1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What's more important for engineering; physics or math(s)?

  1. Jan 20, 2008 #1
    Hi i'm studying maths, further maths, physics and chemistry A levels and I was just wondering which of them are the most important if I take up engineering. I think I can get an A in maths and possibly further maths, but I'm struggling with our physics syllabus and predict myself a C or below. It's the subject that I enjoy the most and I really don't want to drop it for A2 but I think I may have to.
    Would I be accepted to do an engineering degree with good maths results but a poor physics result?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2008 #2
    I think it depends what subfield of engineering you are interested in. Of course, all three are important for any engineering specialization, but if you want to be a chemical engineer, obviously chemistry will be the most important to you.
    But to get into a good engineering school, I think you must have good grades in at least maths and physics. I think they consider chemistry less important, unless you're going to chemical engineering. So my advice to you is to work on your physics as hard as you can. Obviously you're smart enough, since you can get an A in maths. If you work hard enough and practice as much as possible, I think you can make it. Try to solve a lot of problems. That helps a lot in the understanding of the material.
     
  4. Jan 20, 2008 #3
    I'm interested in aerospace and mechanical the most. I've heard that aerospace involves the most mathematics so that's what I'd ideally end up doing.
     
  5. Jan 20, 2008 #4
    What it comes down to is this: you won't need to know quantum mechanics or modern physics, and you won't need to know any of the high level math for math majors, either.

    Take what the department requirements tell you to take, and then do what you like. The worst thing you can do is take a class that you don't like, but you think will help you out later, and it turns out that it is in fact useless.
     
  6. Jan 20, 2008 #5
    I have found that the more math I know, the easier physics becomes. You still have a long road ahead of you. Learn a way to be consistent with school-work now and carry it over with you to the university.
     
  7. Feb 14, 2008 #6
    Math, of course

    As for engineering fields mechanical engineering is more toward math, electrical engineering is more physics.In mechanics yoy don't need too much to understand the physical phenomenon.There aren't too manny physics concepts.Furthermore mechanics is a field of studying in math colleges but electromagnetism is not.
     
  8. Feb 14, 2008 #7

    stewartcs

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    All of the EE's I know say that math is more important in their field.

    CS
     
  9. Feb 14, 2008 #8

    stewartcs

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Personally, I think that you'll need a very good understanding of mathematics. Professionally, I've found that you definitely need a great understanding of mathematics.

    CS
     
  10. Feb 14, 2008 #9
    As a PhD student in ME I find this collections of statements wrong.

    You need physical concepts in most engineering disciplines. For ME you will obviously be focusing on Mechanics (i.e. 1st semester physics - Newtonian Mechanics mostly). EE electricity and magnetism will be more of a focus. Then of course the conceptual understanding of matter and chemical interaction would be the most important for a ChE.

    The other engineering disciplines (Aero/Astro, Civil, Industrial, etc.) are really offshoots of these basic three (maybe not Industrial, but that is another topic). Aero and Civil really have roots in ME so to be successful in those fields you should really focus on physics and particularly the mechanics side of physics.

    IMHO, as an engineer, I feel that the most important thing a student can do is focus on conceptual understanding and that will provide the most success to you in the future. Focusing all of your energy on math will likely just make you good at math, but not necessarily help with engineering. In engineering math is a tool which allows us to describe/model physical interactions and phenomenon; furthermore it is a single tool in your arsenal. The most important tool you develop in college as an engineer is intuitions and insights, not math, so focus on the concepts (of course that does not mean you should not develop good math skills those are important too).

    That being said, I would recommended studying hard for physics. There isn't any easy way it just takes lots of practice. With practice you will begin to develop intuition and conceptual understanding of the subject which will serve you greatly when you get to college. If you need help, talk with your teacher, post here, or do some online research.
     
  11. Feb 14, 2008 #10

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Engineering is ALL just physics concepts. It is important to have a feel for the physics, to picture where the loads and forces are, to be able to picture the elecirc field etc.

    For most engineering you don't need a lot of maths beyond A-level, or at least what was A-Level 20 years ago (kids today grumble). You need calculus and trig, you aren't going to need as much maths as a physics degree.
    The most useful maths skill in engineering is knowing how and where to approximate and how to estimate answers to check the detailed calcualtion is correct.
     
  12. Feb 14, 2008 #11
    Wow, i always had the misconception that engineering was laden with complicated math.
     
  13. Feb 14, 2008 #12
    I guess some aerospace equations can get difficult, especially the PDE's. But don't kid yourself, you are not doing "complicated math" with respect to what a real mathematics student is doing. I'm sure you will do fine as long as you are willing to put in the time. I doubt any engineering job is going to ask for a proof of the Existence-Uniqueness theorem or anything like that. Most of the math is probably going to scaled down and much more about the application side rather than the purely theoretical side.
     
  14. Feb 14, 2008 #13

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I wasn't trying to rundown engineering.
    There are complex differential equations in eg. fluid dynamics and antenna design particularly, but they generally either don't have an analytical solution and you have to use numerical methods or the standard solution was worked out years ago.

    But if you don't get number theory or formal proofs don't worry - engineers are quite happy to believe that pi is a 'bit more three' and don't have to prove it's irrational on a daily basis :tongue:

    ps. And at least you don't have to understand &*$*ing Tensors!
     
  15. Feb 14, 2008 #14
    Regardless of the relative demands once you're on the course, I think physics would be extremely useful to have in order to actually get any offers. I think the majority of places simply won't consider you without it. My advice would be to draw up a list of places you might want to go to and have a look at their admissions requirements. I've had a quick look around and it varies considerably- some insist on 3As including maths and physics, some don't require physics and want ABC, some insist on physics but you only need a C in it... etc :confused: The one thing that is absolutely constant is that everywhere demands maths.
     
  16. Feb 14, 2008 #15
    I have to concur with FrogPad on that. Though I'm a software engineer.

    Since you'd probably be dealing with computer control systems and computer-based analysis in almost any field of engineering, I would recommend some Discrete Mathematics and basic programming courses as well. But of course I'm biased. :tongue2:

    P.S. And Numerical Analysis.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2008
  17. Feb 14, 2008 #16
    I don't know where you go to school, but, based on my days at Virginia, I'm pretty sure Civil Engineering is an off-shoot of Animal House:rolleyes: Those guys would pour a slump test, fire up the BBQ, pop a couple beers and laugh at the rest of us. Then they made more money on their first jobs.
     
  18. Feb 14, 2008 #17

    stewartcs

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Oh no! Not another ACC guy! :approve:
     
  19. Feb 14, 2008 #18
    Yes. At graduation, we were told to "go forth and take basketball to all the lands."
     
  20. Feb 14, 2008 #19

    stewartcs

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Really? Who's supposed to bring it to Virgina! Ha, ha...just kidding...Go Heels! :rofl:

    CS
     
  21. Feb 14, 2008 #20
    I'm a dual major in EE and physics and I have used about the same amount of math for both degrees.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?