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What Attracted You to Engineering

  1. Dec 28, 2012 #1
    Hello Physics Forum,

    I have been applying to different schools for the engineering program, specifically electrical engineering, but when asked if this is actually what I wanted I stood there somewhat dumbfounded. I like math, working in teams, furthering my understanding of the world around me, and the different challenges that come with being an engineering student. However, I'm worried that it's the journey that I really like and the final stop is not where I want to be.

    For those who are working engineers, what field are you working in? What attracted you to the field and is it what you imagined when you first started the journey? Those who are currently pursuing an engineering degree are also welcome to contribute!

    For those who are not engineers, if you originally pursued a degree and chose to no longer study it why did you change?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2012 #2
    I grew up in a town of engineers who fixed their own cars and televisions. My dad, FWIW, was not one of them.

    One particular EE impressed me so much I decided to make it my field of study. That was until I started taking specific classes in the curriculum, and found it all too abstract.

    Talking with him later, he smiled & told me all the useful stuff he knew he had taught himself.

    I ended up graduating with a BSME, and went to work as a System Engineer.

    My title is now “Test Engineer” with a focus on developing control system software. I enjoy what I do.

    In the meantime, I still fix cars, tinker with electronics, and have restored a vintage Airstream.

    Your life/job is what you make out of it. Be aware that your job duties may not necessarily correspond with your degree.

  4. Dec 28, 2012 #3
    Thank you Tom! That was very insightful. Does anyone else have any other stories? I know that this is placed in the engineering forum but I doubt anyone is going to crucify you for doing a comma-splice or what have you. :-)
  5. Dec 29, 2012 #4


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    My trip through engineering has meandered around, but always stayed close.

    I started working on cars with my first camaro at 16, firstly doing maintenance, but quickly moving into modifications. When I first went to college for EE, I only studied during class, and as soon as I was out for the day I was building hot rods. I did enough to pass, but more than passing was required to get into upper level. This turned out to be exactly what I needed, as I wasn't ready to be a real world engineer and I have since learned that I hate the abstractness of EE (although I can apply the same PDEs and such to vibrations, fluids, and signal processing without much trouble).

    I left school, got a two year degree, and went to work in a chemical plant. Luckily for me it was a very progressive place and when they saw my potential I was quickly moved ahead and got into process automation. I also oversaw significant maintenance and troubleshooting of large and small turbomachinery. I got my hands into every profession around me, welding, pipefitting, millwright (ing?), instrumentation, etc. And after 4.5 years and a lot of saving, decided it was time to go back to school, this time for ME.

    I'll graduate with a BSME in May 2014 and probably return to the same company, where I've have interned for a couple summers as well.

    The bottom line is that most likely, your job will always be work. You may not feel passionate about what you end up getting paid to do. Most likely your career will dip into and out of things that you are interested in. That's not what it's about. After school there will be other journeys to take. These may or may not involve work. Even after all that I've already done, I'll always be on some sort of learning journey. When work isn't able to provide that, I fall back into hobbies or start digging into areas at work that are a little bit outside of where I'm supposed to be kept corralled.

    I've always found that the broader the experience you have, the more tools you bring to be able to solve problems. I'm constantly surprised at how seemingly unrelated experiences can be related. And it always looks good when you can bring something to the table that no one else has, or solve a problem that nobody expects you to know anything about.

    I think I wandered a little further than I meant to, but the key is not to worry. The passions that you listed mean that you'll be able to find those things in a workplace and stay occupied.
  6. Dec 29, 2012 #5

    jim hardy

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    Like the other posters here i enjoyed tinkering with, and figuring out machinery.
    I was introduced to electronics in high school and did well at it. I figured i'd make a career of communications electronics.
    In college i found i enjoyed electric machinery a lot more than circuits, for the circuits courses seemed to deteriorate into abstract if clever alphabet juggling and i didnt see the point of it. So i took an electric three phase power course after "Transistor Circuit Design".

    I'd always enjoyed machinery. One of my "AHA" moments was when took apart a planetary gear automobile transmission and figured out how to work it in my head.
    I also loved "analog computing" where we solved differential equations with opamp circuits - about the most visual example you can get of pure math at work in Nature.

    I was tremendously curious about the reactor building at my school. My advisor let me take "Reactor Physics" and "Reactor Operation" as senior year electives. Both were fascinating with just the right blend of math and real concepts that one could visualize. I found the reactor even more fascinating than planetary gears; struggled through the vector calculus, did starttups, flux distribution measurements with a copper wire inserted in the fuel elements, learned to understand multiplying systems, and learned the simple electronic reactor instrumentation .....

    Well - it worked out ideally. My hometown electric utility was building a nuke plant. They needed to hire some engineers for it.
    It's a small world and the Lord lets you know when he's had a hand in your fate. When i applied for the job, the head of personnel came down to greet me. His daughter and i had won a lot of spelling bees in fourth grade and he remembered my name those years later....
    I worked there 30+ years and became a reactor systems handyman because of my non-specialized background.

    But now i'm retired.

    So - to your question: it was not what i expected but i dont see how it could have been any more interesting.
    If you apply yourself to all the subjects, the one meant for you will self-announce. (or be announced for you)

    old jim
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