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Engineering vs physics

  1. Mar 23, 2004 #1


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    hi everyone. i'm in a dilemma. i am a first year undergraduate student majoring in physics. i decided on the physics program because i find it really intersting and i was really good at it in high school. now that i'm in university, i still find physics interesting but i'm not really good at it anymore so i'm thinking of changing majors, more precisely, engineering; i just dont know which type. any sort of advice would be greatly appreciated. btw, what is the demand for civil engineers?
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  3. Mar 24, 2004 #2


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    Are you sure you are not good a physics anymore? Or are you just not applying yourself? Remember, in college, the classes require a lot more study/work than classes in high school.

    If you're still considering engineering, I applaud your curiosity. When choosing a field of engineering to go in, you have to find something that really interest you and "makes you click". For example, if you like computer hardware, go into computer engineering. And you really shouldn't worry about the demand from your major because what the demands are now may change dramatically by the time you graduate. So stick with a study that you enjoy. Don't forget to explore careers through internships, co-ops, etc. if your school offers them.
  4. Mar 24, 2004 #3


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    i'm trying to apply myself but there is just way too much material. on top of that, all i keep on thinking is 'and i care because...' thats not a very good thought when you are studing something that you are majoring in. but i definately am working a lot harder and a lot longer now as compared to highschool.
  5. Mar 25, 2004 #4


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    If first year physics is difficult for you, then you're probably right that you shouldn't major in it. It only gets harder. Much harder.

    As for not being very interested in the material, I don't know many people who were - professional physicists included! Unfortunately, you have to progress quite a bit before you can get to the fun parts of physics.

    Engineering is a fun field. There are so many things you could go into. Aero is very interesting IMO, and uses more sophisticated physics than other areas if you still want to lean in that direction (this also makes it more difficult).
  6. Mar 25, 2004 #5


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    if something is difficult but you like it, you can work harder at it but if its difficult and you just dont care, thats probably a good sign of changing your major. what do you guys think about aerospace and civil engineering? my university doesn't have aerospace so i would have to switch schools (only if its any good though)
  7. Mar 26, 2004 #6
    Can you be more specific about how you're 'not good at it anymore' ? I have degrees in both physics & engineering. The math was less general & there were fewer & less sophisticated derivations given as problems in engineering. But the actual problem solving process, taking formulas, interpreting them & applying the ideas to new situations seemed exactly the same to me. If you were good in one you would be good in the other. Are you sure it's not just the competition has got you down? Every eng. program I know of requires a year & a half of physics anyway.

    It was a big shock for me going from high school were no effort made me a top student to college were 'massive effort' left me in the middle of the pack. It took me a year of college to realize I really never learned how to study in high school and another year to learn how to study! By senior year I was back at the top but mostly because I really liked what I was doing & had a job waiting for me (so no stress & no interviews to worry about).

    There is tremendous demand for structural engineers where I live.
  8. Mar 28, 2004 #7


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    sorry, maybe that came out wrong; i meant that i'm not really developping an interest in my program. is that at all normal for first year?
  9. Mar 28, 2004 #8


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    A (possibly true) story is told about Albert Einstein. Supposedly he was so burned out on schoolwork-type physics that for a year after matriculating, he couldn't stand to even contemplate anything related to physics. But then he got into a pretty good groove over the next several years, while working as a patent examiner!
  10. Mar 28, 2004 #9


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    No kidding. Last wednesday I slept in instead of going to school to write a midterm. Probably didn't matter anyway since I missed the previous 3 weeks of that class.

    No, that is not normal. If you have no interest in what you are doing, by all means change.

    What kind of physics are you not interested in? The kind dealing with forces and energies (like high school) or stuff dealing with spectra from different gases, waves, cosmic rays, and other seemingly abstract stuff?
    In engineering, you won't see a lot of that abstract stuff.

    Another thing, you MUST be good at math to be an engineer. At the university in my city, engineers take about 6 or 7 math classes in the first 2 years. Some of that math is really complicated.
  11. Mar 29, 2004 #10


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    i have to say that i'm more intersted in astronomy, space and that sort of stuff. no kidding that math is getting pretty complicated.
  12. Apr 3, 2004 #11
    Phy, something to consider is that, there many different areas of physics, and in college it will probably take a year or to before you get to take the physics classes that pertain to the area (ie astronomy and cosmology) that you are interesed in. I am a sophmore physics major and I want to go into optics and photonics, but I won't start taking those classes till the fall. I didn't dislike Matter & Interactions (probably the class you are in now or some similar mechanics class), but i did know it wasn't what I wanted to do.
  13. Apr 3, 2004 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    If the math is a problem then I think you need to focus on where you want to be. It is much easier to focus on a goal than to simply go through the motions. Science is a big word. It includes a universe of options but only you know what really thrills you. School is much too big of a pain in the rear to endure for something that you hate, or if just don't have the right skills for that particular discipline. On the other hand, if you are just whining because you don't want to do your homework then get back to work! :biggrin:
  14. Apr 5, 2004 #13
    Hi Phy, I too am an undergraduate majoring in physics. I think i understand what you are saying, because I went through the same phase myself at the beginning of the semester. From my experiences so far, physics requires a different kind of learning technique. I didnt learn jack in my high school, and therefore had major problems in my first physics class. After not getting the grade I wanted, I started to doubt myself. But now, I have changed the way I understand the material. Its all about understanding the concepts correctly, because if you have the concepts banged in your head, you can solve any problem. It has worked for me so far, and I really think that is the best way to learn the material. I would encourage you to stick with physics, even though it might be difficult in the beginning.
  15. Apr 7, 2004 #14


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    harsh? do you go to u of i? i agree with everything you just said, it's all in the concepts. once you understand what's going on, it's easy to apply the formulas and figure something out. right now i'm trying to figure out if i want to go into physics or ee.
  16. Apr 7, 2004 #15
    Yes, I go to the U of I and i am majoring in Engineering Physics. Both EE and Physics are really good here, so its basically up to you to pick the one that interests you the most.
  17. Apr 7, 2004 #16


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    harsh i think you're the first person who is actually encouraging me to continue in physics. as far as understanding concepts is concerned, i think that i understand them but my crazy prof always manages to find questions that simply baffle me. i sit there on his midterms and go "i thought i studied this." i had him last semester and i got an E! i worked so hard! his exam was 70% of our final mark. that is just too much!
  18. Apr 10, 2004 #17
    I'm an ungrad physics student as well. I was also an EET major at DeVry(don't laugh). I got bored with spec sheets and breadboarding a thousand and one projects. There is a very annoying pencil pushing aspect about engineering.

    I digress, don't take the crazy prof. to heart. The fact he is crazy has nothing to do with your ability to do physics.

    Some professors are about hazing the students instead of teaching them. They hope the harsh treatment will weed out those who aren't serious. They could be elitist and could be predjudiced if your'e not already a Field Medalist before takin thier class.

    They best way deal with them is endure them and take the beating. Another way is to learn from other sources at least you won't come out it a jack ass.
  19. Apr 11, 2004 #18


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    Well, I'm a student thinking the other way, from Engineering to Physics.

    I want the Physics b/c I've always liked it, and Engineering is beginnign to stray away from Physics, and more into specialized topics, which I find boring.

    btw, i'm a first year @ Ryerson University.
  20. Apr 12, 2004 #19
    See my remarks in the thread "Career in Engineering" at electrical engineering
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