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Graduate School Advice

  1. Apr 5, 2015 #1
    I am afraid I made the wrong major choice. Currently I will be entering my senior year of a Civil Engineering b.s. with a concentration in structural engineering.
    And now that my program is coming to an end, I realized its not what I thought it is. Its too much picking through laws and regulations, of math some other person somewhere computed, then made a design manual about it. I feel like Civil is all picking through design manuals.
    I like math. My most interesting classes so far are physics classes, and Differential Equations. So, because of this, I have last minute decided to pick up a physics minor and kill myself my last semester with completing my engineering degree, and a new added physics minor (19 credits both semesters).
    So my main question is to people living outside of colleges with physics degrees (or any other degree that is math related without being what I described about civil) in the working real world. Is it fulfilling? do you sit around a chalk board and "dream" about ways to improve things/new theories/see mathematical beauty every day? Or is this something of the past, and I should accept structural engineering, and pick standards from a design manual and then enter them into a computer program for the rest of my life?
    I have tried to explain my interests, and based on these, can anyone recommend fields to pursue? Physics? another form of engineering? Also, with a physics minor be enough (with an good application) to get me into another grad program besides structural engineering?

    P.S. has anyone been able to excel in their field, maintain physically fit, cook proper meals, appease a girlfriend, all while maintaining sanity? because ive only noticed my physical fitness steadily decrease since sophomore year hahahaha
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Many fields are nothing like what you think they will be. Industry and government are not academia. In general, you won't be coming up with new stuff but will use tried and true methods in accomplishing your tasks. Having said that your job is what you make it. I try to learn new things all the time while doing my programming job. With structural engineering, I imagine you'd also be using the computer running simulations of building structures to see how they may fail or reading blueprints looking for violations of building codes...
    It can be quite rewarding once you understand it and get into the work. I also imagine there are professional societies where you can present papers on your ideas and eventually land a job doing exactly what you want.
  4. Apr 6, 2015 #3


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    Gold Member

    Civil engineering is farther away from physics than either Mech or elect engineering, so it will be tough to use physics on any measurable scale. You might concentrate on building structural materials science. That could help you work towards using your structural background to work towards materials science. Just a thought.
  5. Apr 6, 2015 #4
    A professor in neuroscience I was talking to at a graduate school I am interested in is a civil engineer. That's right: he works in neuroscience with a background in civil engineering! How, you ask? He is an expert in signal processing, and transferred his signal processing skills and mathematical modeling/algorithm development skills to problems involving chaotic neural signals.

    I was reading about random field theory today, and found that the subject, which is related to statistical mechanics and field theory, is used, among other things, to study the stability and/or composition of geological/man made structures. So if you target properly, you can be a mathematician/physicist either working on civil engineering problems or if you are quite brilliant and careful, working on problems in other fields. This may not be easy, but you might be able to find a civil engineering advisor for a PhD who does what you enjoy.
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