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Engineering Physics = Mechanical Engineering ?

  1. Apr 24, 2012 #1
    Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Hello,

    Something just occurred to me last night.

    A B.S. in physics covers almost the same material covered in a B.S degree in mechanical engineering. Think about: thermodynamics, statics, mechanics, etc.

    Of course the latter does have more coursework geared towards the applications of those concepts and I assume a focus on tools and computer software to utilize this knowledge. However, I wonder if it is possible to get a job as a mechanical engineer if you supplement your physics degree with some ME knowledge and CAD training?
     
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  3. Apr 24, 2012 #2

    Pengwuino

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    What physics program has students take "statics"? I can imagine maybe some do, but it's certainly not standard. Beyond that, MEs don't take condensed matter, E&M, optics, modern physics courses, GR, etc. There's some overlap but not a ton.
     
  4. Apr 24, 2012 #3

    D H

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Almost all of which is during the freshman and sophomore years. Beyond that, very little.
     
  5. Apr 24, 2012 #4

    OldEngr63

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    What physics program includes mechanics of materials? None that I have ever seen, and yet that is a key course in the ME curriculum. On the thermal size, the physics thermo is quite different from ME thermo, so even though the name is the same, the content is not.
     
  6. Apr 24, 2012 #5
    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Yes I agree, there are a lot of differences, but there is a good amount of overlap, or at least a good deal of preparation. I am just wondering if a student with a physics degree can easily (relatively) bag a degree in ME
     
  7. Apr 24, 2012 #6

    Pengwuino

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    This shouldn't be hard to figure out for yourself. You're clearly at a university or are planning on attending one; look at the course catalogs and determine how many courses would it take to get a ME degree after completing a physics degree.
     
  8. Apr 24, 2012 #7

    OldEngr63

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    I would think you would need to figure on at least an extra 2 years of very intensive course work. It may be difficult even then because a lot of the courses are sequences, two or three deep. If you don't get started when you need to, it may be very hard to get the whole sequence done.
     
  9. Apr 25, 2012 #8

    StatGuy2000

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Moneer81, in your previous thread, you had stated that you had already completed a BS in physics and had taken most of the coursework related to earning your BS in electrical engineering.

    While I'm not an engineering grad myself, I have known many engineers and from what I understand, there is a fair degree of overlap between electrical and mechanical engineering (certainly in the first 2 years, and even in some of the more senior courses, e.g. control systems). I used to work for an engineering company (as a consultant statistician) which employed both electrical and mechanical engineers and both groups often did similar work. I have also known people who completed a BS in one field and earned graduate degrees in another.

    Therefore, in your situation, I would think it would not be too difficult to transition to becoming a mechanical engineer. Speak to the people at the respective departments at various schools and see what they have to say in terms of requirements.
     
  10. Apr 25, 2012 #9
    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    I agree - I am just experiencing the differences. I also had thought that as a physicist I am well prepared for engineering thermodynamics.

    But it is actually harder than I thought to get a feeling for technical thermodynamics and to solve real-world problems quickly, even if the mathematics is simple. It takes a lot of practice to work with datasheets efficiently, get the numbers right etc.

    Knowing how to prove laws or the understanding of concepts is not as helpful as I thought.
     
  11. Apr 27, 2012 #10
    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Well as you can tell, I am completely lost and confused.

    I want to do something that I love. Yes I do have a B.S. in physics, but I ended up in the IT field. I really dislike IT now, and I really want to do something I am passionate and will be passionate about for years to come.

    The good thing is that I have it narrowed down. I am not thinking outside of a couple fields: physics, EE and ME. I am trying to base my decision on what kind of career I will have in the future. I am trying to decide if I want to be an engineer, or if I would like to be in the academia (love the academia, but it seems very competitive and not enough positions).

    I know that only I know what I am passionate about, so forgive my apparent lack of direction. I know that I need to really think, research and talk to people about my options, and that's kinda what I am doing here on this forum. Thanks for all the advice!
     
  12. Apr 27, 2012 #11
    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    I've never heard of any physics degrees that teach FEA, which is a major component of engineering nowadays. Or actually any fluids, heat transfer or dynamics that is actually required to solve real world problems.

    They're quite different degrees...
     
  13. Apr 27, 2012 #12
    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Numerical methods was a required course for an undergrad degree at both my undergrad and grad institutions. Also, the mathematical methods required to understand how the theory works should be straightforward to an upper level physics major.

    That being said, it can be very hard for a physics major to break in to engineering- its easy for a company to hire a mechanical engineering major, harder to hire a physics major.
     
  14. Apr 27, 2012 #13
    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Physics has much more in common with electrical or materials engineering (especially materials) than with mechanical engineering.

    In fact I couldn't think of something less related than mech E that's not humanities or social sciences.
     
  15. Apr 27, 2012 #14

    StatGuy2000

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    ParticleGrl, your statement above is more geared towards physics majors who wish to work in an engineering position, not physics majors going back to school to pursue a second degree in mechanical engineering, which is what the OP had been contemplating (in this thread and in a related thread).
     
  16. Apr 27, 2012 #15

    cepheid

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    I would say there is not very much overlap, because most of the physics is missing from Mech E. I DON'T think that mechanical engineers study ANY of the following:

    - Electricity & Magnetism
    - Optics
    - Quantum Mechanics
    - Special and/or General Relativity
    - Classical Mechanics*
    - Condensed Matter/Solid State Physics
    - Nuclear and/or Particle physics

    A BSc in Physics will take most, if not all of these.

    In other words, ALL of modern physics (and some of classical physics) is missing from most engineering programs.

    Edit: to be fair, an electrical engineer might take courses on the first three on that list in some form.

    *(using Lagrangian or Hamiltonian formalism instead of Newtonian)
     
  17. Apr 27, 2012 #16

    cepheid

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Nevermind. The OP wants to know about those parts of Mech E that don't intersect with physics, not vice versa.

    My bad.

    On the bright side, if you have a physics degree, then you have all the necessary math for Mech E.

    On the downside, you're missing all the practical experience and applied/technical knowledge that makes a good engineer.

    I did a degree that amounted to EE + Physics, but some of my friends did ME + Physics instead, and they had courses on topics like

    - vibrations
    - FEA (as someone mentioned)
    - bolts and other fasteners (I'm serious)
    - fluid dynamics
    - heat transfer

    That's just to name a few (I'm a bit ignorant of the technical aspects of mech e, at least in comparison to my knowledge of ee)

    Then there's the courses common among engineering disciplines like

    - drafting/CAD
    - materials engineering
    - computer programming
    - economics for engineers
    - engineering law and ethics
     
  18. Apr 27, 2012 #17

    OldEngr63

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    The issue of FEA has been raised, and it has been said that a physics graduate should be able to understand the mathematics behind the method. That is no doubt true, but that is a long way from being able to effectively apply the technology. Knowing the mathematics behind the method is only the barest beginning. There is a great deal of "technique" involved in becoming really proficient with FEA, and the mathematical background gets you about 2% of the way there. There is a LOT more to learn.

    Most Mech Engrs will study a little bit of E&M, Optics, and Quantum Mechanics, just about enough to know that they don't really want to know any more, in a Physics class.

    It is not at all uncommon for Mech Engrs to get into the use of Lagrange's equations as well as Newton's equations of motion. I have definitely taught this at the undergraduate (junior) level.
     
  19. Apr 27, 2012 #18

    D H

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Another difference: Thermo. Mechanical engineers take at least one, and often more than one, class on thermodynamics. For many physics majors, the little module on thermo in freshman/sophomore physics is the full extent of their knowledge.
     
  20. Apr 27, 2012 #19

    lisab

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    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    Don't most take statistical mechanics?
     
  21. Apr 28, 2012 #20
    Re: Physics = Mechanical Engineering ???

    From what I'm picking up a summary might read as follows:

    It will only be as hard to get a degree as the number of classes your uni will require you to take.

    The hard part is that for the last few years you haven't been thinking about what you're learning in a ME/EE context but rather about how it applies to physics. Those connections are important. I'm sure you understand what I mean but I'll give an example for readers who might not. I can analyze a circuit in a phyics context with a sufficient theoretical understanding of how resistors and other components work but because I learned about circuits in a physics context I missed the engineering bit. So, when I went to design some circuits for a project I didn't know what a footprint was which made it very difficult for me to actually lay out the PCB.
     
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