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Engineering I have been thinking about a physics or engineering career

  1. Aug 16, 2008 #1
    .but there is a problem!!

    I'll start with Engineering, I would probably chose aerospace or electrical engineering(concentration on robotics/AI)...Maybe robotic spacecraft. Engineering seems too applied for me. I like to be on the absolute cutting edge, and I am afraid if I go into Engineering, I will be working with older technologies and won't be able to make the best thing possible. I am also afraid research would be limited in Engineering.

    So look for a more theoretical study such as Physics,especially Astrophysics or High Energy Physics.I like a lot of things about physics, cutting edge, teamwork yet independent,I like research alot. But I don't like one thing. As much as I love research and such,not applying something new would frustrate me.

    For example say I am in aerospace engineer and we are building a new satellite or probe.I would feel incomplete just to leave it after it launch, I would like to "control" it and analyze the data as well.

    So basically I am looking for a mix between theoretical and applied sciences.
    is there such a thing?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2008 #2
    Engineering research doesn't rely on some sort of translational work from theoretical physics, my friend. Look at the research going on at CalTech, MIT, UC Berkeley, or U Penn, for instance. Engineering is a means of attacking a problem. If you want to be on the cutting edge, what do you think you will be doing as a researcher? Theoretical physicists are not designing computer chips and what not. Also, since you're interested in AI, I suggest you check out Computational Neuroscience and Neuroscience in general, along with Engineering and Physics.
  4. Aug 16, 2008 #3
    I understand there is such "cutting edge" engineering, though I doubt it is "typical"
    I didn't mean Physicists are designing things, I mean they are constant working on new things or in the lab.
  5. Aug 16, 2008 #4
    What do you think research is? Working on non-novel things which have been discovered? That wouldn't be research. Engineering is the mix between theory and application, I would say, that you desire.

    I suggest you start looking at what faculty members are doing in the big tech schools before making judgments. Here are some links you might enjoy (I'm more into Biochemistry/BioEng at this point of my life, so obviously this sort of colors what I'll suggest).


    You don't have to be a particle physicist to find something new.

    My advice, look at more researchers and what they're doing. It sounds like you don't have an accurate view of science at the moment, which is fairly normal, considering you are probably someone very early in their academic career. Research is very different than what the mainstream image of it is. You pursue a small question in your field with significances that are actualized at the end of a many year project. If your research has significance, it will only be realized by a small number of people.

    Research is a lifestyle, beyond just a job, especially in academia.
  6. Aug 16, 2008 #5
    In Physics I meant I like the pure and theoretical sciences as well.
    A balance between pure and apllied science might be a better example

    I have an ideal job in mind,...but you guys would laugh...
  7. Aug 16, 2008 #6
    Which is?
  8. Aug 16, 2008 #7
  9. Aug 16, 2008 #8
    My top choice would be JPL. It is NASA with a nice location.

    I wouldn't mind working at a government or national lab, a top research university or a large company.
  10. Aug 16, 2008 #9
    Just keep in mind you'll probably need a Ph.D. for that sort of thing (correct me if I'm wrong, I know more about Biology). At any rate, it's going to be a lot of hard work. If you don't like the research you'll be doing along the way, you probably won't like what you're getting into, to be brutally honest. Science is really different that the picture one normally has. My suggestion is to get a well balanced undergraduate education and try to play around with research while you're there. You shouldn't be planning for future career out before you have even entered an undergrad program, despite how dispassionate that may sound. Focus your passion onto learning, both the subject matter and the research methodology of fields you're interested in.

    If you want to do something as competitive as what you mentioned, however, I suggest you start early out in research in school. You just don't magically start researching after getting a Ph.D., you do research to get the Ph.D. to begin with, and you should research as an undergrad.
  11. Aug 16, 2008 #10
    Physics and engineering are simply different groups of subjects. Make your choice based on which you are more interested. With an advanced degree you can be as applied or theoretical as you like in either field.
  12. Aug 17, 2008 #11
    is that possible for starting with BSc in Physics then Master in engineering?
  13. Aug 17, 2008 #12
    OK, I know what you're saying. Engineering seems too practical and yet physics seems too theoretical. Well, it's not that clear cut. For example, I've been an aerospace engineering student for the past few years. Actually, most of what we learned could probably be categorized as "applied Newtonian mechanics". It could also probably be characterized as "mechanics" or "applied math methods". We also take many courses in basic science, like thermodynamics, physics, materials, and so on. Although I study "aerospace engineering", I actually get a lot of physics, maybe even more than a "physics" major gets, at least in some particular areas.

    I think you should just go for either one, you'll probably be great. Just try to narrow down your interests as you progress further. You can usually go to graduate school for a different subject than undergraduate, so if you really get interested in something else, you can always take that into account later on. There's no easy distinction to your question. You just have to figure it out for yourself.
  14. Aug 17, 2008 #13
    I guess you guys are right...I was expecting a easy answer and there isn't one.
    Like you say grad school lets you flip a bit. Like Physics to Engineering is done a lot. And I am sure something like Aerospace Engineering to Astrophysics is doable.
  15. Aug 17, 2008 #14
    Hehe, glad to see i am not the only one.

    I have been checking up the regulations for the master-admission of certain programmes (engineering).

    Definitely, as a bachelor in physics you can at most get admission in a biomedical engineering programme.
  16. Aug 17, 2008 #15
    Aerospace engineering is basically mechanical engineering applied to aeronautical and astronautical craft. Astrophysics is the study of the physics of celestial objects. They have almost nothing to do with each other. Moving from AE to astro would be much more of a jump than moving from a BS in physics to an MS in EE.
  17. Aug 18, 2008 #16
    You guys may laugh, Could this be done?

    B.S. in Physics, and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering and Ph.D in Astrophysics?
  18. Aug 18, 2008 #17

    Astrophysics has nothing to do with Aerospace Engineering. Considering the way Ph.D. programs are structured, they build upon the master's courses. You'd be sitting in a Ph.D program graduating at the same time as would a BS student.

    At any rate, you should probably look at the job viability for Astrophysics. That makes the majority of people just pale out and drop the subject.
  19. Aug 18, 2008 #18

    Vanadium 50

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    Yes, but it will take you as long as it would take you to get a PhD in Astrophysics and a MSAE sequentially. And while you are taking an extra 3 or 4 years to collect degrees, the other people in your cohort are out gaining experience.
  20. Aug 19, 2008 #19
    Would a Physics/Math double major be possible?
    That way if if worst comes to worst and grad school doesn't happen, I can fall back on the math degree for a job in finance and business.

    I just want a "safety" net especially for physics because a BS in Physics get you...a job at McDonald's.
  21. Aug 19, 2008 #20
    Yep, Physics/Math is common from what I hear.

    Look into Solid State Physics, definitely, since you're looking at future prospects. They actually get jobs from what I hear!
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