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Is statistical thermodyanmics worth taking if your an ME?

  1. Aug 11, 2009 #1
    I'm an ME grad student in the thermal fluids area and a lot of my work involves electrochemistry, a little bit of inorganic chemistry, and optics, along with fluid and energy transport (fuel cells and stuff). I'm considering taking a statical thermodynamics class this fall to help me better understand things like energy of reactions and the production of entropy on the micro level. My other option is to take a combustion course mostly covering the thermal science of internal combustion engines which doesn't really relate my research a whole lot.

    I haven't taken a physics course since my gen ed intro to EM class I took when I was an undergrad. Would taking ST be a good idea for me since I don't have much of a physics background or would I just find myself overwhelmed by the material?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2009 #2


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    I was an ME grad student who worked for several years in industry and later went on to a PhD program in materials science. I dare say that for most industry positions, a familiarity with entropy, the Second Law, and ensembles is near-worthless. For continued research in physics or materials science, however, it's vital. Stat mech will teach you the real difference between heat and work, will promote a real understanding of entropy, and (along with kinetics) teach you why any process would occur spontaneously: to minimize energy / maximize entropy. You'll never look at material properties, dynamics, force equilibrium, or the virtual work theorem the same way again.
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