro" score, which means that I would prefer going in-depth on something, studying things that most people don't. Science curricula in everything below a Master's level moves from one area to the next, not going into much depth.

    He asked me what original scientific discoveries I made in my spare time, which caught me off guard, because I didn't realize until that moment that that question could actually apply. I studied lucid dreaming, and did a number of experiments within lucid dreams, a topic out of the mainstream. It was personal and could be called "subjective science," but no less deserving of inquiry. I ruled out formal study of LDs as a career after I took an intro to psychology course. I didn't think I could stand the BS of psychology classes long enough until I had the freedom to do formal work, and I was probably right. I could barely stand economics.

    So, anyways, here I am, a business grad who scores off the charts in tests for spatial ability (you know those tests where you mentally rotate objects or mentally fold up convoluted unfolded boxes? I do those in my sleep - literally) and is great at analytical reasoning, idea flow, associative memory, design memory, and basically everything except memorizing sets of randomly generated 10-digit numbers.

    I'm in the 17th percentile on that. :grumpy:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 1, 2006 #2
    An economics degree requires calc 2 right? I would suggest taking Calc 3 or linear algebra and seeing how more advanced spatial concepts fit you. I would suspect that a good spatially oriented student would be very comfortable with the ideas taught in that course. If you feel comfortable with that check out the real world applications of it to physics and engineering.
    One of the hardest parts I always had when tutoring students was trying to get them visualize behaviors or problems when they were attempting them. Most would read the problem and then try to mimic examples that are similar. I always felt that a good student would stop and try and make a mental picture of what is happening before writing down equations.
    I believe (and I might be wrong, I am only a college junior) that students with a better spatial applitude had a edge then students that just memorize equations. Once you can visualize what is happening you understand proofs and theories instead of just regurgating them.
  4. Jul 1, 2006 #3
    From your description it seems that you probably have the brain part. With that, and some work ethic, switching to hard sciences wouldn't be so hard intellectually. But then there's this whole part about being passionate about science. So if financial burden is not a big issue, why don't you try taking some classes and see if you like it:)
  5. Jul 1, 2006 #4
    Valhalla, just Calc 1, actually. Maybe someone would let me audit a Calc 3 course for a while?

    phun, I think that I would be passionate about science, but not passionate about school. ;)

    Right now I'm watching the Berkeley webcasts for physics and chemistry, and it's very stimulating. It's very convenient to fast forward through administrative details or things you already understand, and rewind to hear something again, or pause to consider something.

    Too bad they don't have any math courses up. There's a video podcast of a Texas community college professor of Calc 1, and it's incredible to watch him write on the blackboard at 8x speed. Cutting out all the time that's wasted just writing on the blackboard, you can shrink a 1-hour class into 10 minutes!
  6. Jul 1, 2006 #5
    Unless I'm missing something, you really have to be, or at least willing to work hard towards an engineering degree. Sometimes I get upset when, like tonight, I am sitting in the library studying, and my friends who are dance majors, art majors, and/or getting a degree in business are out partying.

    Valhalla had an excellent idea. You should definitely try some upper level math, because you are going to be using a lot of it.

    So just make sure you are ready to work relatively hard for the degree. It's rewarding, but at the same time it can be taxing.
  7. Jul 2, 2006 #6
    I was just thinking that I should've elaborated on that. I'm passionate about learning, definitely, but not everything independent from learning that would be called "schooling." I don't mind being taxed, but I'd like to be empowered so that I can make the most of it.

    For instance, I'd like to have more control over the depth, style, and pace of learning, and the composition of courses. Maybe even learn in the context of an unsolved problem. Although possible, it cannot be conveniently schooled, especially for an undergrad. I understand that being systematized is a part of life but, hey, when I'm paying this much money to work hard on something, I'd like to make some decisions.

    Thank you for all the replies so far. Business majors are no fun anyways.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2006
  8. Jul 2, 2006 #7
    If I'm not getting you wrong, I just wanted to say that only studying things that you like may not be the best way to obtain knowledge. Although sciences are very catergorized right now that there might be topics that just seem completely irrelevant to what you want to do, sometimes it turns out that something you learn in a completely "random" class becomes handy in a "relevant" class. Schools are very good at forcing students to learn things that the students might not think is important for them.
    In the last 3 years I have taken a strange (or so it may seem at first) assortment of science/engineering courses from half dozen different departments, but only 1 or 2 courses were completely useless in retrospect. There are classes that I'm very glad that I was forced to take.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2006
  9. Jul 2, 2006 #8
    No, no, I mean having more control over the direction, order, use, and speed of studying. Definitely, "what" is learned in science is non-negotiable. Schools don't seem to trust in their own students' maturity about their curiosity.

    I'm just looking for more of a fusion of education and practice, really.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2006
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