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How much physics does engineering involve?

  1. Apr 30, 2007 #1
    I just completed high school and right now I'm taking entrance exams for engineering courses. Due to a combination of bad teachers and my own laziness I seem to have developed a block for physics. I manage good grades but I don't enjoy studying physics. I had a great physics teacher for about 2 months in between and I really enjoyed studying the subject then. I'm good at math and enjoy solving problems and I manage to do well in chemistry without putting in much work.
    How much physics does any engineering course involve?
    Is it possible to avoid the subject?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2007 #2
    I can't even imagine an engineering field where you would ignore physics!
    Even Chem. engineers have a decent background in physics. You will definalty can't avoid it.
    Its alright, a high school course in physics is nothing compared to that of college. I know people that hated physics in high school but love it in college. So don't make a final decision on the subject yet until you have taken it at college!
  4. May 1, 2007 #3


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    Science Advisor

    Physics dictates what we do and what we can't. Plain and simple. Granted, most of us are not going around talking about relativistic effects or quantum theory, but none the less, physics is the foundation.

    If you don't like physics, what draws you to engineering?
  5. May 1, 2007 #4
    It's not that I dislike physics but I don't think that I'm brilliant at either.
  6. May 1, 2007 #5
    I use to be a Computer Engineering major, after you take physics: mechanics, E&M, and lastly Quantum Waves & partiicals, I used absolutely 0 of it in any of my core courses.

    But you still have to take those courses.
  7. May 1, 2007 #6
    I've been thinking about FredGarvin's question.
    I think one of the major reasons that make me uncomfortable about physics is that I understood some of the concepts once a good teacher explained them to me, but I couldn't understand them myself when I did studied out of a book the night before the class.
    That makes my understanding of a concept heavily dependent on the teacher.
    Last edited: May 1, 2007
  8. May 1, 2007 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    I think it's too early in your studies for you to say that you don't like Physics. I wasn't very good at math until I got to undergrad and started really studying hard. Give it a chance, and go in with a positive attitude and an open mind.
  9. May 1, 2007 #8
    I trying to give it another chance. This is my SOS. Family and friends have been passing depresing verdicts, so I thought maybe a few people here would make me feel better about the whole thing.
  10. May 1, 2007 #9


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    Staff: Mentor

    Well, I suppose you could pursue ChemE. That's probably the engineering specialty that least involves Physics.
  11. May 1, 2007 #10
    From what I've read in the 1st year everyone has to study all the subjects, do they start at the basics or pick up from after grade 12 level?
  12. May 1, 2007 #11
    1st year engineering majors take similar courses. For instance, all engineers had to take chem 12, Physics 211, calc 1.

    I had basic algebra based physics in high school and did just as well as the kids who took AP Physics (our school didn't offer any AP courses at the time).
  13. May 1, 2007 #12


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    In my experience it does not matter what engineering you end up in (assuming it a BS), you will probably take the core scence courses as a freshman including mechanics and electricity & mag.
    Of course my experience includes one school.
    Calc and physics are the basis for most engineering courses you would take after (even chemE I think).
  14. May 1, 2007 #13
    I disliked physics until it was taught with solid math. I really disliked the plug and chug physics courses. For me, I have really never liked physics when taught by the physics professors at my school. I have loved physics, when it has been taught by the engineering professors however.

    Also, what helped me through introductory physics were the opencourseware lectures by Walter Lewin.
  15. May 1, 2007 #14
    If you don't have the mental ability to handle physics I wouldn't recommend being an engineer. I guess I shouldn't use "mental ability" but if you have no drive to really sit down and study hard then you won't get far in engineering. I don't think I have the mental ability to do what I've done but I still did it.

    Some people have to work very little and get awesome grades, others have to work 3x as hard to just get close to them but it just depends how much drive you have to succeed. If you have a dream and you want it enough you'll do it.

    What got you interested in engineering? Do you know what type of engineer you want to be? If so, why?

    Usually people who are good at math/physics in high school but not sure what they want to do go into the engineering field and figure it out from there. Not saying everyone is like this but if you want to be an engineer for the $$$ I recommend becoming a lawyer or doctor it will be easier.
    Last edited: May 1, 2007
  16. May 1, 2007 #15
    Speak for yourself! :biggrin:

    Seriously, the amount of physics in engineering varies drastically between fields. As someone in device electronics, I will use a lot of solid state physics and QM. Someone else doing signal processing will use no physics at all, and might actually be closer to a mathematician. What's more is that all of these are in the electrical engineering department! The good thing about this is that you can do as little or as much physics as you desire.
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