General Engineering/Chemistry/Biosciences/Physics - what to choose?

In summary: I'd like to study something else (maybe biomedical engineering?).In summary, the student is undecided about which course to choose at the University of Sheffield. All of the FY courses include modules in maths, physics, and chemistry, but the physics one has an additional module in maths while the chemistry one includes an additional module in chemistry. The student studied some physics and maths at high school and liked it, but found the subject matter to be less abstract than chemistry and biology. The student has been studying biology from Campbell's textbook and finds it to be interesting. The student is undecided about what to do after the FY in biology and would like to study biochemistry, biochemistry after the chemistry FY, or something else
  • #1
hellow0rld
2
0
Hey,

I have some trouble deciding between 4 courses at the University of Sheffield (I am applying late, but there are still vacancies on all of these courses and as far as I know I can get a place at anyone of them). All of these courses are Foundation Year (FY) courses (they include an additional year for students with wrong subjects taken in high school or grades not high enough for direct entry): General Engineering, Chemistry, Biosciences, and Physics. Unfortunately, unlike in the US, in the UK the subject of study has to be declared at the point of entry, not during the studies and I'm quite undecided, as I am interested in all of these subjects. Right now I'm holding an offer for the General Enginnering with a FY course, but I should be able to change it to a different course if I act soon enough.

Both FYs in physics and chemistry include modules in maths, physics, and chemistry, however the physics one has an additional module in maths, while the chemistry one includes an additional module in chemistry. The FY in biology consists of modules in biology, chemistry, and scientific writing, while the FY in general engineering consists of the same modules as the physics one, but with a module in engineering instead of the one in chemistry.

I actually studied some physics and maths at high school and quite liked it. I like how physics strives to answer the most fundamental questions about the nature of the universe and I find mathematics quite elegant and I often like solving maths and physics problems (although I don't like 'pure' maths as much, I prefer using maths in physics problems). However, it also often feels very abstract compared to chemistry and especially biology, it seems like there's less of lab work (which I quite enjoy) in physics than in biology or chemistry. Last year, I actually started a Foundation Year in Physics at the University of Sheffield, but dropped out quick due to COVID-19 and my uncertainty about the subject choice. I liked the lectures and other coursework, but I kept thinking that I'd also like to learn biology or more chemistry. Perhaps that was a mistake and I should've stayed, but who knows...

During this gap year, I've been studying biolgy from Campbell's textbook. I quite enjoy it so far. The subject matter has turned out to be pretty interesting to me and this book shows really well just how much research is ongoing currently in biology, which is a draw for me - it just shows "Here's what you could be exploring if you become a biologist". It also feels less abstract than physics, but also less universal.

I probably have the least experience with chemistry and engineering:

For me, the main appeal of chemistry is that it's the 'central science', not as specific as biology, but not as abstract as physics. However, sometimes I found the chemical nomenclature quite confusing, for example when it comes to the distinction between the atomic mass and the relative atomic mass and the standard atomic weight... Also, it seems like there's more research going on in biology (including biochemistry) and physics than in chemistry... But maybe (probably?) that's just because I know more about biology and physics than about chemistry.

Engineering seems less research intensive and more industry-oriented than the other degrees, which makes it safer, but it slightly less interesting for me - but maybe that's because I don't know much about it and engineers are also required for many research projects (e.g. CERN employs 10 times more engineers than research physicsts). Problem solving and creating new things seems very fun - I'd like to work on cutting-edge technology. I'd probably like to stick to academia more than to industry, but I don't know how likely is that as an engineer. Out of these 4 degrees, the career prospects seem to be the best with General Engineering - high chance to find a job related to the degree and high salaries as well. I know that it shouldn't be the primary focus when choosing a subject, but it's hard to ignore.

As for the courses I'd like to take after the foundation year: after physics, chemistry, or biosciences, I could try to apply to Durham University for their Natural Science course, which seems amazing, as I could study physics, chemistry, and biology at once, at least for the fist few semesters. For this purpose the chemistry FY seems to be the best one and the biology FY the worst one (as it doesn't include maths). If that doesn't work out: after the biology FY I'd like to study biochemistry, after the chemistry FY I'd also like to study biochem, but I don't know if progressing to a biochemistry degree after that foundation year is possible - maybe it's only possible to go on to study a chemistry degree, but then I could specialize in organic chemistry. After the physics FY I would study a physics degree, maybe with medicinal physics, or philosophy. After the general engineering FY I couldn't really apply for NatSci at Durham and I would just go on to study general engineering.

The bottom line is that if I want to play it safe (but slightly boring I guess) I can choose General Engineering, Chemistry seems to be the middle ground between Biology and Physics and would give me the best chance to apply for the Natural Science degree at Durham University (which would probably be the optimal outcome). Physics and biology both interest me quite a lot.

Anyway, that's a long post, thanks for reading and all the help.
 
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  • #2
hellow0rld said:
I have some trouble deciding between 4 courses at the University of Sheffield
hellow0rld said:
All of these courses are Foundation Year (FY) courses (they include an additional year for students with wrong subjects taken in high school or grades not high enough for direct entry): General Engineering, Chemistry, Biosciences, and Physics. Unfortunately, unlike in the US, in the UK the subject of study has to be declared at the point of entry, not during the studies and I'm quite undecided, as I am interested in all of these subjects.
That's unfortunate, IMO. I don't know the current status in the US, but it helped me a lot to not have to declare my major until the end of my 2nd year, since I switched then based on which courses I liked the most.
hellow0rld said:
During this gap year, I've been studying biolgy from Campbell's textbook. I quite enjoy it so far. The subject matter has turned out to be pretty interesting to me and this book shows really well just how much research is ongoing currently in biology, which is a draw for me - it just shows "Here's what you could be exploring if you become a biologist". It also feels less abstract than physics, but also less universal.

I probably have the least experience with chemistry and engineering:
That's a good thing that you've found that you like Biology.
hellow0rld said:
As for the courses I'd like to take after the foundation year: after physics, chemistry, or biosciences, I could try to apply to Durham University for their Natural Science course, which seems amazing, as I could study physics, chemistry, and biology at once, at least for the fist few semesters.
There are some amazing things happening in Biology and related fields right now. IMO, and that sounds like it is a better match for your interests right now versus generic Engineering or Physics studies/degrees.

What kinds of jobs do you picture yourself in after graduating with a BS in Biology (or a more advance degree in Biology)?
 
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  • #3
berkeman said:
What kinds of jobs do you picture yourself in after graduating with a BS in Biology (or a more advance degree in Biology)?
Thanks for the reply. After undergrad, I'd like to get a PhD and work in academia, doing research and teaching. However, I've heard that academic job market is incredibly competitive and positions are very hard to land, so it's essential to have a backup plan that doesn't involve academia. For biochemistry/biology that could be pharmaceutical research or teaching in high school I guess? I think that the biggest upside of an engineering degree would be that I would still be able to pursue an academic career, but if that fails, I would have plenty of options outside of academia. I think physics interests me more than engineering (though it's hard to say, as I don't quite know what engineering is like) and it would still provide me with plenty of good backup plans outside of academia, but not as many as engineering (and probably slightly less paid as well).
 

Related to General Engineering/Chemistry/Biosciences/Physics - what to choose?

1. What is the difference between engineering, chemistry, biosciences, and physics?

Engineering is the application of scientific and mathematical principles to design, build, and maintain structures, machines, devices, systems, and processes. Chemistry is the study of matter, its properties, and how it interacts and changes. Biosciences encompass the study of living organisms and their interactions with the environment. Physics is the study of matter, energy, and the fundamental laws of the universe.

2. Which field has the most job opportunities?

This can vary depending on location and current market demand, but generally engineering has the most job opportunities due to its wide range of applications in various industries such as construction, manufacturing, and technology.

3. What skills are necessary for a career in these fields?

Strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills are essential for all of these fields. In engineering, technical skills such as computer-aided design (CAD) and project management are also important. Chemistry requires strong analytical and laboratory skills, while biosciences require knowledge of biology and research techniques. Physics relies heavily on mathematical and computational skills.

4. Which field has the highest earning potential?

Again, this can vary depending on location and industry, but in general, engineering and physics have higher earning potential compared to chemistry and biosciences. This is due to the demand for highly skilled professionals in these fields and their applications in industries such as aerospace, energy, and technology.

5. Can I switch between these fields if I change my mind?

While it is possible to switch between these fields, it may require additional education or training depending on the specific career path. For example, switching from engineering to chemistry may require further coursework in chemistry or obtaining a degree in chemistry. However, there is often overlap between these fields, so it is possible to transition with some additional effort and dedication.

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