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Math minor for engineer

  1. Mar 10, 2009 #1
    I came into my university with lots of units (but I still can't graduate early because courses are only offered certain quarters). I can either do a math minor, or just take extra classes in my major (Materials Engineering with a specialization in electronic materials) or the EE department. Some math courses of interest to me are:

    1. Linear Algebra: Techniques of proof, abstract vector spaces, linear transformations, and matrices; determinants; inner product spaces; eigenvector theory. P/NP or letter grading. Textbook: Friedberg

    2. Stochastic Processes: Discrete Markov chains, continuous-time Markov chains, renewal theory. P/NP or letter grading. Textbook: Durrett, Essentials Of Stochastic Processes

    3. Complex Analysis for Applications

    4. Mathematical Modeling: Introduction to fundamental principles and spirit of applied mathematics. Emphasis on manner in which mathematical models are constructed for physical problems. Illustrations from many fields of endeavor, such as physical sciences, biology, economics, and traffic dynamics. Textbook: Haberman, Mathematical Models

    5. Software Techniques for Scientific Computation

    6. Applied Numerical Methods (Two quarter sequence, but I can just do one.)

    7. Optimiazation

    Which of these math classes would be most useful (I need 4 more for the minor, and I have to take linear algebra since it is a prereq for all those other math classes)? Or should I just take extra engineering classes and not do the math minor? By the way, if it matters, I want to go to graduate school in materials science.

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2009 #2


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    Hmm I don't know for an EE, besides complex analysis. Every EE i've met says it's pretty useful.

    For us transportation engineers, stochastic process is extremely useful.
  4. Mar 10, 2009 #3
    I'm actually in materials engineering, not EE, but I will be taking semiconductor physics courses, so I'm not sure how useful complex analysis is. I will probably take PDE, too (I forgot to add that onto my list).
  5. Mar 10, 2009 #4
    Linear algebra is a fun class, good to know stuff... basic, but powerful. Expands mental horizons.

    You'd probably like Math Modeling, Numerical Analysis, and Scientific Computing. If you ever end up doing work with computers (almost certain, I would guess, but then again who am I to say) this stuff might prove useful. Depending on your interest level, they could be stimulating as well.

    Finally, Complex Analysis would be good to have if you're doing physics related stuff, which you are.

    I would say that Optimization and Stochastic Processes wouldn't be of as much use to you. Then again, what do I know?
  6. Mar 10, 2009 #5
    I'm an EE student, and Linear Algebra is actually a required course for EE majors at my school (UMass) - in addition to Calculus I/II, Multi, and DiffEQ.

    Some of it was way up in the clouds, but I did enjoy the examples that pertained to control system theory (my interest).

    Finishing up with DiffEQ right now, I already plan to buy a text on PDE's given the immensity of usefulness I've found in what I've learned in DiffEQ thus far.
  7. Mar 10, 2009 #6

    Tom Mattson

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    I'd vote for numerical methods, simply because real world engineering problems don't have neat closed form solutions.
  8. Mar 10, 2009 #7
    Linear algebra should be a requirement for your engineering program. If it is not, then you need to take it regardless.

    After that, numerical methods will probably be the most useful. 90% of the problems you will probably face will be highly non-linear and can only be solved numerically.

    Since your going into materials I would probably then take the optimization class next. The one I took was basically calc 3 and numerical methods with a twist. But its a good refresher and you will probably learn applications of different methods you never thought possible.
  9. Mar 10, 2009 #8
    True, but then we have computers to integrate numerically for us.
  10. Mar 10, 2009 #9
    "True, but then we have computers to integrate numerically for us. "

    But you have to tell the computer how... that's the point, no?
  11. Mar 10, 2009 #10

    Tom Mattson

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    Yeah exactly. I've taught a number of engineers who don't think they need to learn the really hard math. It's astonishing. They think the computer will do it for them. I tell them that somebody gets paid big bucks to write that kind of software, and if you don't learn the math that somebody won't be you. I don't know if it convinces them or not, but that always ends the discussion.
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