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Most physics-ey engineering discipline

  1. Feb 28, 2010 #1
    Which fields of engineering involve the most physics. I'm a physics major at the moment, but after seeing how ridiculous it is to land a tenure position at a university, I'm considering switching to engineering. What do you guys suggest for a physics/math buff?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2010 #2
    Engineering Physics.
  4. Feb 28, 2010 #3
    Yea.. not a degree option @ my school.. that's a pretty uncommon one.
  5. Feb 28, 2010 #4
    Just throwing out ideas. I've heard that most physicists are "condensed matter physicists" which is essentially material science. So maybe Material Science Engineering. This might best leave the door open for going back to physics.

    After that probably Nuclear Eng. followed by Mechanical., Aero., and Chemical
  6. Feb 28, 2010 #5


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    Many engineering disciplines have branches that are "physics-ey". It does depend upon what fields you are interested in.

    Electrical engineeering includes electromagnetics (primarily waves), applied solid state physics (semiconductor physics to make better materials for transistors, designi transistors themselves, etc.), and optics. Some EEs end up requiring a lot of quantum mechanics to do their work. Some EE departments include plasma physics, as well.

    MEchanical engineering includes mechanics (including solid mechanics), fluid dynamics, and thermodynamics, of course.

    MAterials science includes solid state physics, thermal and statistical physics.

    I know too little about chemical engineering to say much ...

    I must say, however, that in my limited experience (always worked at the same place ...) the engineers in the workplace that get to think the most about the physics tend to be those with graduate degrees.

  7. Feb 28, 2010 #6
    The amount of science you want to deal with in engineering isn't depend upon what field you choose but up to you. I wouldn't be so much concerned with which field you choose, but what area of physics you want to work in. For example, if you like physical chemistry go into mechanical or chemical, if you like nuclear physics, go into nuclear engineering, etc.
  8. Feb 28, 2010 #7
    I'm a physics/math buff and I chose electrical engineering. I can't say EE has the most physics/math compared to other engineering areas, but maybe it offers the most diverse range of subtopics in both math and physics.

    There is a wide range of topics in EE and not all of them require detailed knowledge of physics and math - for example computer or circuit design. However, you can easily steer yourself more towards physics/math based areas. You need quantum mechanics to understand semiconductor and other solid state devices. Electromagnetics/optics, acoustics, mechanics are other examples of physics areas. Math areas include differential equations, linear algebra, vector calculus, Fourier and Laplace transform theory and application, probability theory and stochastic processes, feedback and control theory, discrete time mathematical theory, linear systems analysis. When you get to grad level in EE, you will find some people are technologists, some are almost pure applied mathematicians, some are basically applied physicists and some are jacks of all trades (with the likely chance of being a master of none).

    Differential geometry isn't used much in engineering, but you can learn it easily enough on your own because the covered vector calculus with general curvilinear coordinates and tensor calculations gets you close. Mechanical engineering is also a good choice if you prefer mechanics, fluids and thermodynamics. It's really close between mechanical and electrical engineering, but I typically find electrical engineers have been exposed to a wider range of math analysis theory. I think physics gives the best overall applied mathematics background and of course the best physics background. However, perhaps engineers are a little better at using math and physics to get answers efficiently for real world design problems. For example, a physics major is better suited to do a spacetime coordinate transform for the electromagnetic field components in a special relativity problem, and most EEs might not even know how to approach that, but a physics major might not even know the correct form of Maxwell's equations for designing and optimizing a motor with practical ferromagnetic materials, or if they do, they might struggle to get answers with it. So, with any area you choose, you should seek to keep learning to improve your knowledge and capabilities over time.
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