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M.S in Physics after B.S in Mechanical/ Electrical Engineering?

  1. Jul 20, 2010 #1
    I'm going to join the bachelor's program in Mechanical/ Electrical Engineering at the University of Duisburg- Essen. I had to choose this subject because there is no bachelor's degree in Physics in Europe (excluding UK, Ireland) where the language of instruction is English.

    But I've a deep interest in studying Physics. Is it possible to join the Masters program in Physics after completing bachelor's in Mechanical/ Electrical Engineering?

    If the answer is yes, then which subject has the most prospect: mech. or ee?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2010 #2
    Yes. I do not know about the Masters program as such, or the European system in particular. But at least in the US, if you apply to graduate school in Physics, you will generally be looked at as a PhD candidate. A terminal Masters isn't something that schools usually prefer, as they would like students to contribute to their research in the long term.

    In other words, you should be asking the question whether you can get into a graduate program in Physics after majoring in engineering. The answer is yes.

    Both have equal prospects, and both will expose you to several skills useful as a physicist.

    PS -- It will be helpful to gain formal exposure to undergraduate physics such as classical mechanics, electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics/statistical mechanics.
  4. Jul 20, 2010 #3
    I don't believe there would be any problem with that.

    it depends on which area of physics do you want to specialize in. Normally, mechanical engineers have a closer relation with fluid mechanics and thermodynamics, both are important in physics, while electrical engineers are more related to electromagnetism.

    hope that helps
  5. Jul 20, 2010 #4
    That is correct for mechanical engineers (e.g. dynamical systems, chaos, turbulence, MHD, geophysics could be good examples).

    Electrical engineers do a lot more than electromagnetism though! I'm one myself (so couldn't help writing :wink:). We also work on condensed matter physics -- or at least a subsection of it involving devices, and transport in them. More recently, developments in nanoelectronics, spintronics and organic electronics have bridged the gap between physics and EE to some extent. EEs (and MEs) also get into radio-astronomy and sometimes into cosmology and astrophysics.

    Generally, your engineering skills are more helpful in experimental research, be it ME or EE. EEs can have an advantage in instrumentation, circuit design, signal processing and measurement over a typical undergrad physics major (but only because conventional EE lab courses tend to cover these, and physics labs usually do not; there could be exceptions). These are skills useful to all of modern experimental physics.

    Unfortunately I can only tell you more about EE. Hossam can hopefully fill in the gaps and give you a perspective from the ME standpoint.

    Bottom line: get into an undergrad engineering program, feel your way and if you don't like your major, switch to the other engineering major. You can't go wrong either way. Once you get into a Physics graduate program, its not as if your skill set is limited to what you are expected to know from your specific engineering discipline.
  6. Jul 20, 2010 #5
    I know of a Italian mechanical engineer that switched to physics after its bachelor and know...is a leading string and particle physics at Stanford. My only advise try to understand what are the missing requirements in mathematics and physics and do your best to catch that material up.
  7. Jul 20, 2010 #6
    You caught me there. I think I couldn't hide my personal bias on that one :shy:
  8. Jul 20, 2010 #7
    But, is it possible to go for theoretical physics after completing bachelor's in ME or EE?
  9. Jul 20, 2010 #8
    To show that you can be a good theoretical physicist you need to demonstrate that you can do research and that you are good at abstract thinking. Also, you'll need more math than the typical ME or EE requires. So, take extra math classes and try to get involved in research projects of any kind.
  10. Jul 20, 2010 #9


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    Yes it is possible, but not an ideal path. The ideal path is major in Physics, or maybe even math.
  11. Jul 20, 2010 #10
    Hey Maverick, I read a couple of your posts and had some questions concerning this topic. Did you take any extra Physics classes on top of your EE major? I also read you got into a Physics PhD with your EE degree.

    I'm torn between EE and Physics. I'm probably gonna stick with a Physics major but take a bunch of EE classes. Do you recommend any specific EE classes that would help a lot in a Experimental Physics PhD program? Thanks for your time.
  12. Jul 20, 2010 #11
    Yes, I took a few classes as electives...quantum mechanics, special and general relativity, QFT and particle physics. But what you will really 'need' are classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics and electromagnetic theory. The undergrad coursework is more important than anything else.

    Well, circuits, instrumentation, measurement, control systems will be useful. But so will a first course on signal and system theory, that will teach you Fourier Transforms, and one on probability and statistics.
  13. Dec 31, 2011 #12
    I know it has been over a year now. But I was just wondering , did you ever go into physics after your bachelor???
    I'm kind of in the same situation, being an EE, considering taking a quantum mechanics course, to maybe do physics after..

    Btw I've had electromagnetic theory,classical mechanics and a bit of thermodynamics. I also had signal processing, control systems, instrumentation and circuit theory.
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