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Propulsion Engineer

  1. Sep 24, 2013 #1

    b c

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    Hi guys,

    I'm a mathematics graduate who will be going back to university in 2015 to study mechanical engineering, but have a question that I hope can be answered here.

    I feel that the financial industry that I'm currently working in is not the place for me, as it's quite soulless and uninteresting. As such, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I would like to do with my life and have realised that a career in the space industry is what I need to be doing, as I would be a part of something much bigger than trying to maximise a client's portfolio returns. I would love to eventually make my way into a career as a propulsion engineer, and hence was wondering what courses would allow me to follow such a career path. I'm guessing that choosing courses in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics/dynamics, CFD and propulsion systems would be the most pertinent ones to go for, but would be very grateful if someone with professional knowledge would be able to steer me in the right direction.

    Thanks,
    b c
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2013 #2

    UltrafastPED

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    You should go to a school with an aerospace program ... there is more to a degree than course work: there are also labs, research activities, and professors that are engaged in that field.

    For example: http://www.engin.umich.edu/aero
     
  4. Sep 26, 2013 #3
    If you're definitely interested in space technology, aerospace is a good fit, but mechanical can also serve you well if you choose your technical electives wisely. Your math background will also help you through the coursework, so that's a big plus.
     
  5. Sep 26, 2013 #4

    b c

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    Thanks for the replies guys. I'm in a bit of a predicament as I'm looking to go back and study in South Africa, since (1) I will be able to pay for my studies without taking on a loan and (2) I'm South African (although I do have dual British/South African nationality), but there are no universities that offer a degree in aerospace engineering in South Africa as far as I know (there seems to be every type of engineering offered except aerospace!), so I've decided to take the next best thing which is mechanical engineering. The University of Witwatersrand does offer an aeronautical engineering degree, but it's located in the centre of Johannesburg which isn't what I'd call ideal.

    The University of Michigan does look pretty amazing with its undergraduate research experience programs and courses in propulsion and gas dynamics, but sadly without a full or near-full scholarship I'd be unable to attend. This brings me to another question though: Is there a stigma against graduates who go back to university to do a second degree? Are they in general less likely to be given financial aid? Would someone like myself be able to get a full scholarship to a university such as Michigan if I did very well in my mathematics degree and decided to apply to the undergraduate aerospace engineering course?
     
  6. Sep 27, 2013 #5

    UltrafastPED

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    If you have a goal, are a serious student, and can provide good test scores ... I see no problems.

    I was accepted for a PhD program at the University of Michigan after working for a number of years in industry, and so were others in my program ... for us it was Applied Physics; this is a bridge program between physics and its applications in engineering. So in my program I obtained an MS in electrical engineering (optics and lasers), along with the PhD.

    http://www-applied.physics.lsa.umich.edu/ [Broken]

    You will note that the faculty actually all come from other departments; look for any from Aerospace. I took one course there - applications of Lie algebras to orbital mechanics via variational methods.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  7. Sep 30, 2013 #6
    Mechanical engineering is just fine for being a propulsion engineer, IMO. You cover the basics for thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, etc. You'll probably have to choose your elective courses wisely so that they apply to propulsion systems, such as advanced thermo, heat transfer, and fluids and maybe ones like jet engine design.

    Aerospace and aeronautical engineering are pretty much the same thing. One university calls it one thing, the other calls it a different thing. An aeronautical degree would teach you a lot of what you would need to know without having to bother with tech electives, but there are many mechanical engineers that do propulsion too.
     
  8. Oct 29, 2013 #7

    b c

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    Sorry for the late reply, work's been a little intense these last few weeks!

    Earlier in the year I had a look at many US universities offering graduate studies in aerospace/mechanical engineering and thought I might be able to bypass the 4 years needed to attain a mech/aero engineering degree and go straight into graduate propulsions system studies. For a lot of universities it seemed like my mathematics degree was enough and I would only be required to complete "catch-up" courses covering the fundamentals before I started research, but I later hesitated as I was unsure of job prospects in engineering for a math grad with only graduate engineering behind him.

    Lately I've gone back to this original idea since the worry in the back of my head is how old I'll be and how expensive it would be if I have to do a 4 year engineering degree and then 2 more years for a Master's degree (which I would very much like to do). Do you know of anyone who studied maths during their undergraduate years and subsequently went on to completed graduate studies in a mech/aero engineering concentration, who are now working as engineers?

    EDIT: Wow, very diverse faculty UltrafastPED!
     
  9. Oct 30, 2013 #8
    You shouldn't worry about "only" having graduate engineering or going back for a bachelor's. If they accept you for the master's program, they'll have you go back and take the necessary courses that you would cover in the course of a bachelor's. When you graduate, you should have the training you need to be a master's level engineer, regardless of if you've done your bachelor's in engineering. Besides, you've done all the general education classes already, so why do them again?

    IMHO, the hard part is finding a professor that will take you on. Grad schools want to rush you out the door as soon as possible, and anyone switching from one field to another generally takes longer than 2 years to complete a master's degree. Professors are usually hesitant to take those kinds of students on, but it really depends on the person. With your math background, you could probably get accepted easier. Fluids or heat transfer research is very math-intensive, so you would need less training to get up to speed than someone from a more unrelated discipline. As a future propulsion engineer, that research would be more closely aligned with your interests anyway.

    I would start by emailing professors at prospective universities. Talk to them and explain your situation. They would be able to tell you what some of the difficulties are and maybe they might be willing to help you out. If you have a professor that's willing to take you on as a grad student, you're halfway there.
     
  10. Nov 3, 2013 #9

    b c

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    Thanks timthereaper, very helpful info. I'll be sure to contact some professors in the coming months (I think I'll ask my questions once the mass of emails they get close to registration time cools down a little).
     
  11. Nov 29, 2014 #10
    What kind of self sustained engineered propulsion,would a rocket/shuttle need in order to move through space indefinately..?if we havent found that self generated motion yet,do u think that in time we may..?could it be possible?
     
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