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Physics Is it too much being an engineer & a scientist?

  1. Jan 7, 2017 #1
    I am talking about being both engineer and scientist: a PhD in Physics and a MS in engineering.
    Far too much? I hope not to be the case. These days is really hard to decide whether to choose engineering or science, and I'm not in a position to eliminate one of them "forever".
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  3. Jan 7, 2017 #2


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    It's possible, but don't try to do both at the same time. First concentrate on getting only one of those (say Ms in engineering), and when you are finished you can start to work on the other one.
  4. Jan 7, 2017 #3


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  5. Jan 7, 2017 #4
    Cool, so that means I could be both an aerospace engineer and a cosmologist. I know there is a big difference in between of those, but really, I love them.
    I know you can study both, as you can also be an historian and a biologist. But I don't know if it is practical to work on both areas, engineering and cosmology, because, maybe, I don't know, the time you spend doing engineering and not science, you could save it for doing research in cosmology. But I don't know at all. And I really hope that is not to be the case.
  6. Jan 7, 2017 #5


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    It's worth keeping in mind that there are many areas of research which involve an overlap between physics and engineering. For example, photonics and optics research often involve faculty members from both the physics and electrical engineering departments. So I can easily imagine a scenario where someone who is working on his/her PhD in physics (specializing in photonics) could also end up earning a MS in electrical engineering.
  7. Jan 8, 2017 #6
    Indeed, but could that also work in Astrophysics and Astronautics?
  8. Jan 8, 2017 #7


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    In my own humble opinion, much less likely, since astrophysics and cosmology is the concerned with the study of the origins/compositions of the universe at large (at least that is my understanding -- astrophysicists/cosmologists on PF, please correct me if anything I state is mistaken). Astronautics is involved with the design of machines/equipment/instruments involved in the exploration of or travel to "outer space" (i.e. outside of Earth's atmosphere).

    That doesn't mean that there is no interaction between the two groups, but it is much less likely that there will be common research areas between the two.

    Aside: This is just my personal opinion, coming from someone who is not involved in work in either astrophysics or astronautics, so please keep that in mind. I'm sure there are those on PF who will have more direct experience or knowledge in these areas who can clarify these points.
  9. Jan 8, 2017 #8
    In my opinion when someone is faced with two very different interests one of them has to eventually become a hobby. I have a similar situation where I'm interested in photo-physics and archaeology but I'm making archaeology just a hobby. Which means I'm not going to make the effort to get a degree in it. Only so much time and money on my hands you know.
  10. Jan 8, 2017 #9


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    No, it doesn't mean that. What it means is that:

    (1) there are field of studies in which physics and engineering overlaps a lot

    (2) you need to find if there is already a field of study that has elements of the two areas that you are interested in

    Otherwise, you will be adding things together that just simply either do not match, or have no connection with each other. When that happens, you have two separate field of studies with little to no overlap. This is not what I advocated in the article that I wrote in that link.

    If you have to invent such a field, there's a very good chance that you won't be employed in it.

  11. Jan 9, 2017 #10
    Ok thank you guys! I agree, there is not much overlap. But I really see some conection, when we're talking about themes: the space theme.
    In the beginning, before writing this post, I also thought there was not too much overlap. But then I found Jeffrey A. Hoffman, who is a professor of Aerospace Engineering at MIT, but he has just a PhD in Astrophysics. No background in Aerospace Engineering.

    So how, if there is so few conection, is this possible? Just because he was an astronaut?
  12. Jan 9, 2017 #11


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    If you look at the Wikipedia entry for the career of Dr. Hoffman, his doctoral work at Harvard (which was carried out during the late 1960s and early 1970s -- he was granted his PhD in 1971) was the design, construction, testing, and flight of a balloon-borne, low-energy, gamma ray telescope. So from what I gather, he was working in instrumentation (which is separate from what I suppose would be the core research in astrophysics). He also earned a separate Masters in materials science (which is often administered as part of engineering) in 1988, 17 years after he finished his PhD.

    Again, as I stated earlier, I didn't say that there was no interaction between aeronautical engineering and astrophysics -- just much less than other fields, at least to my (untrained) eye. I also think that the two fields have diverged sufficiently since the 1960s that there is less interaction between the two in recent years.
  13. Jan 9, 2017 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    And to add the StatGuy's response - finding a single example half a century ago is not a good sign.
  14. Jan 9, 2017 #13
    Not really, there's isn't much overlap despite the 'Astro' in the name; most likely avenue might be Orbital Dynamics

  15. Jan 9, 2017 #14


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    It's possible, but why? What do you want to do with your life?
  16. Jan 10, 2017 #15
    I want to work in the Space Industry. You know, basically Space Science= Astronomy + Aerospace Engineering.
    I have also seen programs that offers both Aerospace E. and Astrophysics, like https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/taught/degrees/space-science-engineering-msc and many others.

    I totally agree with you, there is not very much overlap between both fields. But I can't give up on one of those, I really love them so much. Since I was a child I really like both spaceships and stars. I know I must give up on one, but it will be like loosing one half of my soul.

    Ok I was theatrical. But it's not like archeology and physics, which have very different themes. I know it may be worthless to pursue into a MS in Aerospace engineering after a PhD in Astrophysics (if I get it at all), but I feel I have to do it. At the end, I'll be "wasting" just 2 years of my life.

    Thank you guys for your answers, I really appreciated :) . The thing I was looking for isn't here.
  17. Jan 10, 2017 #16


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    Just so you know, there are many different people working in the space industry, not just astrophysicists and aerospace engineers. I have a distant cousin who was an electrical engineer for NASA (now retired). And the various space agencies and private firms contracted to work for such agencies often have various different types of engineers (such as electrical, mechanical, aerospace, chemical, materials, etc.) or scientists (physicists, mathematicians, etc.) on their payroll.

    So the path to finding your way to work in these fields may be a lot broader than you may think at first glance. Just something else for you to think about.
  18. Jan 10, 2017 #17
    I think given enough time you can certainly do both but you may need to focus on one first and then focus on the other one afterward. Im too young in my own career to give good advice sorry.
    If yourr working on space ships I think you'd have to know a lot of astrophysics but I dont think the reverse is true.
    As for archeology I should clarify im only interested in the ancient Babylonians and not so much archeology in general. I just think the babylonians were cool. But my main career focus eill be on more physicsy stuff.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
  19. Jan 11, 2017 #18
    Your best bet would be to look at programs called Applied Physics or Engineering Physics (example: http://lsa.umich.edu/appliedphysics); [Broken] where there's already a straddling of physics and engineering, ie you need one to do the other. An example might be plasma propulsion, technically an engineering venture but it's highly physics heavy (E&M, Thermo, Rocket Dynamics, etc) engineering. At the end of the day you're going to use physics to do engineering or do engineering in order to investigate the physics; the purpose of the work is going to drive your projects and what techniques you use.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
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