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Engineer Vs Scientist

  1. Nov 16, 2003 #1
    What is the difference between an Engineer and Scientist?

    I can say that,
    An Engineer is a technologist who uses the science and a scientist is one who picks truth from the nature.

    What do you think???
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2003 #2


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    Engineers are practical people. If a design works, good. If it doesn't, you need more duct tape. They also use math and physics to make estimates. Geting a rough idea of how the design should be put together is very helpful.

    Scientist guess at how the world works and then test to see if their hypothesis is correct. If it doesn't work out, they come up with something else.

    Engineers don't exclusively use science to come up with inventions. It takes a little trial and error to get things just right.

    Scientist don't pick truth from nature because truth doesn't exist. It is all more or less an approximation of how people precieve the world.
  4. Nov 17, 2003 #3
    Hey! I agree with all your words except: Truth Doesn't Exist. Oh! How that can be possible!!!

    Of course
  5. Nov 17, 2003 #4


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    Its pretty simple really:

    -Scientists research, gather information, and push the limits of our knowledge of the universe.

    -Engineers invent/build/fix things.
  6. Nov 18, 2003 #5
    Actually, I asked this question....as few of my classmates think
    that an Engineer is more intellegent than the Scientists.....

    I didn't agree....and I was looking for a good reply....

    Still it's not enough :)

    Thanks :)
  7. Nov 21, 2003 #6
    A scientist discovers the laws that govern our universe, an engineer utilizes the laws discovered.
  8. Nov 21, 2003 #7
    I think that in education and intelligence level a scientist and an engineer could easily be on the same level. The differences I think would lie in how their creativity is expressed.

    What I mean by this is a scientist looks at nature and can create questions to be answered and create a means to answer them.

    An engineer looks at questions and creates the solutions to those based on the answers obtained by the scientist. Some engineers just refer to their own past work and don't create too many new approaches.

    There is opportunity for abstract thought in both fields, but more I think in science than in engineering. Abstract thought, originality and creativity, are some signs of intelligence.
  9. Nov 21, 2003 #8


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    I'm afraid I won't give you any ammunition against engineers since I more or less agree with Artman. I think that many people identify themselves as "engineer" or "scientist" which clouds the issue some. I believe the term "technologist" refers to someone with an engineering background (probably including a B.S.) who applies engineering knowledge to specific problems. The title of engineer is supposed to go further, applying to those who innovate and expand on engineering knowledge; they are involved in asking the question as much as they are in answering it.

    Are you trying to compare strictly on the basis of curriculum? I think you'll find that the level of mastery required for an undergraduate in a hard science is comparable to what is required for some of the engineering disciplines (you get into grey areas here too, as each discipline has its own standards). You also can't lump the "D is for diploma" crew with the people who take more electives than they need to just because they want to learn. At the graduate level, most tend to get very specialized, so you'd almost have to evaluate everyone's research on a case by case basis.

    Compare the content level in some of the more prominent science and engineering journals. I think saying that they are separate but equal is more appropriate than trying to argue that one is smarter than the other. That may not be a popular opinion on a PhysicsForums board, but I think it's fair. Even if you could prove, say, that every scientist in the world is smarter than I am (admittedly likely), that can't be considered an indictment against every card-carrying engineer. Maybe you don't like the idea of "rules-of-thumb" and "safety factors;" they probably look like fudge factors to you. Real world problems are a heck of a lot messier than textbook problems and there isn't an analytical solution for everything. That's why some things won't work even if they pass all simulated tests based on complex mathematical models of the system. We don't know how to model everything and getting something to work is often the most important thing in an engineering endeavor.

    Anyway, I would say that the main difference lies in the motivation. Scientists generally conduct their experiments and develop their theories in the hope of finding out, at the most fundamental level possible, how things (e.g. nature) work. Engineers generally conduct their experiments and develop their theories in the hope of solving some practical problem. A model of reality that is considered inadequate by a scientist may be perfectly viable in an engineering analysis if it is applicable over the operating conditions of interest. Scientists need engineers and engineers need scientists. I think a good scientist has to be a competent engineer and a good engineer has to be a competent scientist, at least in the way they approach their work. By the same token, a good technologist is likely a competent engineer.

    Whatever. That's enough rambling out of me. Take my two cents for what it's worth and keep the change.

    P.S. To those of you who have noticed the proliferation of "I think"s and other generalizations/qualifying statements, it's just my attempt to present opinion humbly.
  10. Nov 21, 2003 #9


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    Yeah. Werner Von Braun didn't do much to further theoretical knowledge of the way the universe worked, but he was instrumental in the greatest engineering triump of all time (Apollo Program). I'd put him up against Einstein any day. And the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project blurred the lines between science and engineering. They did both.
  11. Nov 25, 2003 #10


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    Exactly. In practice, scientists can do some engineering and engineers can do some science. The "who's smarter" debate is old and dumb and dies after you leave college. People are people. A smart person can be trained in either discipline. If you want to generalize, then you can say that scientists conduct research and engineers apply it. But life is never that simple. When an engineer needs a better material, then she'll go in the lab and conduct experiments. When a scientist wants to conduct a new type of test, she'll engineer a new system to do so.

    So maybe it's better to think of the disciplines of Science and Engineering and then say a person is a scientist/engineer based on where they spend most of their time. But usually people in technical fields simply say they're a scientist or an engineer based on their college diploma rather than their predominant work type. That's often the basis for employment anyway.
  12. Dec 3, 2003 #11


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    Aren't engineers a little more fluent in mathematics?
  13. Dec 3, 2003 #12


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    Not really. Every theory that an engineer uses starts out from some scientist. In a modern setting, both Engineering and Science seem to devolve into a bunch of differential equations.

    In practice, one might think that there is more mathematics covered in science because engineers do not have to deal with the esoteric notions associated with some of the theoretical sciences, but the difference is probably small enough to be negligible.
  14. Dec 23, 2003 #13
    an scientist is someone who studies and/or discovers scientific facts. an engineer is someone who, with the knowledge of these facts, designs practical devices.

    example: a scientist discovers electricity, circuts, and the wavelength spectrum, and an engineer takes this knowledge and designes radios, t.v.s, and x-ray machienes.
  15. Dec 23, 2003 #14
    Most people who do science degrees do not end up in research careers. They end up as radiologists lab monkeys, or doing engineering jobs.

    Engineers do the same subjects as science students, at least here. Actually engineers do the same subjects plus extra, since engineering degrees require students to do 50% more than any other degree.

    - An engineer is an employable scientist.
    - A scientist is an unemployable engineer.
  16. Dec 27, 2003 #15
  17. Dec 29, 2003 #16
    Stop it

    Stop making generalizations.

    Engineers, Scientists... it all depends on the individual.

    The truth of the matter is, what makes an engineer different from a scientist is basically the educational path taken (B.Eng vs. B.Sc.).

    These days, I see many B.A.'s working as "software engineers" and many B.Eng's working with scientists.

    In the end, it depends on the person. Just because someone has a B.Sc or M.Sc. in Physics doesn't mean that person won't build robots. Just because someone has a B.Eng. (and is a professional engineer) doesn't mean that person won't invent new theories in chemistry.

    As for the intelligence question.... Education has nothing to do with intelligence. Neither does brute knowledge.

    Some of the smartest people I know are simply highschool grads (or drop outs).
  18. Dec 31, 2003 #17


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    Not necessarily. In college, I (an engineer) took more math classes than some scientists, and less than others. During grad school, looking through my roommate's notebooks (Physics PhD) was frightening...just pages of math equations that were way over my head.

    It really depends on the type (discipline) of engineer/scientist and the type of work that individual is doing.
  19. Jan 3, 2004 #18
    I think jamesrc hit it on the head.

    One can look at it from an R&D perspective of a chemical engineer, the way my Orgo teacher explained it. Chemical engineers are basically trained as both scientists and engineers. They take A LOT of science and math courses, since Chem E involves a lot of theory, but the work they do also requires them to factor in design economics and environmental costs, because they have to optimize the product in all facets.

    A scientist working in the lab for some chemical company, like DuPont, is the "research", whereas the engineer might be the "development". The chemist gets to play with stuff to see what he/she finds, perhaps with a practical goal in mind somewhere down the road, and explain whatever it is they're looking for or what is they found. The chemical engineer might take that idea and develop it for some practical purpose. They might analyze the scientist's reasoning behind why a particular reaction works the way it does and then come up with a cost effective process of getting a product on a MUCH larger scale. Or perhaps the ChemE will use the research finding indirectly - maybe it explains why a particular reaction is not working the way it should or maybe it gives the engineer a look at an alternative process. The engineer has to make sure the plant can handle the process and that it is properly controlled. As for money,the chemist doesn't care too much about the cost of the reaction, because what's in a test tube or flask is literally a drop in the reaction vat of what the engineer has to deal with ; just so long as the research scientist finds something interesting.
  20. Jan 14, 2004 #19
    I'm an engineerstudent at the moment and I feel like I was really interested in the course modern physics. I'm really fascinated with the theory of relativity, quantummechanics, corephysics (or how do you name it in english?),... But that course was only qualitative and covered only the basics. After I get my diploma of engineer(Im also very interested in everyting that has to do with computers and electronics)I'd like to go study physics, the only problem is that in the best case I finnish my studies then at the age of 27-28.

    The difference between scientists and egineers is the way they approach science. For engineers it's an aid to achieve it's goal, to design or improve something. Scientist are more theoretical and don't care if something can be put into practice, they only care to gain knowledge about the subject.
  21. Feb 17, 2004 #20
    I am a scientist and an engineer, so i cannot reply with any difinitive explanation.
  22. Feb 17, 2004 #21
    What did you study specificly then if I may ask?

    I'm an engineerstudent at the moment and I was very interested in the physics classes. That's why I'm thinking about studying physics too after I completed my engineer studies. But then again that's another five years added to my engineer studies... that's a long time... I'll be at least 27 before I've got work, can live on my own,... . It's quite a dilemma for me: I'd really love to do it, but the there's the age thing (I'll be 20 this year).

    So I wonder, how long did it take for you to finnish both an engineering degree and a science degree?
  23. Apr 12, 2004 #22
    If you are a PHYSICIST: In the developing countries, there is no place for scientists. Only a few government organisation offer jobs for scientists. As long as private sector is concerned, all of them are engineering companies. If you are not selected in government org, then you have to chose either engineering field or Physics lecturership. It takes two/three years for u before u become a professional engineer after entering the practical life. It is only because engineers, while in there study/educational time knows that what type of challenges they will face before entering into the practical life. On the other hand a Physicist does not have the precise sketch in there mind that what will they do after there study period.
    It is my experience that it does not depend wether u r an engineer or Physicist if u choose a practical job e.g. designing. U will only suffer if u opted to continue higher studies like PhD with out any idea in mind that what will u do after that. Again, if u r a Physicist and opted to do PhD then I think u can take subjects that are common to both engineering and Physics. This will make your thinking multidimensional, and help u to survive in any circumstances.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2004
  24. Apr 12, 2004 #23


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    An interesting example of the interplay between physics and engineering can be found in accelerator facilities: Lots of devices and monitoring systems have to be built optimizing costs and energy consumption, and they have to be developed having in mind the physics you will measure with them (or how their necessary presence will affect your measurements).

    One example: you may get involved in the design of a silicon wafer (something like a very long computer chip) that will be able to pick up charge from particles flying close to it. You need to take into account not only the material's electrical properties, but also how it reacts to radiation, how much it will slow down the particles you want to measure, how to read it out, how to give it instructions, and synchronize its activation with the moments in which you expect collisions between, say, protons and protons in the vecinity.

    Similarly, in this kind of experiments, you need to study the behavior of many systems under high radiation conditions, so lots of studies are needed regardless of how common or uncommon are the components you are using (which go from water pumps and vacuum chambers to high power distribution circuits, superconduncting magnets and high speed electronics).

    Again, people working in such environments may have either background, and what they do may be cathegorized on both sides.
  25. Apr 12, 2004 #24


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    I have experienced exactly the opposite. I am a scientist and have worked, at times, as an engineer. I have had to do optical, electrical and electronic engineering duties. Because of my very diverse background, employers assume that I can be trained to do whatever they need. Far from being unemployable, I get unsolicited job offers for engineering positions. On the other hand, I have never been excellent at my engineering tasks. Any solution I have developed for a specific problem always has flaws that experienced engineers pick up and correct.

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