Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

EE for me?

  1. Aug 27, 2010 #1

    I am a freshman in college trying to decide what to study, and what sort of long-term plans I should have. I like math and love physics, and for a long time I thought I would become a physicist. But lately I've been thinking that I would rather do something more practical and that has more of an impact on the world, plus I know that job prospects in physics are poor. Nanotechnology seems really cool to me, and I've really had my interest sparked by stuff like photonics, organic LEDs, etc. So I decided that electrical engineering might be my best option. But I have a couple of questions:

    1) I'm not really into "tinkering", which is why I wasn't thinking engineering in the first place. I have no interest in soldering together circuits - I'd rather work on more theoretical things. Will EE bore me to death?

    2) Who is it that works on the things that I mentioned (nanofabrication, etc.)? Are they electrical engineers? Or are they physicists, materials scientists, or something else? And what degrees do they have?

    3) I know that overall job prospects for engineers are much better than those for pure physicists. But are the areas I'm interested in employable? Or are they so cutting-edge that the only jobs are in academia, and there is an impossible crunch to get them?

    Thank you for any help you can give me!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2010 #2

    My answers are in the same sequence of your asked questions:

    A.1) EE is not only about soldering circuits and analog electronics, there is a lot more to it and it has many common things with applied/engineering physics. Whether EE will bore you or not, this depends on where you are doing it, many good EE schools offer lectures and does research on fields shared between physics and EE (e.g. theoretical semiconductor physics, at purdue, stanford and UIUC) , see for example http://www.nanohub.org which is a very good and comprehensive resource for nanotech. (has many video/flash lectures with audio and slides, free simulation tools etc...)

    A.2) The topics you mentioned are treated by both engineers (EE) and physicists mainly (and materials scientists to a lesser extent). But generally speaking Engineers will be targeting the applications, while physicists tinker to explore some new physics.

    A.3) Let me say that all the fields you mentioned of nanotechnology, falls under semiconductor technology (be it currently in production or novel), hence if you have an experience in the field, employment shouldn't be a problem. Those novel technologies are continuously finding their way to commercialization, e.g. nanophotonics or OLEDs, so employment isn't an issue if are an EE.
    Theoretical jobs are harder to come by, but for example if you are skilled at theoretical semiconductor physics and simulations, you can get hired by companies offering simulation tools (e.g. Silvaco or Synopsys,, so called TCAD). Plus as an engineer, you are multi-skilled, hence even if your interest changes with time, say from nanotech to VLSI then it shouldn't be a problem.

    As a side note, there is nothing against attending physics courses at your university if time allows. For topics like semiconductor physics taught to EE, you will be using elements from Solid State theory, Quantum Theory and Statistical mechanics. It is a beautiful field.

    Last, Nanotech is a big buzz word, it covers so many different fields, bare in mind it is a normal technological evolution (not a revolution).
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook