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Questions regarding becoming an engineer

  1. Aug 4, 2008 #1
    I really want to learn as much physics and math as possible for the sake of learning them but ultimately wish to be an engineer by profession.

    I am debating dual majoring in math/physics at the University of Washington and then going to graduate school to either pursue a masters in electrical or computer engineering, or just majoring in engineering then going to grad school. The university accepts grads into the engineering program with math or physics degrees, i would simply have to take a few intro courses before beginning graduate courses.

    In terms of job opportunities would this really be worthwhile? about how much longer would it typically take to dual major in physics/math compared to an engineering field?

    Also growing up i never had to try in math to receive A's untill precalculus. I was still in my former mindset and rarelly did homework. I still received a C and know most of the material but not with the mastery i would like. I will be going on to calculus next and am definitely willing to put as much effort needed into my work to master it but will this lack of proficiency in areas such as polar coordinates and ellipses prevent me from excelling in calculus, differential equations, etc or will there be opportunity to review things i hadnt previously learned? I had to teach myself some calculus to read physics books and it didnt seem particularly hard.

    also who actually works with superconductors? I would assume its physicists but i have seen electrical and materials engineers investigating superconductivity.

    Any input regarding any of this would be greatly appreciated :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2008 #2
    Id say go for electrical if you want to do that, and see where you are. Its abit too early to think of grad school, you can go into photonics in grad school with either degree.
  4. Aug 5, 2008 #3
    You might do better to dual in Physics/Engineering than Math/Physics. You could do any of the above inside four years if you plan well.

    Superconductors = solid state physics or condensed matter physics, I forget. Sort of related. Also some degree of electrical engineering, materials engineering, and so forth (as you said).
  5. Aug 5, 2008 #4
    any other thoughts?
  6. Aug 5, 2008 #5
    Any other questions? :biggrin:

    Oh, and your calculus class will probably at least have a cursory review of things like polar coordinates. More likely, somewhat extensive with regard to that specifically...math is frequently taught iteratively, meaning lots of review before they introduce the expanded version of the concept.
  7. Aug 5, 2008 #6


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    Unless you absolutely love physics and maths and cannot devote yourself to studying something other than them, I'd advise an EE major instead. Reason being that you never know when you may or may not want to continue on to grad school after getting your degree. Of course you could do a major in EE and a double-major or a more doable minor in either maths or physics. You did mention that you ultimately want to be an engineer in profession so I guess majoring in engineering is not only the safer choice but also the straightest path.
  8. Aug 5, 2008 #7
    A degree in engineering will open more doors for you IMO. Engineering is the application of science, no company out there wants to just hire physicists to discover things when those things cant be used to make money.

    Don't worry about the math stuff. I got C's in HS too in all my math courses and even failed Calc II and Calc III in college. But once I had professors that didnt have their heads up their asses I got 3.5+ in all my math courses including the graduate level courses I took while an undergrad.
  9. Aug 5, 2008 #8
    is computer engineering as math intensive as regular electrical engineering? also would it be better to dual major in EE/physics or EE/math?
  10. Aug 5, 2008 #9


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    I don't know about your college, but for mine Comp Eng requires less math and of course greater knowledge of programming such as Assembly and other CS classes. Last I checked, Comp Engs in my college didn't have to do E&M, unlike EE majors.
  11. Aug 5, 2008 #10
    I am an EE, but computer engineering from what I have seen is mostly number theory and digital logic. That doesn't mean that hand writing assembly and interpreting complex logic systems is any less annoying than convolution in signals or solving E&M problems.
  12. Aug 5, 2008 #11


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    Number theory in comp eng? I don't remember seeing anything to do with number theory in comp eng. Could you elaborate more on which courses in comp eng uses number theory extensively?
  13. Aug 6, 2008 #12
    Perhaps number theory wasn't the best branch to throw out there as a lot of pure math is used the closer you to get to the software side of things. If I were to choose the most important branch, I would choose combinatorics instead of number theory, though very basic concepts from number theory such as modular arithmetic are used quite extensively.
  14. Aug 7, 2008 #13
    Perhaps a major in EE or Computer Engineering with a minor in physics would be appropriate. Don't worry so much about math, beyond the minimum math courses you would take as an EE major you wouldn't need them.
  15. Aug 7, 2008 #14
    If you are leaning more towards a duel major, I'd say phy/eng. You have more options if you do not go into grad school - and math is a part of both of these subject areas. I'm not intirely sure what is required of a math major (extent of knowledge), but I'm sure you'll have to take upto Calc II for your phy degree, and you generally have to go pretty high for eng degree as well (maybe Calc III / Diffeq). Those requirements should satisfy your yearning for math. On a last note, some majors do overlap in required classes. That is to say that your Calc II will be able to cover both your eng and phy degree. I see no great reason for it, but maybe a triple major if you really want to. Might take a few extra classes and a few extra hairs pulled - but you might want to.
  16. Aug 8, 2008 #15
    Another question, I am doing my first two years at a community college and am pretty much guaranteed to get into the univeristy of washington after a transfer degree but i also am considering nice schools in other states. I am quite sure i can maintain a 4.0 or close to it at the community college but will out of state colleges find this to be a good display of ability or just someone who might do well at a four year college curriculem. For exmaple: would someone with a 4.0 be even considerable for ivy league schools or mit or something. not necessarilly that prestigious but you get the idea
  17. Aug 8, 2008 #16
    Of course someone with a 4.0 is considerable. But it's not the only factor they look at, and it's not really the strongest factor they look at.

    With over-application being so rampant, transfer as an undergrad can be a bit problematic.
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