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Materials Science vs Physics. Help Please

  1. Apr 17, 2014 #1
    I am a senior in highschool and have a problem..
    I want to pursue a career in nanotechnology, therefore I applied for an undergraduate place in MSE.
    The problem is that i've recently started reading about quantum physics and the structure of the physics (with theoretical physics) course and I was fascinated.
    Can I switch to physics and still have a career in nanotech?
    Please help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Welcome to PF;
    You should ask the freshman dean or other course advisor at MSE. It is certainly possible but the details depend on the institution.
    Does the physics department have postgrad research in nanotechnology?

    It sounds like you are already on an established nanotech track that you are happy with and physics is more of an interest than a career choice. The trouble comes if you feel yourself "called" to physics ... I'd usually suggest that you consider taking a paper or two from your interest as a suppliment to your current choice (if your program allows it) before committing yourself.
  4. Apr 18, 2014 #3
    Thank you for your welcoming!

    I got an offer from Imperial College London to study MSE. And up until last month I was absolutely sure that I wanted to study that.

    But i suddenly feel drawn to a physics major. Understanding the universe seems like one of the biggest challenges, and so far I loved every topic we covered on physics classes. I feel that I am up for it, and that my views on everything would completely change.

    The department of physics does not have research in nanotech. But I'm not concerned as I have been looking a the London Center for Nanotechnology.

    I was just wondering if this way is also good for a successful career in nano. Wouldn't I lack knowledge in chemistry or biology?

    I just hope I can change my course if I decide to go through with this.
  5. Apr 18, 2014 #4

    Simon Bridge

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    It's starting to look like you've got the pure-science bug all right - that's tough: but you are right - it's fun.

    If you are very talented you may be able to do both MSE and pure science.
    You still need to check your options at Imperial. You may be able to focus on one then cross-credit the papers if you change your mind. I take it you already have the lower degree?

    iirc you can read physics as a minor while you focus on Engineering - you don't want to do what I did and flunk out of engineering due to the love of physics.

    Some engineers go back and focus on more pure science before starting their masters btw.
    There are lots of options.

    Definitely talk to someone at Imperial.
  6. Apr 20, 2014 #5
    I will certainly look into the possibility of reading physics as a minor.
    I don't know what the lower degree is.
    May I ask why was it a "mistake" to flunk out of engineering due to love for physics?
    I just don't want to spend 4 years doing something and thinking I could be enjoying myself a whole lot more reading physics..

    I will definitely explore my options better.
  7. Apr 21, 2014 #6

    Simon Bridge

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    It is better to make the change and withdraw before flunking out.
    I had the option and was too pig headed to take it.

    Follow your passion - in the end it will affect your overall happiness.

    Note: I read "MSE" as meaning "Master of Science (Engineering)" - the lower degree would be "Bachelor of Science (something)". It's not the sort of thing most people consider before having at least two years at University.

    There are a lot of physicists in nanotech btw. It's usually part of materials science and concerns nanostructures more than nano-machines. Imperial has a number of nanostructures research groups.
  8. Apr 21, 2014 #7
    What did you read about QM? If you read some pop-sci book, then that gives a really bad image of what physics is about. QM is very computational. Conceptual things which are popular in popsci books such as entanglement do show up, but in a very different way than the popular books.

    You liking your physics classes is a much better sign that you're fit for physics. So that's good.

    That said, I need to say that the job market for engineers is way better than for physicists. If you end up with a bachelor in engineering, then you have quite some options. A bachelor in physics is veyr limited and we get a lot of posts of bachelors of physics who can't find jobs. You should do a masters in physics or even a PhD to be more employable (and even then it's best to do it in a applicable field). However, not everybody gets accepted to grad school or finishes it. If you enjoy engineering and physics as much, then engineering is the better option.

    Of course, you already mentioned the option of doing physics and then switch the nano-technology. I have no idea how feasible this. Somebody else will need to tell you. But then again, you actually need to get into work on nano-technology, and if you don't then you're stuck with a BS physics.

    I don't want to discourage you from doing physics. Personally, I would do physics and don't care about the job market. But I just want you to have a realistic picture of what you're getting into.
  9. Apr 21, 2014 #8
    Oh I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. When I say MSE I mean Materials Science and Engineering.
    As I mentioned I am a high school senior.
  10. Apr 21, 2014 #9
    Yes micromass that is the problem I have.
    The thing is that the best nanotechnology programs are only available in masters degree, so in order to enter the field I would have to major in something.
    My current options are either Materials Science and Engineering or Physics.
    I'm just worried that if I take the Physics path I would lack knowledge in chemistry and biology to strive in this field.
    The job market in one of my concerns, but not the biggest one.

    Regarding QM, I am currently reading a book called:" O Diabo no Mundo Quântico" (it's portuguese, and it can be roughly translated to The Devil in the Quantum World).
    It deals with the more philosophical aspects of the quantum world, bringing up concepts like "reality" and "truth" and putting them in the context of the subject. It also explains the Copenhagen Interpretation, the EPR paradox, and the mysteries of QM. I'm fairly aware of the mathematical complexity that is required in the field, which is an aspect I thoroughly enjoy.
  11. Apr 21, 2014 #10

    Simon Bridge

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    Oh that makes more sense :)

    Just to check: when I see "Imperial College" I am thinking "Imperial College London".

    Note: a pure-science physics degree will not deal with the philosophical aspects much if at all.
    You won't usually see QM until your senior undergrad year.

    Philosophy of science would be taught as part of a philosophy degree, though science students can usually read a few non-science papers. If you are primarily interested in the philosophical aspects, then you should probably look in that direction... although, the philosophy of QM is not going to make a lot of sense without the QM.

    Physics tracks usually require you to read core papers in physics and mathematics - you should see the prospectus - but there is usually a lot of flexability after that. I have both chemistry and biology year-1 papers in my degree. Note: three core science subjects in one year, with maths, is a heavy load - I did my bio slowly over later years.

    By comparison, engineering usually takes over almost your entire course-load with mandatory papers.
    You would normally be required to read core physics, chemistry, and maths as a minimum. Like before - read the prospectus.

    JIC: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/ugprospectus
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2014
  12. Apr 22, 2014 #11
    Yes it is Imperial College London.

    The philosophical aspects of physics are just a side interest of mine.
    One of my biggest interests is the mathematical aspects of the field, besides the fact that physics gives you an understanding of the whole universe, which is the most fascinating thing. Pure science is looking like a huge option for me now.

    I am familiar with the prospectus but now I can only talk to staff to understand my full range of possibilities. Thank you so much for all your help!
  13. Apr 22, 2014 #12

    Simon Bridge

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    No worries, good luck and have fun.
  14. Apr 22, 2014 #13
    I advise you keep it that way ;) philosophy goes down its own hole and doesn't help with science much at all.
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