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Engineering + Zoology?

  1. May 2, 2008 #1
    While I've long dismissed my interest in zoology as something I can pursue as a hobby, I'm wondering if it is possible to combine my interests? I've always been fascinated by animals and the way they move/fly. A teacher actually suggested that I read Principles of Animal Locomotion by R.M Alexander... which I found to be very interesting. After reading it, I am wondering if there is a field or niche or something out there that I can combine my interest for building/designing/optimizing and my interest in studying animals.

    I'm still in high school right now, so I have a lot of choices still. But for the next year at least, I will be enrolled for general first year engineering at a local university. I've thought about taking the dual degree with medical biophysics since they do offer some courses in the biomechanics of human/animal movement.

    Does this field/area of research exist? What kind of degree should I be getting to pursue this field other than zoology? Do they even need engineers in this field?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2008 #2
    There is a lot of interesting research in this area! I myself wrote my senior thesis on something related.

    The main questions aren't in how animal bodies are set up with respect to aerodynamics etc. We already know that. What is unknown is how animals control their bodies. Particularly we are interested in how the brain controls the human body for obvious reasons but a lot of other animals are talked about in the literature as well.

    What kind of engineering are you interested in? People with a background in robotics are particularly useful in this area. Someone with a background in both zoology and robotics would probably have a lot to contribute.

    Try taking courses in both areas early on, you'll come to see what you like best / are good at as you go. Good luck!
  4. May 2, 2008 #3
    Would a background in mechanical engineering be useful as well? I'm planning to go into mechanical...

    Unfortunately, I just found out that the university just recently decided to cancel their zoology program due to low enrollment rates. Would medical biophysics do? They have several courses related to animal and human movements. Or would it be better to pursue a biology degree?
  5. May 2, 2008 #4
    The name of the degree does not matter only the classes you take matters.

    I know several people with a background in mechanical engineering now doing research on biomechanics. They do some interesting stuff as well...
  6. May 2, 2008 #5
  7. May 2, 2008 #6


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    As Cincinnatus pointed out, there are engineers who study movement of organisms to better design machines to mimic them (robots, aircraft wings, etc). One could also apply such study to designing better prosthetic devices as well...those are continually improving to better mimic the movements of real limbs, or to serve specialized functions (i.e., those worn by runners to add more "spring" to their step).

    And, at worst, you learn some fun stuff about zoology and never use it again as you decide to pursue another area of engineering. I don't see much of a way you can lose here, so why not go for it?
  8. May 3, 2008 #7
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  9. May 3, 2008 #8
    That's exactly the kind of stuff I want to go into. I'm assuming it's all grad work/research type stuff?

    I don't want to get an extra degree unless it's really worth it as I will be relying on loans and a small scholarship to pay for my education. I'm in that god awful bracket where I don't qualify for a provincial student loans but not rich enough for the cost of tuition/living/etc to be a non-issue for the family.

    Thanks for the suggestion! Will definitely look into that after my exams!
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
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