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I Kind of Hate Engineering

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Do you regret your move?
I don't know. It was working out very well until I got to grad school, and then things went downhill. I sometimes wish I could quit the PhD, but I'm annoyingly close to finishing the stupid thing. May as well sprint to the finish line and quit running when the race is over, rather than in the middle of it.

I just want to keep it as a hobby where it can be safe from corruption and outside pressure.

I might be able to succeed in academia if I could be more specialized, but I took all these general classes, so I saw all this broken math that needs to be fixed. I can't forget about it and just focus on one narrow area. Most of the other guys just move on when they see these things because they know if they spend too much time on them, they won't be able to publish "new results" and their careers will suffer. I can't do that. First, I have to clean everything up that came before, otherwise, I don't see a point to researching something new. The math we have is a mess and no one cares because you can only get funding if you publish new results. The few people who do write textbooks are often conformists who just copy the same unenlightening stuff that they've been taught, perpetuating the problem.
 
Are there any research opportunities at your school?
 

MathematicalPhysicist

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I don't know. It was working out very well until I got to grad school, and then things went downhill. I sometimes wish I could quit the PhD, but I'm annoyingly close to finishing the stupid thing. May as well sprint to the finish line and quit running when the race is over, rather than in the middle of it.

I just want to keep it as a hobby where it can be safe from corruption and outside pressure.

I might be able to succeed in academia if I could be more specialized, but I took all these general classes, so I saw all this broken math that needs to be fixed. I can't forget about it and just focus on one narrow area. Most of the other guys just move on when they see these things because they know if they spend too much time on them, they won't be able to publish "new results" and their careers will suffer. I can't do that. First, I have to clean everything up that came before, otherwise, I don't see a point to researching something new. The math we have is a mess and no one cares because you can only get funding if you publish new results. The few people who do write textbooks are often conformists who just copy the same unenlightening stuff that they've been taught, perpetuating the problem.
I understand your problem, but I guess that this is with any technical occupation, you need to take some stuff on faith, though sometime a good skepticism about your subject is in place.

I mean the sheer volume of knowledge of math and sciences is huge!!!
and still we don't know everything (a never ending Tom and Jerry catchup).

Yes it looks chaotic, and you don't seem to see any cetral theme that binds the math you learn. Some of this mess you're talking about is coming from the fact that there are cross fertilization between different branches of mathematics, so a good research mathematician should know quite a lot about different branches in mathematics.

Nobody said maths is easy (it's easy when you understand it, but not when the text or lecturer is hardly understood).
 
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I understand your problem, but I guess that this is with any technical occupation, you need to take some stuff on faith, though sometime a good skepticism about your subject is in place.
The stuff I am talking about goes further than that. It really is an unnecessary impediment. Someone could have just told me, and I could have avoided mountains of work discovering it on my own. What's worse is that this kind of stuff that people don't want to talk about--the motivation, the intuition is the whole reason I came to math in the first place. If I have to skip the parts that I like to get ahead, then to hell with it. Not to mention, it's the wrong way to do it, anyway. I don't want to give the impression that ALL math is being done this way. But enough of it is being done this way to be a major thorn in my side.

Baez made some comment on his website that there must be hundreds of mathematicians walking around thinking that operads are very hard to understand. He circumvents the problem by drawing a few pictures. Sometimes, that's all it is.
 

StatGuy2000

Education Advisor
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No--I'm thinking of switching out because the WAY other EIT's are trying to learn is the WAY we ARE being taught. Teachers and TA's alike have no respect for the foundation of the very material they teach--at least in my experience.

I'm in Canada and cannot relocate for I have a wife, a part-time job and a family; I go to one of the only 2 English universities in in my area--I don't have much of a choice.
Just out of curiosity, I take it you must be a student from Quebec, and probably a student at either McGill or Concordia (based on the description you gave about being in the only 2 English universities in your area). Am I correct about this?

Anyways, back to the original point you raised. I suspect that the reason that teachers and TA's have no respect for the material they teach is that more than likely they hate teaching -- the professors were hired for their research acumen and teaching is a requirement for continuing to be employed, at least until they are tenured. As for TA's, they are graduate students who are required to teach as a condition of receiving funding. Therefore, there is no passion to teach (and I suspect that some of the TA's may not have a solid enough understanding of the material they teach to give you an explanation of the why's of how things work, but are too embarrassed to admit this).

Unfortunately, this is a situation that you will encounter in almost any program at any university, at least some of the time. Even in the physics or math departments there will be professors or TA's in those departments who will approach the material in the same way your engineering professors and TA's do.

What you need to do is think for a moment about why you initially chose to study engineering to begin with -- what motivated you, what you initially liked about it, etc. Then determine for yourself whether there is enough in your program that interests you and motivates you that you can continue to stay in the program. If you want to develop a deeper understanding of the program, then you should take the initiative to seek the answers, by researching on your own (if there is an independent study component in your program, take advantage of it) or by constantly asking/seeking advice to different professors, and don't give up asking (this shows you have persistence and passion).

If you decide that somehow your interests are more towards math, then indeed it may be a good decision to switch majors, but the same advice I gave you in the previous paragraph will still apply.

Just my 2 cent's worth.
 
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I might be able to succeed in academia if I could be more specialized, but I took all these general classes, so I saw all this broken math that needs to be fixed. I can't forget about it and just focus on one narrow area. Most of the other guys just move on when they see these things because they know if they spend too much time on them, they won't be able to publish "new results" and their careers will suffer. I can't do that. First, I have to clean everything up that came before, otherwise, I don't see a point to researching something new. The math we have is a mess and no one cares because you can only get funding if you publish new results. The few people who do write textbooks are often conformists who just copy the same unenlightening stuff that they've been taught, perpetuating the problem.
I agree with you 100%. We need revolutionaries writing textbooks. What you want to do is very noble.

We need to value one of the greatest professions of all: The real teacher!


Edit: You are right when you say we spend a lot of time figuring out things that an experient teacher could just tell us. Why no one cares about the truth?
 
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AlephZero

Science Advisor
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the other part is related to the physics work--the math is what I enjoy but when it comes to something like Dynamics or Thermo I feel like jumping out of a window (not that they are hard but I just don't find them all that interesting).

I guess I should have mentioned the aforesaid earlier; I did, however, like Materials Science (but hated Statics, Dynamics, Thermo, Mech. Drawing [this was the worst], Mechanics of Materials).
You say you like math, but you "hate" the most mathematical parts of engineering (Dynamics, Thermo) and you liked Mat Sci (which IMO must be one of the most math-free engineering topics)??

Either you have got a very warped idea of what those subjects were about, or there's something very strange here IMO.

I also went to shadow a couple of engineers and concluded that they use VERY LITTLE of the math that they studied--this is disheartening, to say the least.
You can't draw many conclusions from a sample of size two (not if you plan to be a competent engineer, at least!). In any case, engineering is fundamentally a pragmatic discipline. You don't "use math" because you happen to like math and know know a lot of it. You use it when it helps achieve what you are trying to achieve.

As one of my mentors in industry once said, "If you can see something is no **** good just by looking at it, don't waste your time calculating that it's no **** good to 6 decimal places."
 
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Sorry Aleph but I don't think you read my previous posts--I indicated WHY I hate Dynamics and Thermo etc..., maybe they are--usually--quite mathematical but at my school they are purely PLUG 'n CHUG courses.

I loved ODE, Multivariable Calculus, PDE's and Fourier Analysis (as well as my math modelling course); I would consider those far more MATHEMATICAL in a real sense than thermo--I could be wrong because the thermo I took was--here's a table--here's an equation--plug numbers--solution. If you are claiming that Pure Math classes follow the above mantra than you are correct--maybe I should not even consider the switch.

Liking Materials Science has nothing to do with math--I just found the subject matter interesting because we had labs and were forced to learn the true inner-workings of the subject. Also, I hate chemistry, however, Mat Sci put a nice spin on it.

Maybe Dynamics is mathematical in other schools but we had a 2 page cheat sheet with pretty much every equation and derivation already there. The most mathematical thing about it was finding angles--in my experience, of course.
 
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I don't like the way engineering classes are taught and I've spent a lot of time learning stuff on my own in a deeper light. It's incredibly inefficient to think I'm going to school spending money and time on something that I'm going to end up self learning anyway but oh well. I'm torn between math, physics and EE, but mostly physics and EE. I'm taking some extra physics classes in place of some engineering classes, if your school can let you take some math instead of engineering then I would do that. If you truly hate engineering then of course switch but if you're on the fence I would say stay in engineering and get your fix of the math in a minor or double major if you can.
 
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Perhaps explore other engineering disciplines before making such sweeping judgements ("I Kind of Hate Engineering...").

There are various fields in electrical engineering that you can explore that are very mathematically involved, and theoretical in their own regard, separate from pure math theoretical.

There's signal processing, in which you'll use a lot of material covered in calculus 5 (Fourier analysis, Laplace Transforms, Z-Transforms, Wavelet Transforms, Probability & Statistics).

There's wireless communications, in which calculus 5 material is also a large portion of, with a lot of overlap with signal processing (Information Theory).

There's also control systems. Once you get to the advanced electives, you might be satisfied to find that you won't be seeing numbers anymore, and a lot of proofs, especially at the graduate level.

If you look around in many electrical engineering departments, you'll find some physicists and applied mathematicians as primary faculty, many contributing to signal processing, communications, solid state engineering, so perhaps they have found a place to satisfy their theoretical tastes that you might be interested in?

Of course, it appears as though you're having more issues with the way it's taught at your particular school and not the field in general. If you really do want to delve deeper and have a genuine interest in the theory behind it all, I personally think that in wanting to change majors just so you are more "spoon fed" the structure of theory might be more trouble than exploring the deeper topics yourself; I'll have to agree with the other poster that you're in college now and expected to be more independent, and it should be something you pursue independent of whether or not your classmates and sloppy.

Also, explore thermodynamics some more. I'm sure that if you borrow a chemistry textbook covering thermodynamics from your library, you'll find that it is, indeed as others have mentioned, quite full of math and the theory behind thermodynamics, derived from starting with math and physics. Most chemistry thermodynamics textbooks I have encountered actually review a lot of multivariate calculus in detail, not in the mechanically solving problem sense, before you even start proving all the laws and applying them, as you'll really have to understand your total differentials and the various partial derivative identities, as well as path integrals and other various topics.
 
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Also, if your complaint is that the exams are not rigorous enough, please do get in the habit in your undergraduate years of not preparing only for exams.

If you are truly interested, master the material, at least at that level, outside of exams and the exam material should come naturally.
 
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I loved ODE, Multivariable Calculus, PDE's and Fourier Analysis (as well as my math modelling course); I would consider those far more MATHEMATICAL in a real sense than thermo--I could be wrong because the thermo I took was--here's a table--here's an equation--plug numbers--solution. If you are claiming that Pure Math classes follow the above mantra than you are correct--maybe I should not even consider the switch.
Pure math never follows that mantra. However, I find that it sometimes follows its own pretty bad and similar mantras. Lemma, Theorem, proof...often just the pure logic, not how to get the logic yourself. But without knowing how you would come up with the logic (and definitions!) in the first place, it's useless. For me, this was a nightmarish reincarnation of what I fled from in EE.
 
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There are various fields in electrical engineering that you can explore that are very mathematically involved, and theoretical in their own regard, separate from pure math theoretical.

There's signal processing, in which you'll use a lot of material covered in calculus 5 (Fourier analysis, Laplace Transforms, Z-Transforms, Wavelet Transforms, Probability & Statistics).

There's wireless communications, in which calculus 5 material is also a large portion of, with a lot of overlap with signal processing (Information Theory).

There's also control systems. Once you get to the advanced electives, you might be satisfied to find that you won't be seeing numbers anymore, and a lot of proofs, especially at the graduate level.

If you look around in many electrical engineering departments, you'll find some physicists and applied mathematicians as primary faculty, many contributing to signal processing, communications, solid state engineering, so perhaps they have found a place to satisfy their theoretical tastes that you might be interested in?
I often hear about how EE's are able to go into more "theoretical" or "mathematical" areas and are able to get the best of both worlds (math/physics and engineering). I'm studying biological engineering, but I have discovered that I enjoy math and physics more and have been considering switching to either of those or possibly EE. Are there any areas of biological engineering that are very math or physics heavy? It seems like optics/imaging could get pretty deep into physics and computational biology/neuroscience with math but what are some others?
 
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I often hear about how EE's are able to go into more "theoretical" or "mathematical" areas and are able to get the best of both worlds (math/physics and engineering). I'm studying biological engineering, but I have discovered that I enjoy math and physics more and have been considering switching to either of those or possibly EE. Are there any areas of biological engineering that are very math or physics heavy? It seems like optics/imaging could get pretty deep into physics and computational biology/neuroscience with math but what are some others?
In EE it will be electromagnetics and quantum devices. The EM will be almost all math while devices has a lot of physics and math.

Why don't you marry them and do what we're all waiting decades for- a real-time full-brain simulation.

You could be the first person in history to have your dissertation write itself.
 
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I switched from EE to Physics only to find out that I don't enjoy doing research at all :P

I don't regret it through and I also hated "plug n chug" stuff in EE (EE was all about circuits design and low level programming) However it wasn't EE fault but the TA's fault. If you want to do research as engineer you need to have deeper understanding of the subject.

There are plenty interesting subjects in a field of EE and Physics like quantum devices, quantum information, materials and other stuff. I suggest double major in EE and physics because it will open many doors.
 
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I switched from EE to Physics only to find out that I don't enjoy doing research at all :P

I don't regret it through and I also hated "plug n chug" stuff in EE (EE was all about circuits design and low level programming) However it wasn't EE fault but the TA's fault. If you want to do research as engineer you need to have deeper understanding of the subject.

There are plenty interesting subjects in a field of EE and Physics like quantum devices, quantum information, materials and other stuff. I suggest double major in EE and physics because it will open many doors.
EE's rigour isn't in the physics and the math; it's in the experiments and making your equipment work. I agree with Astronuc though about double majoring in physics, that's what I'm doing and I think the combination will give me a good grasp of theory and experiment; though physics can be just as bad as engineering in the low-intuition aspect.
 
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Pure math never follows that mantra. However, I find that it sometimes follows its own pretty bad and similar mantras. Lemma, Theorem, proof...often just the pure logic, not how to get the logic yourself. But without knowing how you would come up with the logic (and definitions!) in the first place, it's useless. For me, this was a nightmarish reincarnation of what I fled from in EE.
Pure math is applied logic is it not? The logical absolutes come from the physical word IMO, ie law of non-contradiction could apply like a rock is a rock and not not a rock. Sets come from the physical world too, you could have a set of rocks that is closed under addition since you can constantly add or subtract rocks from your set. Am I totally off base here?
 
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Pure math is applied logic is it not?
Absolutely not. Atiyah commented in an interview that a lot of people think math is about logic, but it's not, and he wasn't very good at logic. Mathematicians use logic, but math isn't about logic. Logic in math is like spelling in writing. Behind the logic, there are ideas, and the logic often (but not always) hides those ideas. This is true, even in the subject of mathematical logic, itself.


The logical absolutes come from the physical word IMO, ie law of non-contradiction could apply like a rock is a rock and not not a rock.
No, formal logic doesn't really work well in the real world, unless you're a computer and have the processing power to deal with it. Is something blue or not blue? What if it's on the borderline between blue and purple? Actually, there are different degrees of being blue. You could encode that logically to an arbitrary precision (as your monitor does), but it's not the way we think.


Sets come from the physical world too, you could have a set of rocks that is closed under addition since you can constantly add or subtract rocks from your set. Am I totally off base here?
Sure, you can motivate the idea of a set that way. That's kind of the point. You have to look at examples to see what I mean. Some proofs give you intuition as to why something works and some just verify that things are true without giving you any insight. Many mathematicians are seemingly oblivious to the difference.
 
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Absolutely not. Atiyah commented in an interview that a lot of people think math is about logic, but it's not, and he wasn't very good at logic. Mathematicians use logic, but math isn't about logic. Logic in math is like spelling in writing. Behind the logic, there are ideas, and the logic often (but not always) hides those ideas. This is true, even in the subject of mathematical logic, itself.




No, formal logic doesn't really work well in the real world, unless you're a computer and have the processing power to deal with it. Is something blue or not blue? What if it's on the borderline between blue and purple? Actually, there are different degrees of being blue. You could encode that logically to an arbitrary precision (as your monitor does), but it's not the way we think.




Sure, you can motivate the idea of a set that way. That's kind of the point. You have to look at examples to see what I mean. Some proofs give you intuition as to why something works and some just verify that things are true without giving you any insight. .Many mathematicians are seemingly oblivious to the difference.
Other mathematicians would disagree with you, Russell said math was symbolic logic, but he was a logician.

Can you give an example of such proofs? You seem to be speaking vaguely from my point of view.
 
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Other mathematicians would disagree with you, Russell said math was symbolic logic, but he was a logician.
I'm not too familiar with his math, but I don't actually think he would disagree that logic in math is like spelling in writing. He's just looking at it from a different point of view. I don't think he would advocate actually THINKING about math as if it were really just symbolic logic--that is, just formal manipulations of symbols. No mathematician would really go that far. But some mathematicians would want to reduce it down to that. Hilbert was one, yet Hilbert would be very sympathetic to my point of view here, since he was the coauthor with Cohn-Vossen of one of the most important intuitive math books of all time, Geometry and the Imagination.


Can you give an example of such proofs? You seem to be speaking vaguely from my point of view.
I think you just need to read this for some elementary examples:

http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf [Broken]
 
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I'm thinking of making a switch to pure and applied math and/or statistics. I've realized that the only subject that I consistently enjoy and want to learn more about is mathematics; however, I was wondering what the career options are besides graduate school--I would be doing a specialization (more credits than a major). I know that Statscan is a major employer of math graduates; also, being an actuary is possible with the aforementioned degree as well, however, what are the career prospects for such a degree long-term?
Check out these links:
http://weusemath.org/
http://www.siam.org/careers/thinking/pdf/brochure.pdf
 
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Thanks a lot MathWarrior.
 
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i agree. i dropped out of chemical engineering because it felt like accounting, but with moles instead of currency. had enough of mass balance, energy balance, stoichiometry and sizing PFRs and CSTRs.

no wonder they get paid huge amounts of money... they need to to get people to study this!

however be careful of switching... you may find that its not what you think, especially math.

physics is very similar to engineering, but a little bit more theoretical (though you still need to take huge amounts of things on faith as they're far too complicated or time consuming to derive yourself).

i personally find physics just theoretical enough so that it isn't ridiculously tedious and boring, but also applied enough so that its actually employable and learns things that are grounded in the real world and can be directly applied. you might not like that; it might not be theoretical enough for you.

math is different. it is not a physical science, because it does not have to describe anything physically happening. physics is nice because the final say is with experiments. the real world is always right, and if the theory doesn't agree, you toss the theory. in math, there's no "real world" proof. its all in your head. you might be fine with that though, so think about what you really want to do first.
 
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I'm not too familiar with his math, but I don't actually think he would disagree that logic in math is like spelling in writing. He's just looking at it from a different point of view. I don't think he would advocate actually THINKING about math as if it were really just symbolic logic--that is, just formal manipulations of symbols. No mathematician would really go that far. But some mathematicians would want to reduce it down to that. Hilbert was one, yet Hilbert would be very sympathetic to my point of view here, since he was the coauthor with Cohn-Vossen of one of the most important intuitive math books of all time, Geometry and the Imagination.
Interesting article.

With regards to intuition, would you say this describes your opinion of it?

From Wiki:
Intuitionist definitions, developing from the philosophy of mathematician L. E. J. Brouwer, identify mathematics with certain mental phenomena. An example of an intuitionist definition is "Mathematics is the mental activity which consists in carrying out constructs one after the other."[23] A peculiarity of intuitionism is that it rejects some mathematical ideas considered valid according to other definitions. In particular, while other philosophies of mathematics allow objects that can be proven to exist even though they cannot be constructed, intuitionism allows only mathematical objects that you can mentally construct.
 
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From Wiki:
Intuitionist definitions, developing from the philosophy of mathematician L. E. J. Brouwer, identify mathematics with certain mental phenomena. An example of an intuitionist definition is "Mathematics is the mental activity which consists in carrying out constructs one after the other."[23] A peculiarity of intuitionism is that it rejects some mathematical ideas considered valid according to other definitions. In particular, while other philosophies of mathematics allow objects that can be proven to exist even though they cannot be constructed, intuitionism allows only mathematical objects that you can mentally construct.
I don't know why it's called intuitionism. Bad name, I think. It seems to be the case that constructive arguments might tend to be more intuitive, but that's not always the case. Sometimes non-constructive arguments are intuitive. Intuitionism is just one philosophy of mathematics. It's very philosophical and has relatively little to do with what I would call intuition, as in, being able to see that things are true, apart from having an actual logical proof. To me, and most mathematicians, philosophers of mathematics usually talk about stuff that is kind of obscure and removed from the actual practice of mathematics. It doesn't affect the way we practice mathematics. So, in other words, most mathematicians don't care too much about that whole "intuitionism, platonism, formalism" debate. They are more focused on just doing math, less focused on philosophical issues having to do with math. I'm no exception, there. The things that I am talking about are things having to do with how to actually think about math in practice, how to learn it most effectively, how to retain it, and how to have the best framework for coming up with new ideas.
 

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