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Undergraduate Major: Engineering vs Math/Physics

  1. Dec 2, 2013 #1
    So, I'm trying to decide which career to go into. I've already taken a bunch of high-leveled theoretical math and physics classes, and I've enjoyed and done well in them so far. However, I'm not specifically interested in a specific area of math and physics, mostly interested in a diverse array of areas, so I'm not sure if a research career would be the optimal choice for me since I would have to go into a specific field.
    Would it be viable for me to continue doing engineering physics while taking graduate math and physics classes? Does working as an engineer allow me to use the theoretical aspects of math and physics as well? Or am I better off doing math and physics and continuing down the research/phd path?
     
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  3. Dec 3, 2013 #2

    joshmccraney

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    hey skychase, and welcome to pf! what math classes constitute "high-leveled theoretical"? what specifically have you taken, as this will shed light on what could be the best option for you. this being said, what do you plan on doing after graduation?
     
  4. Dec 3, 2013 #3
    Hi. I have taken honors analysis I, II, linear algebra, abstract algebra, differential geometry, topology, algebraic topology, complex analysis, and taking graduate real analysis and linear algebra.
    I really do not know what I plan on doing after graduation. I'm currently a first term sophomore and really enjoy doing theoretical math and physics, but I'm not sure if I'd enjoy doing it for a long time as a career. On the other hand, engineering seems like a likely route for me to apply my math and physics skillset as a whole, rather than gaining strong expertise in one specific field in research.
     
  5. Dec 6, 2013 #4

    joshmccraney

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    okay, so you have indeed taken a good amount of math (I wasnt sure if you were referring to first year calc and diff eq). this being said, i think you've answered your own question:

    you probably shouldnt set to become a mathematician if youre losing interest. i'm actually a graduate engineering student (mechanical, specifically fluids) although my undergrad was in math. from experience, engineering at the graduate level (far different from undergrad) has what you're looking for. classes are heavy with vector/tensor calculus, PDE's, and also use the physical intuition that physics enjoys. linear algebra is prevalent, and complex analysis manifests itself too.

    however, this is simply the academic side. after you get your degrees (and phd or masters should you decide to) all engineers i talk to and have researched with say the "real world" is totally different. all the analysis is a right of passage, but is not practiced.

    i'm sure some exist that use the theory in a deep way like we do in school, but i have never met one.

    hope this helps!
     
  6. Dec 6, 2013 #5

    joshmccraney

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    i should say, this includes the "hot shot" engineers at boeing i've talked with.
     
  7. Dec 8, 2013 #6
    Would I be better off simply doing mathematics and physics as a career and work in a national lab without having to work in academia since i'm only interested in research? I suppose I could work in a field that incorporates interdisciplinary field like quantum gravity. I don't think engineering really uses modern physics such as gr and qm as much, do they?
     
  8. Dec 8, 2013 #7

    joshmccraney

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    these questions are good ones, but for sure i cannot answer them entirely. the best way to know is to start contacting some engineers and working professionals (perhaps starting with your professors). see if your professors are conducting research and if you can help. it definitely isn't for everyone. i recommend trying research first.
     
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