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MS thesis option if you don't have an ME background?

  1. Mar 6, 2010 #1
    I completed my undergrad in physics and applied math, and did 2 different research projects. I ultimately want to do modeling/computational work (since i would much rather do numerical analysis than experimental work) for an aerospace company/defense contractor doing work related to making weapons, tanks, and missiles. This past week, I got accepted by my current school's MAE department for the MS program.
    For now and the spring quarter, I was thinking of just continuing to apply for internships or full-time engineering positions, and if i can't get one by the MS admission deadline, i'll accept the MS offer.

    Now here's the problem. If I do the MS, I wish to do the thesis option, since I can get funded for it if I find a research advisor. However, I'm not sure what area I'd like to do research in. Since i've only taken 2 engineering classes, intro to fluid mechanics and intro to heat transfer, I'm debating between CFD vs heat transfer vs structual analysis.

    CFD seems to have the most applications related to analyzing aircraft and missiles, which is what I wish the most to do. In my heat transfer class, I enjoy the concepts we're learning, but I don't like how all the applications seem related to pipes, heat exchangers, etc - nothing related to aircraft and missiles. Structural analysis seems to draw from statics and dynamics, which according to the textbook I skimmed through, seemed to focus on designing stuff like buildings and bridges. But from my lower-div physics mechanics course, I enjoyed statics and dynamics the most

    Any ideas of how to narrow down my research interests? Or maybe I'm better off just doing the non-thesis option, since I like studying ME in general, even though I have to pay for it?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2010 #2
    If you want to do the thesis and can get funding, choose the thesis option. Like you, I did my undergrad in physics and switched over to engineering. I elected to do a non-thesis masters because I didn't think I was qualified to start doing research with a faculty member. I didn't have ANY engineering background to speak of, and felt that a coursework masters was the way to go.

    At my university, the non-thesis option requires 36 hours of graduate courses and a "project course" with a faculty member. I don't think I would have learned nearly as much had I elected to go the thesis route.
     
  4. Mar 7, 2010 #3

    ranger

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    If you are not sure which research option you'd like to do, then this may be an option. However, you should first check with your department's policies regarding the timeline of going from M.Sc -> M.Eng (or equivalent non-thesis option). If your department allows you to switch from M.Sc to M.Eng (most do without the need for a supplemental application). Take a few grad level courses in your research area as an M.Sc student. This will give you enough exposure for you to make your own decision. This will also give you the opportunity to engage your supervisor and other faculty members for further advise. If at the end of this and still you're a little unsure, then you can switch to M.Eng. There would be no benefit of continuing in M.Sc if you don't know which research area to undertake.

    Also, why waste time being registered for courses? Why not sit-in in relevant classes to get exposure? Just let the professor know you will be doing this. This way you won't have to worry about your GPA and using up course slots to fulfill the requirements for your degree.

    Lastly, you can always accept the offer, then take a break. Get a job in industry and take that time to make-up your mind. Again consult with your department to see what are your options for taking a break and the sort of timeline they offer.
     
  5. Mar 7, 2010 #4
    The study of Finite Element or Boundary Element Analyses probably has the widest application range for someone in your position.
    Statics, body dynamics, fluid dynamics, electromagnetic fields, the list is long.
     
  6. Mar 8, 2010 #5
    alright thanks for the suggestions guys
     
  7. Mar 8, 2010 #6
    were you able to easily find engineering jobs after getting your MS? i'm really worried that getting the MS in engineering still won't help me find engineering jobs
     
  8. Mar 8, 2010 #7
    I won't be finished with the degree until this summer, but I have the same concerns about finding employment. I've applied to a bunch of internships and entry-level positions and haven't detected much interest.

    I get the feeling that age might be a factor here (I'm 28). The big aerospace companies seem to prefer 22 year olds with lots of internships under their belt, even if they got a C in aerodynamics. It's really quite ridiculous. I may end up spending another 2-3 years to get the Ph.D.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2010
  9. Mar 9, 2010 #8

    ranger

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    Well the situation right now is a little different. I was talking with my supervisor about current hiring trends in the industry. Even with those who have a masters degree in engineering and have done research, its still very hard to get into companies. They have cut back significantly in hiring. Its nothing like how it was when Nortel was going on hiring sprees for new grads. All across the engineering industry companies are only hiring the "best and the brightest." Unfortunately, they measure this by grades (A or A+), research papers published, grad school attended (yes! thats true), and of course the in-person interviews have gotten so ridiculously hard that you think these people want me to NOT get the job! He told me that companies will even go as far as filtering out candidates from the so called "Tier 2" schools. Its a very sad state in industry right now. New grads (2008-2010) are now competing with those experienced engineers who have been laid-off for simple entry-level to intermediate positions. Not to mention there is the issue of outsourcing.

    My advise to anyone would be to say in the shelter of academia. Go for your masters or even PhD. Hey, you're getting a little stipend, which is better than nothing. But if you happen to get a job offer whilst going for your advanced degree, then take the job offer! Put your degree hold for 2 yrs or so. These days, experience is more important than education, even for those so called "entry-level jobs." Yes, I've seen entry-level positions that require P.Eng and 3 yrs of experience outside of school :/

    So its not how old you are. Those days when the big companies invested in young engineers are in the past. Hopefully in the future things will get better. But thats in the future, maybe the distant future.
     
  10. Mar 9, 2010 #9

    ranger

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    Thats right! Do not be disillusioned that an MS will make jobs fall on your lap...
     
  11. Mar 9, 2010 #10
    well at least now I don't feel like as much of a loser for being unemployed, despite having a 3.77 gpa, 2 undergrad research projects, and an industrial internship. Also, now it makes sense that in alot of the programmer/analyst positions i've gotten interviews for, they keep testing me on my knowledge of c++, which I haven't taken in 3 years, and other courses i haven't taken in months or years


    you can put your MS on hold like that? is this true even for the thesis option? that you can work on it for, say 1 year, work in industry for a few years, and then come back to complete it? won't your research advisor not like that since they want commitment?
     
  12. Mar 9, 2010 #11

    ranger

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    Unfortunately, given the current nature of the industry, its hard not to feel like that. Its really given employers the power to treat job seekers like circus animals (especially new grads). Friend of mine (MS) got an interview from a big name company in Canada who makes general purpose processors and GPUs. She got asked the most ridiculous questions which is unrelated to her research area and job description. They asked her to design some amplifier with the most oddest requirements. Theres no way someone remembers this stuff unless they took the course within the last semester, worked with it extensively in a previous job, or did research on the topic. I myself refer to my undergrad textbooks quite often when I do my research. If you ask people who work in the field they will tell you its very common to use references when doing a design (unless you've done your job for years).

    Several MS and ME students that I know have put their Masters on hold for 1-2 yrs to go and work in Dubai and China. They did this recently, within the last two semesters or so. They of course discussed this extensively with their advisor before committing. The policy may vary from school to school, however.
     
  13. Mar 9, 2010 #12
    thanks again for your input, Ranger

    did she pass the interview? if not, what did she do wrong?

    so if i also may work in industry in the middle of my MS, I should tell that in advance to my advisor, before I interview for them to see if they have funding available?
     
  14. Mar 10, 2010 #13

    ranger

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  15. Mar 11, 2010 #14
    ok thanks again for the advice. When you say I should tell this stuff to my advisor, do you mean I should also tell this to the professors I'm considering doing my thesis project with as well?
     
  16. Mar 13, 2010 #15

    ranger

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    If I were you I would keep it to my advisor and program administrator. They will be in a better position to advise you thereafter.
     
  17. Mar 15, 2010 #16
    I strongly disagree with that statement. You would have learned much, much more. Reading about engineering in textbooks and homeworks is no substitute for getting in the trenches and actually doing it, where you find the equations in the books have their limitations and you need to derive your own formulas for your particular experiment. Hands down, this is a false statement.
     
  18. Mar 15, 2010 #17
    I was talking about myself, Cyrus. You might have learned more doing a thesis project, but I definitely learned more by taking the extra classes. The university I attend has very high standards when it comes to coursework. Getting a high GPA in these classes requires a lot of work and independent study.
     
  19. Mar 15, 2010 #18
    This difference between taking extra classes, and doing a thesis is huge. The point is that taking more engineering courses is not the same as using your coursework on real world engineering problems. Trust me, you will understand what I'm saying when you work on a project. In grad school, its pretty much expected to have above a 3.7 GPA, it's the quality of your research that makes you stand out. This is what will differentiate taking hard classes, from having a deep, working understanding of the topics. If you can, do research.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2010
  20. Mar 15, 2010 #19
    You can read about pipe-fitting all day long, but when it comes time to actually run the pipes, coursework is about as far from actually doing the job as you can get.
     
  21. Mar 22, 2010 #20
    Well none of the professors who do research I'm interested in are willing to fund MS students. The only professors who seem willing to fund are the ones who do research that doesn't interest me in the slightest. I guess i should just take more ME classes, to expand my interests, so I can find a prof to fund me
     
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