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How do I know my Passion!

  1. Apr 28, 2012 #1
    I am a first year uni student and am undecided about my major.
    Basically, I have an interest in all sciences, from biology to physics, and I want to find my real passion.
    I have an appreciation for math because I understand that it is the "ultimate science" and it explains and proves even physical phenomena, so math does not scare me from any field. Boring work DOES scare me. Rote memorization DOES scare me.
    What I like about chemistry and physics is that the work is a process that requires real critical thought.

    I am struggling to choose between
    1. Chemistry, because the concepts and reactions are interesting to apply to life BUT I don't want to work in a lab.
    2. Mechanical engineering, but I have never the been "hands-on" type, but still curious about science.
    3. Environmental engineering, because I love the environment, but my school isn't ABET accredited. This is why I would go into Mechanical or maybe Chemical Engineering.
    4. Physics, but modern physics seems to be a lot of not-quite-tangible concepts and pure mathematics.

    So do all engineers have to be the "hands-on" and "lovy dovy with math" types?
    How do I find my "passion"?
    And to the chemists, physicists and all types of engineers, HOW did you know what field to go into?
    Would you describe your interests as PASSION or just great interest?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 28, 2012 #2
    What do you mean? Science degrees have a tendency to land you in a lab of one form or another. Sure there is field work and the theoriticians probably spend more time at a desk but some more information would be helpful here.

    Engineers are not necessarily hands on. In fact, there is often a disparity between what an engineer wants and what the machinists, builders, etc. can actually do which often leads to drama.

    As far as physics goes you sound like you're focusing on theoretical physics as apposed to applied or experimental physics. There are many things you can do with physics besides explore new physics. You can explore new applications of existing physics, test the new theories, apply what you've learned in the maths required for physics to model other phenomenon, etc.
  4. Apr 30, 2012 #3
    I don't want to work in a lab because I don't want to get stuck doing tedious work and calculations over and over again just to yield a result for someone else's experiments.

    I would rather work with my hands/on a project with a process to it.
    So I don't have to be the "hands-on" type to be a mechanical engineer?
    I don't know much about tools, machines etc.

    As for physics, I meant to say that modern physics seems to be about nanoscale phenomena and waves and light. These are not physically visible and easily manipulable concepts.
    I feel that as a mechanical engineer, most of what I would be doing is working with machines and devices, or systems calculating torques and heat transfers and INTUITIVE concepts.
    Is my point clear?
  5. Apr 30, 2012 #4
    nanoscale physics is visible. you just need a bit of help in seeing it: nuclear magnetic resonance, atomic force microscopes, scanning electron microscopes, laser spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction.

    now what you really can't see is the fluid mechanics and aerodynamics other than a false color animation in a computer simulation.

    your habits may vary but i found engineering to be far more abstract than physics.
  6. Apr 30, 2012 #5
    More or less yes but assuming that:

    I can strongly advice you: don't go into science.

    Science is interesting, knowing how the world works is very interesting but working in science is boring. Very boring. Working in science means doing a lot of grunt, mundane, tedious work. What you really do is numbers crunching, calculations, programming and/or hands-on stuff over and over again. It doesn't matter if u go physics or engineering. It's more or less the same.

    That was the reason I have left physics after obtaing B.Sc degree. Well it was exactly when I realized that writing stuff for grants and fighting for grants money was the funniest thing in science for me (it was boring for me anyway but still more fun than doing "real" science).

    So if you don't like tedious work and you don't like "hands-on" stuff you could go into sales/technical support after obtaining B.Sc. but then it's not "the work is a process that requires real critical thought".

    However there are TONS of jobs that require critical thinking and yet aren't related do science so you aren't doomed.
  7. Apr 30, 2012 #6
    There are mechanical engineers who have never set foot onto an operational facility, or into the machine shop, or factory line.

    There are also mechanical engineers who work exclusively on job sites or on plant floors.

    "Hands-on" for a mechanical engineer (for the most part) just means you get out and supervise. They don't pay you to turn wrenches or weld. Those jobs are done by unions or certified professional workers. A hands-on engineer will supervise, audit, ensure safe/proper procedures are being followed, and make technical decisions when things don't go as planned.

    Some engineers get dirty, some wear suits. You'll never be expected to disassemble a small block chevy motor with hand tools, if that's what you're worried about.
  8. Apr 30, 2012 #7
    If you don't like repetitive tasks then I second that you should NOT go into sciences. As far as other fields I don't know enough to give you more advice but the above. Good luck!
  9. May 4, 2012 #8
    Do what I did. Read, read, read. Read everything about all the majors. Keep watching documentaries about all the various fields-- but keep in the back of your head that there will be a lot of hard work along the way.

    Then, start studying and carefully assess your interest. For example, don't simply say that you don't like the whole field because you can't solve a couple of problems. It takes some time getting used to. You need to keep in mind that your interested is correlated to what is too easy, challenging enough, or too challenging. Either end of the spectrum will make you dislike the subject.
  10. May 4, 2012 #9


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    Just one thing to add.

    If you want to work on varied work with some kind of responsibility, you will need to probably do some grunt work and get to a standard where a senior person thinks you can handle the responsibility and the tasks.

    Consultants can work on a range of different tasks but it's a different kind of job to be a consultant or a contractor and you need a different mindset to just being a normal employee. You will also need to have proved yourself in the field to keep getting work, and there won't necessarily be any guarantee that you will but if you are good and deliver in the right industry, I can't imagine why you won't succeed.
  11. May 4, 2012 #10
    IMO, a passion is something that energizes you. What is it that makes you excited? For instance, when you are about to go on vacation, are about to play a new video game (if you're a gamer), or are about to spend time with good friends, you probably notice that your energy level instantly go up. That's a good litmus test of how you find your passion.

    When I sit down at my desk and know that I have to solve a problem by working with numbers and physics, I'm energized. I'm eager to do anything to complete the task. On the other hand, when I sit down and I know I have to read a passage about the history of impressionism and then write about the passage, I'm about ready to jump out the window.

    You said you aren't scared of math. Do you love math? Does it excite you? How about coding? Are you fond of coding to solve problems? These are the fundamental questions you have to ask. Think of all the grade-school subjects and consider your excitement for each of the courses: English, History, Biology, Physics, Math, Art, Physical Education, Chemistry, etc.

    To whittle down things a bit farther, look at the big picture. What "big picture" projects mean the most to you? Battling cancer? Advancing battery technology? Advancing solar energy? Or perhaps working in the less-applied, more theoretical realm? Obviously, physics is highly instrumental in all three of the applied examples I gave.

    Let me just say this. Make sure you work in an area that energizes you. Make sure that you can feel proud of the work that you do at the end of the day. I realize that this post is more general, but you sound like you're still rather early on in your career, so it's good to think in more general terms. Don't restrict yourself.

    If you want to think outside of the realm of passion, I suggest considering areas that will present you with job opportunities. You don't have a single passion. You have several passions. Don't choose a passion that will make more difficult on you than it has to be. If that means choosing Nuclear Engineering instead of Nuclear Physics or Chemical Engineering instead of Chemistry, so be it. Remember that outside of work, you can always work on any of your other passions as hobbies.
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