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Info on weapons engineering and related areas

  1. Apr 7, 2015 #1
    Hi, I'm in first year of my physics undergrad degree in NUIGalway and currently (could change as the four years pass) have an interest in doing a masters in Weapons Engineering after the degree is completed.
    In my course we get the choice of specializing in one of four areas: theoretical physics, biomedical physics, astrophysics, and applied physics.
    I am planning to progress into applied physics as we get to study laser technology, nuclear power, robotics (i think), mechanics, electricity, electronics, etc. All areas i have a keen interest in but i also have an interest in the theoretical physics for its potential areas (so slightly undecided).

    After the degree i would like to do a masters in weapons engineering in Cranfield University in the UK (when i googled weapons engineering masters, the results pointed me towards there. (Forgive my ignorance if the university is not suited to what i am looking for in your view).
    I suppose the main reason i am interested in this area is after iron man/ batman movies/comics. The idea of suits/ weaponry/ exo-skeleton/ vehicle devices and tech to aid us in performing incredible feats really made me want to pursue this as a career.

    Now after all that has been explained here are the questions (any and all relevant advice or info to any of them would be greatly appreciated):

    1. Is a masters in weapons engineering the right area to pursue for what I would like to do career wise (based on the above background I gave)?

    2. If weapons engineering is the wrong area to best get into this kind of field, what possible areas would be most appropriate and why?

    3. If weapons engineering is the best area then which topic: applied physics or theoretical physics, is the best to focus in for pursuing this?

    4. What areas in either applied or theoretical physics would be advisable to pay particular attention to for the field?

    5. Any general info or advice about either weapons engineering or the best suited area?

    Please note that i am aware of the moral issues and general stigma attached to the idea of weapons engineering. I am not interested in destroying the world or all that rubbish. This is something I want to do for its possible applications, not the negative. Take it as batmans/iron mans use of the knowledge to build useful devices, not blowing everything up. So please leave the moral debate out of this conversation, Thank You. :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2015 #2
    You don't go to school to learn how to build comic book weapons. You take the education you have, study additional information and experience and then build a few prototypes.

    The areas of interest are actually broader than you seem to think. A master's degree in mechanical engineering ought to serve you just as well.

    And if you change your mind about exactly what you want to design, mechanical engineering degrees can be a very potent gateway in to many other endeavors.

    Finally, nobody hires people to do such work right out of school. You make a career like this, using your education, experience, and ambition.
  4. Apr 8, 2015 #3
    Not necessarily interested in building comic book weapons, I was meaning that from watching and seeing those sort of things it sparked an interest in the area and its applications. The info on the mechanical engineering sounds interesting though as well.
  5. Apr 8, 2015 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    So, I'm a mechanical engineer and I had to google "weapons engineering"* to see that it was a real major. My concern is that it may not be considered a real engineering discipline, but rather a watered-down mixture of introductory courses to different disciplines. The field of weapons engineering is extremely broad and I tend to think it requires teams of specialized engineers who are highly skilled experts in specific fields rather than people who have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of fields. So my suggestiong would be to consider more specifically what aspect interests you. You mentioned "Iron Man". So....robotics? Even that can be broken-down further: mechanical, electrical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering are all heavily at play there.
    While that's almost literally true, I would not downplay the inspiration factor that movies have on the public. And if there is ever a comic book movie that should inspire future engineers, it's Iron Man. Iron Man is not a superhero, he's just a really, really good engineer.

    *Interestingly enough, the second hit on google for "weapons engineering" is a PF thread from two years ago. This tells me two things:
    1. Yay, PF!
    2. If it were a widely-recognized major, PF wouldn't be a highly-ranked source for information on it (sorry, PF!).

    In that thread - I won't link it because most of the content is poor - Jake posted the following advice I agree with:
    In any engineering discipline, practical experience with the thing you are engineering is helpful and military technology (unlike, say, cars) is something most people have absolutely zero frame of reference for...which is probably why a lot of the inspiration comes from movies.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2015
  6. Apr 9, 2015 #5


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    Let's not forget probably the most important specialization for robotics (or weapons in general) : software engineering.

    Software is everywhere. At my last company I worked on a wireless basestation transceiver chip project. The project had 5 analog designers, 8 digital designers, and 40 software engineers. And this was for a chip project! I imagine a robot project would have similar ratios except instead of analog and digital IC designers, you'd have some mechanical and electrical engineers and then a boatload of software engineers.

    So my advice to the OP. If you want to work on weapons, learn software.
  7. Apr 9, 2015 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    Oops, yes, I meant to include computer engineering but forgot, sorry.
  8. Apr 9, 2015 #7


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    I agree with everything but the last statement. If OP want to deisgn things such as an iron man suit or robotics from a system level, I think they would be better off with a degree in mechatronics, mechanical or electrical. They would still have a good understanding of software. I have found that many of my colleuges who majoring in comp sci/software end up doing a lot of driver code, os code, etc. The engineers that majored in electrical or mechatronics and really understand the application are the ones who end up writing the application level code (aka the 'fun' stuff). Note there are still many comp sci majors that end up doing application level code, and many electrical that do pheripherals.

    I feel that learning something like mechantronics or electrical will be a more direct route. That being said, just make sure you tailor your projects and classes to what you enjoy, and any tech major could get you working on weapons.
  9. Apr 9, 2015 #8


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    Fair enough. I agree with you. I should have said make sure you understand and are proficient at software. You don't necessarily need a CS degree. In fact, as you said, a degree in Mech E with a specialization in robot algorithm development would serve the OP well.
  10. Apr 9, 2015 #9
    Thank you to everyone who has given a reply so far. Based on the reply from Russ and talking to a few other people outside of PF who share similar views, I am quite sure that weapons engineering itself, is not really the area for me. Considering the fact it is viewed predominantly as a "jack of all trades, master of none" engineering area.

    Also he referred to electrical, nuclear and especially mechanical engineering (I say especially because it was mentioned again by the rest of you) as main areas to focus in on regarding what I might be interested in. For the original post I was looking at the weapons field because I thought the knowledge gained there could allow me to work in exciting and innovative areas along side my physics degree. Having taken every ones opinions into consideration and looking into the areas mentioned a bit, it seems mechanical is one of the most satisfying. Well I say that with a little presumption while I'm in my physics degree, it seems to go from the original concept or theory for an idea right through to the final prototype or product.

    I would love to hear/find out more about the mechanical engineering (as it seems to be, alongside physics, a knowledge that can be applied to those areas in the original post i put up about the devices and tech), nuclear engineering because on a side note i have a large interest in the study of nuclear energy, fusion and HiPER. I don't know a major load about mechantronics or electrical engineering but again i have an idea about them both regarding my original post and would like to find out more.

    Again thank you to everyone who has replied so far :D
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