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Lines of study (Astrophysics, Comp Engineering)

  1. Apr 17, 2006 #1
    Hi all,

    I just found out that the college I will be attending this Fall is no longer offering the program that I wanted to do (Computer Information Systems) as undergrad. It got me thinking about what I really want to do.

    So I moved to America from the UK almost a year ago. Instead of fulfilling my high school senior year in high school, I attend the local community college and have completed Calculus 1 and 2 (both I excelled at and received As for, without doing a complete pre-calculus course) and my english core requirements. I will be starting as a freshman at Florida Institute of Technology this fall, I just turned 18.

    I love computers, the hardware of PCs specifically and putting them together. The thought of the new Geforce 7900GTX excites me and the new Physics Processing Units make me joygasm. I had originally wanted to do Computer Science, but I don't really want to spend the rest of my life in a company office figuring out a bug in some software (as good as I am at programming). I like to work with my hands. I switched my focus to System Administration and Business, but I realize now that one can very easily get into that by technical Certifications alone.

    I am thinking about Computer Engineering, the idea of Quantum Computing is exciting.

    I am also thinking about Astronomy/Astrophysics (a degree option under Space Sciences at FIT). FIT is, I believe, a very good school for space sciences. Space in general is fascinating to me, as is Relativity. If i'd have to specify what is most interesting to me, it's would be propulsion. Also, the field i'm best at in Physics is Optics, and it's a major part of Astrophysics at FIT. Is it true that there are not that many Astrophysicists around? One last note, I prefer working as a team (2+) to individually.

    Feel free to scold me for any naivety you come across. I am very good at math and problem solving, but i'd never considered actually following the road of a scientist until now (I know I might end up being employed in the corporate sector, not in R&D, but i'm ok with that too).
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2006 #2


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    Computer information systems? To me, it doesn't sound worth it.

    Computer science teaches you a lot more than how to program. In fact it doesn't teach you very much actual programming, specifically. You learn math and general computing theory, operating systems, hardware architecture, AI.

    I know a few people who are very knowledgeable about computers from a "technician" standpoint without being computer science majors (one is a Physics major) and I know a distinguished professor of computer science who has no clue about actual computers, though of course he's a very good theorist. I think, from that, that you can major in whatever you want and have computers as a hobby, unless you want to do advanced work with them.
  4. Apr 18, 2006 #3
    Do Computer Engineering. If you like working on the hardware side of computers then Computer Engineering would be perfect.
  5. Apr 18, 2006 #4
    But one of my possible careers deals with hardware, servers, and networking, which doesn't require any college education in that field - just certifications (I plan to finish my A+ and then look into MCSE). I am not as interested in designing circuit boards as I am just putting the modules together, designing cases, and installing cooling systems.
    Do Computer Engineers actually do R&D on Quantum computing, or is that a Physics field?

    It seems like with Astrophysics, you could potentially go anywhere in the physics world. In fact the department head of Space Sciences at FIT also works at CERN and the LHC.
  6. Apr 18, 2006 #5


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    Your dream is to get a job assembling computers? That sounds like poorly paid manual labor to me. You can have a hobby without making it a job. On the other hand, maybe you could go into robotics.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2006
  7. Apr 18, 2006 #6
    I fully agree.
  8. Apr 18, 2006 #7


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  9. Apr 20, 2006 #8
    How do you plan on working in the field of quantum computing without getting a college degree?
  10. Apr 20, 2006 #9
    That's not what I meant...

    Anyway, I spoke to my calculus instructor and the campus physics professor (it's a small community college before I go up to FIT). They said that the computer job market is increasing, but so is the number of Computer Engineering graduates. After talking, and for several reasons, i'm inclined towards Astrophysics/Astronomy. I will also be going to talk with the head of space sciences at FIT after my finals are over.

    System Administration will likely be a parachute in case a scientific career goes horribly wrong. I plan to get a couple of certifications.

    Thank you Ranger, I suppose I had the wrong idea about CEs.
  11. Apr 20, 2006 #10
    Hi Aresius,

    I think I’ve posted to you similar advice before. I’m about to graduate from Florida Tech with a Bachelors in Astronomy/Astrophysics. I think it would help you to have someone on the inside talk to you rather than people on the outside, because I question some of the advice you’re getting.

    1) Quantum Computing: If you want to go into this field, Computer Science or Computer Engineering is your best bet. In the Physics and Space Sciences Dept., there is only one undergraduate Quantum Mechanics course, and we discussed quantum computing only in passing. I don’t know first-hand about CS, but a quick search of the university website for “quantum computing” provides many links within the CS Dept. website.

    2) Propulsion: There is propulsion research done at Florida Tech, but not in the Physics and Space Sciences Dept. Look in Engineering, specifically Aerospace Engineering. There are also Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering courses on propulsion.

    3) Optics: Except for observational astronomy (working with telescopes), Optics is not an active field at Florida Tech. There is one undergraduate course and lab. I have an undergraduate friend who is working on all things involving the new 36-inch telescope we’re installing, including optical systems. I know of no other optics opportunities here.

    4) Physics versus Astronomy/Astrophysics: If you’re looking to “go anywhere in the physics world,” a Physics degree is your better option. There is not much different between the two majors, but Astro is a specialization.

    5) Job market: I have no idea who told you to choose Astro over a computer field because of the job market, but they’re wrong! Yes, there are few Astrophysicists, but there are even fewer jobs (I believe another thread on this website discussed this recently). With a solid background in computers, you could go anywhere in any field that requires a computer.

    Also, we’re in the process of changing the Physics and Space Sciences Department Head, so you might talk to the outgoing head or an interim, depending on when you contact. If you ever want to talk to me privately about any of this, feel free. My email is lseward at fit dot edu.

    Best of luck,
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