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I love to build things out of scratch

  1. Sep 25, 2006 #1
    Hi y'll. I am majoring in Electrical Engineering and I am currently in the 2nd year. I love to build things out of scratch (and unfortunately break precious electronic gizmos to see how they work). But I also love mathematics and physics. So I was wondering, which of these following areas should I focus on within electrical engineering so that I can get as much dose of math and physics as possible (don't worry about the engineering part because that's what jobs are for :wink: ).

    *Physical Electronics
    *Communications, Control, and Signal Processing
    *Analog Electronics
    *Digital Electronics
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2006 #2


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    The most math you're probably going to see in EE is in communications. The most physics you're going to see is in semiconductor device modelling.

    - Warren
  4. Sep 25, 2006 #3
    Is that the area of physical electronics??

    Also, I thought that Electromagnetism would be the place where I would see a lot of math since it puts a lot of emphasis on vectors...
  5. Sep 25, 2006 #4
    electromagnetics will obviously give you a heavy dose of mathematical physics; so if vector fields, triple integrals, divergence and curl, Gauss/Green/Stoke's theorems, and flux are your thing, then e&m for you. Expect a lot more emphasis on antenna theory and other topics that are somewhat neglected in a standard physics-dept e&m course.

    e&m of course would give you physics as well, but physical electronics(ie., semiconductors) will have more standard physics fare especially if you take a quantum electronics or semiconductor laser class. not so much advanced math in physical electronics; enough to understand the physics, and maybe some numerical analysis if so inclined. Lots of diffeq's, etc.

    communications and signal processing is the most "pure" math area of EE to go into, definitely. Expect to see loads of linear algebra, probability and statistics, random processes, "modern algebra" (i.e., rings, groups, fields, etc), and some fourier analysis etc. Also expect more formalism than elsewhere in engineering, with mathematical proofs etc.
  6. Sep 25, 2006 #5
    Analog good too

    If you like building things and working out complex problems, analog electronics should be considered too. It is a fun field. It is more hands on than EM or signal processing too. Signal Processing is mostly programming these days (or so it seems to me). Not that that is bad, but if you are a hands on person then analog would be more fun. EM is mostly math and plumbing.... Stay away from digital, that is boring....
  7. Sep 26, 2006 #6
    Thank you chroot, jbusc and interested_learner. You comments helped a lot.

    But I do have one more question. What exactly in the difference between signal processing and electromagnetism. Before this discussion, I thought that they were more or less the same thing since signals are electromagnetic waves afterall...
  8. Sep 26, 2006 #7


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    Electromagnetism deals with the generation and propagation of electromagnetic fields. Antennas, for example, are at the heart of EM engineering.

    Signal processing, on the other hand, deals with the analysis, conditioning, or enhancement of signals once they are on your circuit board.

    - Warren
  9. Sep 26, 2006 #8
    Don't worry about the math, you will have plenty of it in all your courses, trust me.

    P.S. And don't worry about what kind of math, because essentially all Engineers use the same equations, the only thing that changes are what the variables represent. Said differently, they are all analogs of each other.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2006
  10. Sep 26, 2006 #9
    Thank you. One more question. Which one of the following areas has the most room for breakthroughs (perhaps also a lot of room for research)?
  11. Sep 26, 2006 #10
    All of them.
  12. Sep 27, 2006 #11
    Really? Come on... They can't all have the MOST room for research. Anyone else thinks otherwise?
  13. Sep 27, 2006 #12
    Haven't you heard? Electrical engineering is dead.
    The wave of the future is BIO-engineering.

    At least that's what I keep hearing.
    Honestly though, I'm in the same boat as you. I need to pick a focus next semester. Our school offers a series of "pathway seminars" where varoius professors who are doing research in that field talk about what they are doing, and are available for questions. It's kinda nice. A lot of them really are saying that a majority of you future EE's will be working in the bio-field in some way though.
  14. Sep 27, 2006 #13

    bio-engineering may be what's "hot" now, but EE's not going to go anywhere for a long time.
  15. Sep 27, 2006 #14
    The professors basically said the same, but they stressed that one should be prepared, and it least take a few bio classes.
  16. Sep 27, 2006 #15


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    Uh, right. I'm a senior integrated circuit designer for one of the most successful semiconductor companies on the planet. Trust me, EE's not going to change substantially in the next 50-100 years. If anything, it will become more intensive in optics and quantum mechanics, not in biology. If you study EE, you'll have a long, excellent career ahead of you.

    - Warren
  17. Sep 27, 2006 #16

    Um... does it sound like I'm disagreeing with everyone, and implying that EE is a disappearing field? I'm an EE student myself, so I hope I have a long, excellent career ahead of me in EE, not bio.

    I was just relaying what was said. They were talking about flexible screens, implantable devices, power systems, etc... and saying that EE's are going to be needed to implement these devices. They weren't just talking about creating products with biological systems. And they never implied or said for everyone in EE to get out while they can, just to keep the play-book open and look ahead at the new job market that will be opening up.

    oh I get it... hehe. I didn't show that I was joking when I said,

    "Haven't you heard? Electrical engineering is dead.
    The wave of the future is BIO-engineering."

    this would be one of those cases of a,
    my bad
  18. Sep 27, 2006 #17


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    Yeah, that didn't come off as a joke at all -- to me, anyway.

    - Warren
  19. Sep 27, 2006 #18
    Just out of curiosity chroot, what software do you use? Is it PSPICE? Or is that just introductory stuff that is used for education?
  20. Sep 27, 2006 #19


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    Cadence Virtuoso Suite, AMS Ultra, Spectre, Ultrasim, ncsim, Verilog-XL, Encounter.
    Synopsys Design Compiler.

    PSPICE is sometimes used for little experiments, but rarely. Real device models from semiconductor fabs like TSMC are usually in formats only understood by more professional tools.

    - Warren
  21. Sep 27, 2006 #20
    I have always been told by profs that worked in industry that the pros mainly use microcap.
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