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Is there a negative stigma with applied physics

  1. Jul 9, 2014 #1
    I'm currently a physics major. I plan to study robotics engineering in grad school (haven't decided if I'll do it through ME, EE, CS, or a robotics specific program). I've recently realized, though, that if I change my major to applied physics, I'll be able to take electives that will be more useful to me (controls and automation) instead of quantum.

    However, I've heard several engineers say that they'd rather not hire an "applied engineer" because they tend to be less rigorous. Is there a similar stigma with applied physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Welcome to PF;
    I can imagine someone seeing the "applied" label and thinking you did it because you were not good enough for the core degree track in some way.

    However, it also depends where you go and what you do.
    But remember that the course track exists for a reason - you should take advise from your Dean or similar official.
  4. Jul 11, 2014 #3


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    No, I do not think this is a problem.
  5. Jul 16, 2014 #4
    Thank you, that's helpful. I did talk to my dean, who said it shouldn't be a problem. He said the program was created as an alternative route for people who wanted to do research in engineering and other fields, because the physics gave it a research oriented course load. However, people often perceive our actions differently than we do. So, I wanted to see how it appeared to people outside of my university.
  6. Jul 16, 2014 #5


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    I didn't know that engineers had split into "applied" and "theoretical" camps of late. You must have talked to a rogue group who hung around too much with physicists.
  7. Jul 16, 2014 #6
    I think applied physics is interesting and important and I am doing applied physics. However at least with physics students many of them want to study esoteric disciplines like quantum gravity and become Einstein; these disciplines don't draw enough grant money relative to applied physics. Only the "cleverest" students get to study them, and so there is something of a notion that applied physics students are sell outs or not as good. But this notion isn't completely widespread.
  8. Jul 16, 2014 #7


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    ^I know several engineering grads who want to get into geophysics and astrophysics, but the thing is that when someone thinks of "cool" physics they are probably referring to the hard core BCS superconductivity or string theory or quantum gravity or astrophysics. Applied Physics in my country is actually an afterthought, generally pursued by people with interdisciplinary bent of mind. I am an engineering graduate but what I study in my academic career roughly falls into engineering physics. I do find it very interesting, but most people I know do not share that line of thought. :)
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