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Material and Chemical Engineering, which to choose?

  1. Oct 10, 2013 #1
    Hi everyone, I'm an a-level student (year 13) doing Physics, Chemistry and Maths. I am struggling of what university subject to apply for...I want to do a subject that is a combination of all three subjects I'm now doing.

    I like topics that I can go very very deep. I think quantum and thermodynamics will be my favourite when I go to university. I also find nanotechnology very interesting as I like topics that are dealing with very fundamental things. But I don't really like organic chemistry where I go through a lot of topics but not going very deep in each of them.

    On the other hand, I also put a lot of focus on the job variety I can get when I graduate. I know chem eng work in a lot of different fields. But I don't really know for material eng.

    So is chemical engineering a better choice of material science? Is it easier to transfer from chem eng to material eng or from material eng to chem eng? Or should I do chemistry? Can I specialised into chem eng or material eng if I do chemistry? Or can I do a PhD in material eng/chem eng if I have a chemistry degree? Or is there any more subject that I should also consider?

    PS: Am I able to specialise in nano if I do chem eng? Or am I able to do a PhD in nano if I have a chem eng degree? Or do the uni prefer material eng more when it comes to nano?

    Thank you very much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2013 #2
    Hi chelseausb,

    From the sound of it, I think you might have the wrong impression of chemical engineering. Yes, they study chemistry, but the focus is more on the chemical process, not the foundational science. They often find jobs with titles like process engineer, although they can be found in labs working alongside chemists.

    If you are really interested in science of the very small, I would say that physics, chemistry and materials science (in no particular order) are very good places to look. When you get down to that level of science, you'll find that it isn't so black in white with regards to a person's undergraduate education. There are many fields of study which any one of those degrees would adequately prepare you for. My advice is to simply choose one and find a few intro classes for different fields so that you can get a feel for them. Most of the first year curriculums will be the same or similar for physical sciences.

    As for the PhD? I wouldn't start planning that far ahead. Over planning can lead people places they didn't actually want to be. If you think you might be interested in a PhD I would start talking to professors your freshman year and try to get as much undergraduate experience as possible. Not only will that help you for graduate school applications, but it will also help you figure out if research is/isn't for you.

    Also, be open minded about the different degrees. You might end up loving something you didn't even know existed.
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