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Need help - should I study Science/Engineering?

  1. Jan 16, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone my name is Nick and I live in Western Australia. I have lurked this forum for a while now and have decided to sign up to tell you my story and ask for some advice. I apologise if my story is long winded but i will need to tell it so you can all understand my predicament.

    Ok, so I'm 24 years old and have deferred my undergrad in Bachelor of Arts (political science and philosophy) from the University of Western Australia.

    Back in high school I was an under achiever. I had personal issues in high school with health and also normal teenage stuff with drugs, fighting and what not. I was always very bright but never applied myself and always took the easy route.

    However, my entire life I have always been a seeker. My parents say that even at a few years old I would just pester them with the question 'why?' All the time, you know the cliche's, why is the sky blu? Why do I have to do this? What's the point? I always have to understand the deeper meaning behind everything I do.

    Another point to note is that I always sucked at math. I couldn't wrap my head around math every time I attempted to learn it it was like a brick wall in front of me. Having said that I was always a natural with humanities subjects - politics, English, history, law everything I could get my hands on. S I was an under achiever academically but of above average intelligence... I was reading books on ww2 and Germany, political theory and legal theory etc. but I always avoided maths and science.

    By the time I left school (I graduated but did not do TEE which is the route for university kids) I worked for a few years doing odd jobs and really not knowing what I was doing in life, but after leaving school my thirst for knowledge increased and I was consuming books as fast I could get my hands on them and eventually found a back door entrance into the top university of my State.

    I've done a year and half of political science and philosophy and as easy as I found it (and enjoyable) I was left a little disappointed. I have always craved certainty, facts. And in the Humanities every subject is my opinion versus your opinion, and you may be wrong but if you can argue better than me it doesn't matter.

    I always thought my ideal profession would be to go on and do grad school Law after politics, but I'm disillusioned with it all, especially as I don't like the fact that my areas of interest have no real worl applications... Even if I study law and become a lawyer I'm not going to be able to build a house like my father! or service my girlfriends car, or any other simple every day things a man needs to be able to do in this world.

    So craving this certainty and practicality I started studying science on my own, and have devoured many popular science books on chemistry, physics, molecular biology, synthetic biology, evolutionary health (paleo diet) and more. I have discovered a world I never knew existed because I never gave it a chance. I now really regret not applying myself in high school to math and science.

    Anyway I applied to go back to UWA to do a bachelor of Science, which I have been accepted to do pending my completion of a 6 month Maths bridging course to meet the pre requisites.

    The University linked me to an online Maths tutor to get prepared which I have enjoyed but am still at an elementary level (fractions, decimals etc) though I plan to apply myself to a lot of study for the next few months to teach myself as much as I can.

    On to my question.

    The subjects I like the most in Science are Chemistry and Physics (but probably chemistry more) and In engineering I like E.E and ChemE. I think they would be the areas I would want to study, ChemE and Chemistry together more than anything.

    But in browsing this forum and doing my homework I have come to the conclusion that Chemical Engineering and Chemistry is HARD! It seems that even guys/gals who are naturals with Math and Science struggle so am I biting off more than I can chew and should I just stick to what I'm good at?

    Or can I, through struggle and sheer grit and determination develop my mathematical and problem solving faculties and manage the work load and change the trajectory of my life into an area much more rewarding? I obviously have not been exposed to much maths and definitely no natural but surely if I apply myself and spend hundreds of hours studying I can become good at it?

    Any help/suggestions or questions would be much appreciated, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2014 #2
    There are 2 things that got me started on Chemistry;
    1) Breaking Bad (PS I don't want to cook meth)
    2) my brother in law works on a farm owned by an 'Industrial Chemist'. I have not met this man yet but I will be soon. This guy has made a fortune, I don't know how much exactly but I would guess 100+ million. I mean, he bought a 20 million dollar farm just because he was bored. And then taught himself animal husbandry and farming. Anyway I hope to become friends with him as someone to go to for advice, as his level of knowledge and success is what I crave. The stories I've heard of things he's done with Chemistry in his life are amazing, and to have access to his knowledge and experience would be like winning the lottery, IMO
  4. Jan 16, 2014 #3
    I think you should at last follow your inner instincts. I too was a seeker, wondered where babies came from :P was amazed when saw a rc plane for the first time, later tried my best but it only got running instead of flying int the open air.Nothing is easy to learn(being an ECE student) but the passion and your inner will will take you to some place so improve your level of your math and science and give it a try rather than having to regret when its too late. Best of luck.Cheers
  5. Jan 16, 2014 #4
    Thanks! I think you hit the nail on the head. I've spent my adult life searching for answers; think I've read every religious text known to man, and all the driest European philosophy from the Greeks onward. Nothing satisfied me because it's all conjecture. I know I can go back to an Arts degree and ace all my courses but after having tried wrapping my head around Quantum Mechanics or Chemistry (and really struggling) I think if I only ever study Arts I will feel only half educated. And I think if I avoid maths for the rest if my life because "I'm no good at it" I will feel cheated. It's a part of me I dislike about myself and want to change - I only fear failure and that I would get myself in over my head.
  6. Jan 16, 2014 #5


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    It would seem that your best course of action is to proceed with taking some courses. Get the prerequisites you need and then enroll in some first year science courses. You can't tell if you'll be any good any of these subject until you dive in and try them, unfortunately. This is the kind of thing you could do even if you're in an arts program since most of them will require some kind of science elective.

    There are some people who have a gift for the math. Others have to struggle with it. Both can be successful.
  7. Jan 16, 2014 #6


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    I definitely agree with this.

    You may find math is easier now than when you were young. I was that way. I don't know why, perhaps my brain wasn't mature enough as a teenager to understand algebra. But in my 20s it came to me much easier. Not easily, mind you, I still had to put in a lot of effort.

    Chemistry is a great way to first learn science. You may find it leads you...who knows! But Choppy is right. You should start down this path, see where it goes.

    One piece of advice: start with math. Get comfortable with it before you start any tough science classes. And never skip prerequisites, that's a recipe for disaster. (OK that was two pieces of advice :biggrin:!)

    Good luck! Keep us posted!
  8. Jan 16, 2014 #7
    chemistry and chem E. are hard but rewarding. Actually I wouldn't know as I'm not in either. But from a distance they seem to be very difficult sciences with a lot of application. I took some chemistry and it's not easy but once you get the hang of it it's not too bad. Good luck with everything.
  9. Jan 18, 2014 #8
    Thanks everyone. Seems to be the general consensus that it's worth a shot. I definitely find Maths easier now, I'm still learning basics but everything is perfectly logical and easy to grasp - that's not the memory I have of Maths in high school.
    I am still unsure as to what my major would be. There are parts of Physics I love, and parts I don't. I have questions in this regard that perhaps deserve a different thread of their own.
  10. Jan 18, 2014 #9
    I definitely think this is the case. I found out about a year ago I am gluten intolerant, since cutting that out it feels like fog has been lifted from my brain (there is a book called Grain Brain written about the effects of wheat on the brain) anyway i feel that my thoughts are so much clearer and sharper. Along with me maturing anyway I'm quite confident that some intense study can see me change my relationship with maths


    Come on, don't hide it. You were going to say Chemistry will lead me to Physics wernt you? ;-)
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