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Undergrad in Engineerin (+ Option in Mathematics) Possible Grad in Math?

  1. Dec 5, 2007 #1
    Hi, I'm a first year computer engineering student and the math courses that I'm taking in university has re-ignited my interest in mathematics. The calculus that I'm taking right now is slightly more advanced (although perhaps less detail oriented) than what the math majors have for their first semester. I'm also taking linear algebra right now, however, elementary algebra is not a part of my curriculum (the math majors are taking it).

    I'm thinking of doing an option in mathematics, which would require taking 8 extra courses. Here's the web page describing the courses available to engineering students taking the mathematics option.
    http://www.ucalendar.uwaterloo.ca/ENG/option_math.html

    Do you think that after completing such an option, my background in mathematics would strong enough to pursue graduate studies in mathematics? Also, what if I don't even take the math option but manage to get really good grades in engineering?

    Thank you for your time!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 5, 2007 #2
    I'm not familiar with the american system, so I don't know what your options are like. But I'd say it's unlikely that you could pursue graduate study in maths unless you could follow up on these first year options *extensively*. Maths isn't like an arts subject where if you have a good, appropriate, analytical technique then you can apply it to disparate fields (you don't need to read Shakespeare to appreciate Steinbeck, or you can study epistemology independently of ethics). Every year of a maths degree builds upon the previous one (for a normal Bsc anyway; maybe this is less true for the fourth year of an undergrad masters course); you can't study, say, topology, without having studied linear algebra; you can't study vector calculus without having done single variable calculus.
     
  4. Dec 5, 2007 #3

    cristo

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    If you really don't want pursue engineering, then why don't you consider switching your "major"? I don't know whether you can do that in Canada, since I'm from the UK, but I know that it's possible to change your major in the US loads of times. Since you're in the first year, I don't see that this will be too much of a problem.

    However, if you can't I'd agree with what muppet says: you should definitely take these "options" to have any hope of doing a graduate degree in maths.
     
  5. Dec 5, 2007 #4
    Are you familiar with some of the upper division maths? Linear algebra is the gateway class, as it were, to all of the upper division math classes. Linear algebra was coincidentally the last math class I truly enjoyed and I ALWAYS liked math. Before deciding to load up on maths, I would take a hard look at what exactly a math major does in grad school by looking at some of the intro classes in upper division.

    Edit: I am an engineering major, for the record. I took abstract algebra, numerical analysis and topology as my minor elective courses after completing a linear algebra course. Numerical analysis was fine because it was very useful to my engineering degree, but I was practically left in the dust in topology and abstract algebra (grades A and C, respectively) and had to study very hard to learn proofs even in the third course I took. Math in grad school is just so far removed from anything you will see in engineering that it will have to work out some of the thought processes.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2007
  6. Dec 6, 2007 #5
    Well the situation is quite different @ my school, it is quite difficult to switch majors (even switching within engineering is difficult). Since programs specialize right away in first year, and because of the co-op program. Could anyone give a fair critique of the mathematics option please? How does someone who has taken the mathematic option stand compared to someone who did math as an undergrad?
     
  7. Dec 6, 2007 #6

    Ben Niehoff

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    If you can't change majors, then what I would recommend is that you take your math option, and also immediately try to start forming relationships with professors in the math department. Do some independent study, talk to them about what they do, and overall, convince them that you understand higher mathematics and have valuable skills. After two years' time, you should have a math professor or two who can write a glowing letter of recommendation, which will go a long way to convincing math departments that you'll be able to cut it in grad school.

    However, I would still try as best as you can to change majors. If you're stuck in a major you know you don't want to be in, it will probably affect your performance (not to mention your happiness). My worst mistake in undergrad was being too stubborn to change majors from computer engineering to physics.
     
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