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Engineering with the most physics

  1. Jul 30, 2007 #1
    I am currently in a Pure & Applied Science profile at Cegep. It leaves me with pretty much any engineering or science program to choose for University.

    Right now, my passion is physics, I really enjoy understanding the theory behind how the world works. My only concern is that if I major in physics, I will have to study until I have my doctorate just to get a decent job, and that my jobs will be limited to teaching for the most part.

    I've talked to a couple people in physics, and after years, one of their main concerns with it is that they aren't really earning as much as they'd like to for the amount of time they spent in education.

    This has led me to consider engineering instead. I also like learning things that can be applied to real life, so this isn't a problem at all, the only thing is that I would really like to be able to continue learning as much physics as possible.

    What engineering disciplines share the most courses with physics, or need the greatest understanding of it?

    As far as University selection, I can go to McGill, Université de Montréal, University of Toronto, McMasters, Waterloo, and hopefully some American ones too like MIT (My marks are probably high enough, but it's never a guarantee).

    I am anticipating getting a masters, and the Nanotechonolgy program at SUNY looks very interesting to me, so I am thinking about also doing the Nanotechnology Engineering at Waterloo for my undergraduate, but seeing that it's not necessary in order to get into SUNY's program, I was also considering maybe something else.

    I still have a good amount of time to decide, but I am really unsure as to what to take. If someone could maybe help clear some things up for me, I would really appreciate it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2007 #2
    All engineering requires physics. All physics can be applied to real life.
  4. Jul 30, 2007 #3
    Probably electrical engineering. My undergrad research advisor actually publishes in Applied Physics Letters.
  5. Jul 30, 2007 #4
    What does that have to do with being more physics than any other field of engineering? They all use just as much physics, just different areas.
  6. Jul 30, 2007 #5
    Depends what subfield of physics. You will learn general theory in each course, but you specialize in a few fields of physics in your later years:

    mechanical/aerospace: thermo, fluids, mechanics
    electrical: e&m/electrodynamics, some solid state/condensed matter stuff if you go into electronics
    civil: mechanical, fluids
    chemical: thermo, some quantum/atomic/molecular depending on your program
    materials: atomic/molecular/solid state
    industrial/manufacturing/whatever: not much else besides mechanics
  7. Jul 30, 2007 #6
    Thank you for providing a real answer. :approve:
  8. Jul 30, 2007 #7
    Wow Sam, that's helping me a lot. While I still haven't decided, that's going to make it a lot easier.
  9. Jul 30, 2007 #8
    You might also look for "engineering physics" programs - you get more physics than in electrical engineering and you're more employable than a physicist.
  10. Jul 31, 2007 #9
    I think we might have a winner. Thanks a lot. I'm looking into that and it looks really cool. One local University offers it, only it's in French. So that might be solidifying my decision to go out of town.

    You guys have all been a huge help, thanks again.
  11. Jul 31, 2007 #10


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    Definitely electrical.

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2007
  12. Jul 31, 2007 #11


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    Actually, depending on how wide of a coverage the dept. has, electrical engineering can cover a lot of physics, especially if you deal with EM fields, waveguides, and accelerator physics. The field of accelerator and beam physics, for example, has students who major both in physics or electrical engineering. The accelerator group that I work in has 3/4 of the students in EE, while the remaining in physics. And particle accelerator schools and conferences are sponsored by the APS and IEEE.

  13. Jul 31, 2007 #12
    Ohio State University also has an engineering physics program which is pretty decent. For pure engineering, nuclear also has a great deal of physics behind it and pays pretty well in the US. Probably pays well in Canada as well.
  14. Aug 1, 2007 #13


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    And the IEEE journals are some of the first a lot of physicists, working with light especially, look at -- they're so common to me, I think of them more as physics journals than engineering.
  15. Aug 1, 2007 #14
    My point of view

    I'm an aerospace engineering grad student, which is basically just a glorified mechanical engineer.

    A mechanical or aerospace engineer will mainly know the most about the visible world. They'll work with things of macro nature (like mechanics and fluids, which have already been mentioned), the same things which right now are transporting and powering everything (vehicles, power plants, etc.)

    Electrical engineers will work with all of the newer technology that isn't necessarily something you can observe. Even troubleshooting electrical devices can require hooking up diagnostic equipment to analyze (not to say other engineers don't use diagnostic equipment), but sometimes fixing something that you can't really observe directly working is troubling to some.

    Materials engineers might play around with microscopes or even through huge physical simulations of solids into a computer, depending on the area of concentration.

    In my opinion, if I were to do it all over again, I would probably have chosen Electrical Engineering instead. Electronics are becoming so ubiquitous on earth there will be plenty of interesting jobs out there as long as you don't mind fooling around with some things you can't always observe with your own eyes (power generation/distribution being a big exception).

    However, as an EE you usually choose some out of department electives (at least here at the U of Florida), and I would recommend possibly incorporating a class in dynamics or mechanics of some sort so that you get an appreciation for what the engineers you might be working with are doing.
  16. Aug 1, 2007 #15
    Enricky, when you say SUNY I'm guessing you mean SUNY at Albany because they have an entire division for nanotechnology. I've never visited, but thought about it. From their site you can see how big the place really is, and I've heard it's one of the best schools to learn anything about nanotechnology from in the country. As for the physics taken in engineering, sam1's advice sounds solid.
  17. Aug 1, 2007 #16
    TheRyan: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. I learned about it from a guy sitting next to me on a plane ride who was studying there at the time, he had nothing but praise for the entire thing.

    I just found out that my local University (McGill) offers a pure physics minor with their honours electrical engineering program. If I'm not mistaken, an engineering physics, or engineering science program concentrates a lot more on both physics and chemistry, right? So if I were interested in only the physics aspect, something like a physics minor would be perfect.

    The biggest advantage to going to McGill over the others is that it would only be a 3 year program versus 4 years (or even 5 for Waterloo).

    Do most universities offer physics minors?
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2007
  18. Aug 1, 2007 #17
    I just finished the Engineering Physics program at Queen's (Kingston, ON) and it sounds like it'd be perfect for you. We took all the courses that the pure-physics students took, save a couple of astrophysics lectures. The engineering program lets you take as many electives as you want, so many of my classmates took Quantum Physics II, General Relativity, etc. as electives. (Special Relativity and Quantum Physics I were required for Eng Phys students.) The engineering physics students also choose a "specialization" for the engineering part of the course (you get to choose from Mechanical, Computing, Materials, or Electrical) and then you take a bunch of courses with the engineering students from that field.

    It gives you a lot of options when you're done -- you have enough physics to go onto a physics Ph.D. (1 person from my class of 34 is going to MIT for physics this fall, 1 to U. Wisconsin for nuclear fusion, and several are going to Canadian grad schools for physics) as well as getting a job as a mechanical engineer.

    The only downside is that it's about 50% higher courseload than a pure physics degree. But you cope!

    If you want more info, reply here / send a private message (not sure if these forums have this feature?) and I can tell you more.
  19. Aug 1, 2007 #18
    At my school (UT-Brownsville) they offer an Engineering Physics program. You take basic engineering courses like: statics, dynamics, thermodynamics, linear circuits, etc. As well as Physics courses (modern physics, electromagnetic theory, math methods for engineers). Also, there are four concentrations, you can choose from mechanical, electrical, computer and bioengineering. After you complete the program you might be ready for grad school.
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