Physics or Engineering?

  • Other
  • Thread starter argo1967
  • Start date
  • #1
4
1
Hello,I'm a 19 years Italian student,please excuse me in advance for eventuals mistakes consider that english is not my main language.
I'm creating this post because soon , I will have to join an university course.
I've got a dilemma,I can't really decide between 2 courses:Engineering or Physics.
I'm going to describe a bit my "school journey".In first years of high school I would have never tought I would have liked physics or engineering ,but I always had an inner voice that was telling me how does that thing work? In 3rd year of high school I've been introduced to Philosophy a subject that I really liked,because I could study people's thoughts that were questioning the world and could also develop a critical view that led me questioning my surroundings.Then I discovered that physics was nothing more than the evolution of philosophy(See Leibniz,Galileo,Renè Descartes),it was the analisys of the world by using a instrument the mathematic.And there I'am I've finished my 5th year of high school and I will soon join university. I both like physics and engineering, the former because it could allow me to understand the world , the latter because it allows me to manipulate the world and it allows me to create/Program things,in my case I preefer a type of engineering called cybernetic engineering,that's a mix between eletronic engineering and informatics engineering. I hope that short description of my high school years can allow you to help me.



There you can see subjects of both courses: Engineering https://offweb.unipa.it/offweb/publ...8&paginaProvenienza=ricercaSemplice&cid=16542

Physics: https://offweb.unipa.it/offweb/publ...&paginaProvenienza=ricercaSemplice&cid=477724

I hope you guys can help, thank you in advance, and excuse me for my bad english xD.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Dale
Mentor
Insights Author
2020 Award
31,509
8,251
I would recommend taking the introduction to engineering class as early as possible. That should give you a good idea if you will like engineering.
 
  • #3
DEvens
Education Advisor
Gold Member
1,203
457
Try to find the subject that "glimmers." This is the subject that, when you think about it or work on it, your attention is drawn. It's the thing you find yourself doing because you like working on that. The thing that, when you start working on it, you look up and many hours have gone by and you have not noticed nor wanted to stop. That's the subject you won't need somebody to stand over you with threats and deadlines to keep you working. Nobody will need to motivate you or explain why you need it. You will drive yourself, and progress will feel *good*.

If you are very lucky, the thing that glimmers will also be something you can make a living at.

When you are picking your courses at university, the metaphor to keep in mind is the all-you-can-eat restaurant. Grab every course you can shove into your brain. Look through that catalog and if it looks interesting, and might possibly benefit you, then put it on the "possible" pile. And don't insist that all your classes be in your specific subject area, though don't reject them either.

In undergrad I took quite a few classes not directly related to physics. I took an intro philosophy class, a world religion class, a ton of computer classes, and several engineering classes. Eventually I used them all, though not all in my job. I wish I could have taken more. But there are only so many hours in the day.
 
  • #4
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
801
457
To OP: Before we discuss your situation further, it would be helpful to clarify the options available to you at your intended university. There was a post by another Italian student a while ago. If I recall correctly, the options at his university were significantly different from those at most US universities.

At most US universities (some exceptions apply), you simply apply for admission to the university, not a particular department or major. The first year courses are often general requirements taken by all students, plus electives. This gives you the opportunity to explore various fields, if you're not sure what you want. You then typically declare a major in your second year (sometimes later), but also typically have the opportunity to take electives outside of your major. So, e.g, if you major in physics, you can take electives in electrical engineering; if you major in electrical engineering, you can take electives in physics. If you change interests, you often have the option of changing majors (though, in some instances, you may need to stay longer). This system provides a great deal of flexibility in your overall education.

Other posters here have indicated that universities in other countries are not so flexible. At some, you need to apply to a specific department or major; you cannot take electives outside of your prescribed program; and you cannot change majors (e.g., physics may be in the school or faculty of sciences, and electrical engineering may be in the school or faculty of engineering; and you cannot cross-enroll, or change your school or faculty).

What are the options at your intended university?
 
  • #5
4
1
Thank you for answering
To OP: Before we discuss your situation further, it would be helpful to clarify the options available to you at your intended university. There was a post by another Italian student a while ago. If I recall correctly, the options at his university were significantly different from those at most US universities.

At most US universities (some exceptions apply), you simply apply for admission to the university, not a particular department or major. The first year courses are often general requirements taken by all students, plus electives. This gives you the opportunity to explore various fields, if you're not sure what you want. You then typically declare a major in your second year (sometimes later), but also typically have the opportunity to take electives outside of your major. So, e.g, if you major in physics, you can take electives in electrical engineering; if you major in electrical engineering, you can take electives in physics. If you change interests, you often have the option of changing majors (though, in some instances, you may need to stay longer). This system provides a great deal of flexibility in your overall education.

Other posters here have indicated that universities in other countries are not so flexible. At some, you need to apply to a specific department or major; you cannot take electives outside of your prescribed program; and you cannot change majors (e.g., physics may be in the school or faculty of sciences, and electrical engineering may be in the school or faculty of engineering; and you cannot cross-enroll, or change your school or faculty).

What are the options at your intended university?
Thank you for answering,you are right when you say that universities in Italy aren't that much flexible,in fact you mainly join 1 course and then have to follow it until you finish it.I only have 2 choices left,joining engineering school and become a mechatronic engineer, with a major in eletronic engineering, or choice the physics path and do a major in theoretical physics .I really can't decide between them,what I really care about is understading how thing works,like why does light deflect in a certain way instead of something else? I also wanna know how human creation work, like eletrical/mechanical items,because i would feel like "empty". I hope you answer soon,thank you in advance.
 
  • #6
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
801
457
Thank you for answering,you are right when you say that universities in Italy aren't that much flexible,in fact you mainly join 1 course and then have to follow it until you finish it.I only have 2 choices left,joining engineering school and become a mechatronic engineer, with a major in eletronic engineering, or choice the physics path and do a major in theoretical physics .I really can't decide between them,what I really care about is understading how thing works,like why does light deflect in a certain way instead of something else? I also wanna know how human creation work, like eletrical/mechanical items,because i would feel like "empty". I hope you answer soon,thank you in advance.
You're in a tough situation. It sounds like you would want a combined physics and engineering program of some sort. I majored in physics (undergrad through PhD), but also took electives in materials science and engineering: that gave me a good balance between fundamental principles and practical applications. But it appears you need to choose between physics and engineering, and can't have both.

So another deciding factor is what do you plan after your undergraduate work? I know that may be difficult to decide at this point. In the US, I generally recommend that students pursue an undergrad major in physics, only if they intend to continue on to a PhD program. If they plan a terminal bachelor's or terminal master's, I recommend they pursue an engineering degree.
 
  • #7
4
1
You're in a tough situation. It sounds like you would want a combined physics and engineering program of some sort. I majored in physics (undergrad through PhD), but also took electives in materials science and engineering: that gave me a good balance between fundamental principles and practical applications. But it appears you need to choose between physics and engineering, and can't have both.

So another deciding factor is what do you plan after your undergraduate work? I know that may be difficult to decide at this point. In the US, I generally recommend that students pursue an undergrad major in physics, only if they intend to continue on to a PhD program. If they plan a terminal bachelor's or terminal master's, I recommend they pursue an engineering degree.
Really ,thank alot for answering .I think I will also continue on to a PhD program to get a better chance of getting a job but also to have a better overall knowledge,the one thing that keeps me away from physics and engineering at this moment ,is that I'm scared that by doing physics I won't be able to create things because of the lack of information in that area.At the same time, I'm scared of doing engineering, because i would feel like I don't really understand the world, I would feel like that I'm applying just a bunch of formulas without knowing what those actually do or atleast without fully understading them. I have only 2 weeks left before I join university..
 
  • #8
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
801
457
Really ,thank alot for answering .I think I will also continue on to a PhD program to get a better chance of getting a job but also to have a better overall knowledge,the one thing that keeps me away from physics and engineering at this moment ,is that I'm scared that by doing physics I won't be able to create things because of the lack of information in that area.At the same time, I'm scared of doing engineering, because i would feel like I don't really understand the world, I would feel like that I'm applying just a bunch of formulas without knowing what those actually do or atleast without fully understading them. I have only 2 weeks left before I join university..
(1) Do you have advisors available at your university that can help guide you in the right choice? Will the university be holding orientation meetings before you need to make a choice?

(2) If you are planning to eventually pursue a PhD program, it is my opinion that it's far easier for a PhD physicist (in particular, an experimental physicist) to learn engineering than for a PhD engineer to learn physics. Others will likely disagree.

(3) If you pursue experimental, rather than theoretical, physics, you will be exposed to a lot of practical skills (machine shop, mechanical design, materials, electronics, software, ...) ... if you choose the right projects. In experimental physics, it's often the case that if commercial apparatus does not exist for you to perform the experiments you want, you design and build the apparatus. Particularly, if you perform experiments under extreme conditions (e.g., ultra-high vacuum, ultra-high pressures, ultra-low temperatures, ultra-high temperatures, ultra-high radiation ...), you are faced with challenging designs. And extracting minute signals in a noisy environment is highly challenging. Those are just a couple of examples.
 
  • #9
4
1
(1) Do you have advisors available at your university that can help guide you in the right choice? Will the university be holding orientation meetings before you need to make a choice?

(2) If you are planning to eventually pursue a PhD program, it is my opinion that it's far easier for a PhD physicist (in particular, an experimental physicist) to learn engineering than for a PhD engineer to learn physics. Others will likely disagree.

(3) If you pursue experimental, rather than theoretical, physics, you will be exposed to a lot of practical skills (machine shop, mechanical design, materials, electronics, software, ...) ... if you choose the right projects. In experimental physics, it's often the case that if commercial apparatus does not exist for you to perform the experiments you want, you design and build the apparatus. Particularly, if you perform experiments under extreme conditions (e.g., ultra-high vacuum, ultra-high pressures, ultra-low temperatures, ultra-high temperatures, ultra-high radiation ...), you are faced with challenging designs. And extracting minute signals in a noisy environment is highly challenging. Those are just a couple of examples.
1)Yes there are advisor,I was thinking to go and ask them.
2)That's why i wanted to physics,because if do engineering I may not be able to fully understand physics.
3)Experimental physics could be a choice,but I Think that i will probably choose later after I get into the course.
Thank you
 

Related Threads on Physics or Engineering?

  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
2K
Replies
7
Views
5K
Replies
3
Views
967
Replies
3
Views
3K
Replies
22
Views
6K
Replies
3
Views
1K
Top