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Science, engineering or maths? >.<

  1. Oct 5, 2007 #1
    I am hoping that input from lots of enthusiasts (enthusiasm is contagious) and people actually working in the fields I'm considering can help me with my decision. It probably is a little late since I've already sent out my applications to the universities but I could still push for a change in the first year if I find my goal.

    The things I'm interested in and considering are:

    -Maths: I love statistics and I feel that the methods used are exceedingly natural, as if it were just commonsense. Perhaps with a specialisation in economics or actuary. I haven't actually considered this option much because I'm not really keen on the other areas of maths. Especially trigo.

    -Chemical Engineering: I don't really know how this will be like since I've never taken a course in engineering. I don't want to work at a chemical plant and this used to turn me away. After reading some threads on this forum and talking to an engineer, I realised that I can be the one designing the plant or the process. So that's fine and dandy. This option will provide a wide range of job options and the salary will not be a problem either. But I realised that I won't be really learning physics and chemistry up to advanced levels.

    -Mehanical Engineer: Like the above, I thought I would have to get my hands dirty and all but I realised that I could just be the one designing and letting others do all the assembly. A recent addition to my options inspired by this forum (yes, I have been lurking as a guest). Once again, I will have the problem of not learning high level physics and chemistry.

    -Physics (or mathematical physics): Well, this was a childhood dream (inspired by Feynman at the age of 12 after reading his 6 easy pieces – fascinating!). The problem is that I don't like all areas of maths and physics, with electronics being my worst (*screams* the only questions I couldn't handle in my A levels). Then there's the risk of not getting a place at a university. And there's the terrible image of physicists living in poverty (and no that's not just the graveneworld propelled threads; lots of physicsts have died pennyless, even very good ones... although the same could be said of Mozart). But I would get to study QED and quantum mechanics to my heart's content.

    -Chemistry: This is the science I really excelled at. I find it fun and easy but it doesn't really capture my imagination. Or stretch my skills. The brain just doesn't feel like it's ballooning the same way I get with difficult maths or modern physics. But perhaps it's because so little of the chemistry syllabus is actually modern chemistry. It is interesting nonetheless. Especially organic chemistry.

    I took maths, further maths, chemistry and physics for A levels so I'm actually able to take any of them. First, I want whatever I do to be challenging – insanely so – because I want to be the few who dared to do it, because I enjoy the pressure and also because I find that when faced with something difficult, I tend to take it more seriously and have more passion. And since I haven't fully made up my mind yet, I would like to have something that won't limit my choices in case I change my mind somewhere along the line. I also realised recently that I would like it to be something in which I get to exercise my creativity. I have a need to create something new, never before made and beautiful in some way. I know this points to engineering but I would also like very specialist knowledge – something I can make a niche for myself and be able to say I know more about this than anyone. And money, well, not really an issue. As long as I'm not a pauper.

    Right now, CEng, Phys and econ/acturial are the most desired in that order but I can't decide which, not because I don't have an interest but because I have too many interests. I'm thinking that I should be a chemical engineer but do physics as a hobby like what Einstein did. But I'm wondering if I have to be a genius for that. I also do intend to do a PhD(s) (yes maybe more than one if I like the experience).

    “Scientists discover what was always there but engineers create what never was,”
    engineer quoting someone.

    This made me consider engineering slightly more than science because I suddenly realised that I want to create new things.

    “If you study what you enjoy and you can't find a job after that, you won't be doing what you enjoy so there's no point”

    My father is an accountant and he's basically advocating me to be an engineer and go into the industry/corporate circles. I really preferred science but he does have a point.

    I'm willing to work hard. I have this passion that gets turned on for whatever I'm doing but it tends to switch off when I'm doing something else so enthusiasm really isn't a problem.

    So now that you have the facts, please clarify on the various options, dispelling any misconceptions and maybe saying what studying the subject or working in that field will be like. Find flaws in the reasoning of those quoted... etc. In other words, help me with my list of pros and cons. I need to find a sense of purpose for one my options and your help will be greatly appreciated.


    PS Yes, I have read the should I become and engineer and who wants to become a mathematician threads and various others.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2007 #2
    It's pretty much the same situation for me. I decided that it's impossible for me to choose at this point, even though I'm also headed for university soon. Math, science and engineering are all interesting to me. I can't even begin to choose among the various fields of them.
  4. Oct 7, 2007 #3
    You can become an engineer with a math or physics degree. So you might as well pick between that. It won't likely be chemical engineering, but you can become an ME or something.

    Your father is a lot like other parents (like mine for example), where they didn't want me to do physics because they had no idea what I can do with it.

    You might not become a mathematician or physicist with those degrees, but you can still fall back on ME, which you like anyway. Take some ME classes just to help you out, too.

    With chemistry I'm pretty sure you can make some good money. Everybody needs chemists these days.

    Chem engineering isn't applied chemistry, though. It's different. You have to take thermodynamics and stuff that also makes your brain hurt.

    I'd consult the respective professors about chem and chem engineering prospects.

    If you like statistics, you can become a statistician. Big bucks in the corporate sector.
  5. Oct 7, 2007 #4


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    You could start out as an engineer in your undergraduate studies, then take a some other graduate degree. Then you can be both. Oh and did you know that the actor most known for playing the character "Mister Bean" actually studied electrical engineering? Really, what you study as an undergraduate doesn't really that much, and if you are in the United States, you don't even have to declare a major in your first year. Witten was a history or journalism student, by the way.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2007
  6. Oct 7, 2007 #5
    It's easier to go from physics to engineering, though, since physics broadly touches the subjects of engineering, whereas you're pretty much confined to your ME or EE or what have you if you wanted to get a physics degree later. But it's still possible.

    It's pretty common to go from physics -> masters in engineering. Lots of my friends are considering it, and so am I.
  7. Jan 6, 2009 #6
    Even though I'm not yet an undergrad, from what I've read, the best idea may be to do:

    BSc (dbl. major in physics and mathematics)
    M.Eng. (in whatever speciality you like, except chem.)

  8. Jan 6, 2009 #7


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    Gold Member

    Sorry to jump in on a thread like this, but can i just ask why one can go on to do postgrad Mech. Eng, but not chem? Just curious :)
  9. Jan 6, 2009 #8
    Engineering, physics, math.

    This list in increasing amount of difficulty, and decreasing amount of pay.
  10. Jan 6, 2009 #9
    Wow why why bump?

    This thread is old...
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