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Electrical major or just a few classes?

  1. Apr 6, 2007 #1
    So I have decided to take some electrical engineering classes. I am a physics major and am pretty certain that I want to study physics at graduate school as well. I will be able to finish almost all of the required physics major courses by the end of my sophomore year. I want to take some EE classes to expand my skills and possiblely marketability for the uncertain future. What I am not sure is if I should just take some advance EE classes and my schedule would still be fairly flexible in the last two years so I can take a few other classes I really like (the advanced EE classes that I have in mind and that dont seem to require any low level EE classes are intro to quantum electronics, solid state electronic devices, optical electronics...OR I can declare a double major in electrical engineering and take EE classes from the very basics which are required for the major. My schedule then would of course not be as flexible as the previous one. And a few of the 200/300 level EE courses seem to overlap with the physics classes that I will have already taken, but I still have to take them to fulfill the major. The benefit of doing this is that people will actually know that I also have a degree in EE. But still my goal is to pursue physics at graduate school (be it applied physics or pure physics), not electrical engineering. I go to UIUC, so another degree in EE would certainly increase my employability. But is this really worth it, considering that I can still take quite a few advanced EE classes anyway.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2007 #2
    I'm a EE major at UIUC who's considered double-majoring in physics, and I'm not sure it's worth your time to go for the double major, especially if you're planning on going to graduate school. Even though it will look better on paper, there are a lot of classes which you'll have to take which probably don't interest you that much as a physics major. (Of course, that judgment is based on my experiences as a someone with a physical electronics background.)

    Off the top of my head, you'll probably have to take at least the following courses:
    ECE 190: Intro to Computing Systems, x86 assembly programming
    ECE 290: Computer Engineering I, digital logic design
    ECE 385: Digital Systems Lab, essentially the lab version of 290 (even though it's only 2 hours, it's a huge time sucker)
    ECE 210: Analog signal processing: mostly Fourier and Laplace transforms applied to circuits, it's also where most EEs first learn Fourier transforms
    ECE 440: Solid state electronics

    You'll also have to take 3 out of the following courses:
    ECE 410: Digital Signal Processing
    ECE 430: Power circuits and electromechanics
    ECE 450: Lines, fields, and waves (applied E&M)
    ECE 442/3: Electronic Circuits and its lab
    ECE 390: Computer Engineering II (more x86 assembly)

    Of course, I can't forget to mention Senior Design and the two elective labs. If you're anything like me, most of what I listed will bore you. If I were you, I'd focus on the courses which interest you and just take those. Personally, I'd recommend Solid State Electronics (440) and the IC fabrication class (444). Also, from what I hear, Intro to Quantum Electronics (487) essentially covers a mixture of the material in Physics 486 & 487 (the two undergraduate physics quantum classes) and ECE 455 (Optical Electronics), so assuming that you've taken 486 & 487 as a physics major, you'd be better off taking 455.
  4. Apr 6, 2007 #3
    As a former computer engineering major I had to take some EE courses and the amount they taught you I really don't see how it could make me any more marktable than without having to take them.

    First course was integrated circuit design with linear stuff
    then EE310 which was non linear stuff
    then 317 was signals systems and transforms
  5. Apr 6, 2007 #4
    I'm a double major in EE and physics and I feel it was a good decision, just because I plan on studying solid state device physics, which is close to the interface between physics and EE. Sure there's EE classes I'm not interested in, but there's also physics classes I'm not really interested in. You can't avoid it.

    But yeah, usually an EE degree is quite extensive and requires more credits than a typical physics degree. For my EE degree the following are required (in this order):

    intro to EE
    digital electronics
    digital electronics lab
    microprocessors and lab
    circuits 1 and 2 with labs (signals and systems are integrated into those classes at my school)
    EE computer applications
    advanced digital electronics with lab
    engineering cost analysis
    analog electronics with lab
    advanced analog electronics with lab
    control systems with lab
    electromagnetic fields and waves (but this usually overlaps with physics and the course will probably be waived)
    communication systems
    and two EE tech electives
    and projects (but this generally will also satisfy your physics project, assuming your engineering project overlaps strongly with physics)

    OF course all of the math overlaps with the physics degree. There's also some business class (like engineering business plans) requirements in there too you need to satisfy too...

    That's what I can recall off the top of my head. Usually physics degree programs have less core requirements and tons of open electives which can be applied toward EE classes. However, the EE curriculum has pretty much no open electives, except for the EE tech electives (but you need to take EE classes) and one humanities open elective.

    edit: surprisingly, my EE degree doesn't require a full solid state electronics class, but I am enrolled in this class as a tech elective right now.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2007
  6. Apr 6, 2007 #5
    I don't know, leright: I'm pretty much in the same boat as you, and I'm glad that I didn't decide to add physics as a major. I've been able to take just the physics classes that I find interesting, without worrying about things that are completely irrelevant to me. AFAIK, grad schools don't care that much about whether you have two degrees, and once you have a graduate degree, that will supercede any multiple bachelor's degrees.
  7. Apr 6, 2007 #6
    Manchot, do you know if there is much overlap between PHYS 460 Condensed Matter Physics and ECE 440? Should I bother to take ECE 440 if I have already taken PHYS 460?
  8. Apr 6, 2007 #7
    I really doing it mainly because I am just interested in both of the subjects, but I think multiple degrees is rather appealing to grad schools, especially if the degrees are not in two areas with significant overlap. Grad schools don't see as many EE/physics double majors as they see physics/math double majors, for instance, which might set me apart from the pack.
  9. Apr 6, 2007 #8
    That's a tough one. Even though I've worked through a solid state physics textbook, I never got the chance to take Physics 460. There definitely is some overlap, as the first fourth or so of the class is essentially a quick rundown of the basic results of solid state physics. However, after that, the focus is completely on devices, so it's definitely still worthwhile to take.
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