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Would majoring in mathematics help in EE grad school.

  1. Nov 7, 2011 #1
    So I've been debating to myself whether or not I should do a double major in mathematics. On one hand it'll cost me a year (making it a total of 5 years) on the other hand it'll give me an extra year to find internships, do research, etc.

    I enjoy math which is why I want to do it but my intuition tells me that its not worth it.

    So as another pro/con to this debate, I've considered grad school. Will having the double major help me in graduate school. Not just admission but the actual classes. If I do go to grad school after undergrad I'd be doing a PhD in Electrical Engineering probably in controls or signal processing ( I dont have enough undergrad experience to say whether I'm committed to these subjects.)

    As a note, I'm not bad at proof based maths. I'm taking a intro to proofs class now and got a 87 on the test. I dunno the grade distribution but I heard that no one got an A, most likely meaning I had one of the highest scores. Ive also had As in all Calc, ODE and looking at an A in linear Algebra.

    To complete the mathematics program I'd need to take Adv Calc I/II (real analysis), Abstract Algebra, Prob/Stat ( I dont think they'll accept my Prob/Stat for engy class), and four electives. This puts the additional load at about 27 credits, which could be easily completed with an additional year.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 7, 2011 #2
    If you like purse or even applied math I don't think you'll like EE overall, that's my situation anyway. Some of my classes are interesting like Signals, Communications, and DSP as those are the more mathy courses, but the rigour of EE isn't in its math, it's in the practical and computational projects and making those work. I would tell you to do a minor in math if you're worried about time, after calc 1-3, diffy q, and linear algebra, I did complex analysis, and partial differential equations with fourier analysis, I also did engineering stats which actually uses the distributions you only prove in math stats. The math made other engineering courses easy by comparison. I think they would help in what you're wanting to go into. I know friends who did math physics double majors and find the extra math helps them immensely in grad school so there's that in well.
  4. Nov 7, 2011 #3
    Well EE is foremost what I want to do, I just enjoy mathematics as well. I would not consider going to graduate school in math for instance. I enjoy working on projects and have fun with programming (not too much though).

    I'm a junior in EE and need only one more class for a minor so I'm already there. I'm considering whether to go farther than this (math major and EE grad school for instance)
  5. Nov 7, 2011 #4
    Actually, when I defected from EE to math, I found the math classes much easier, oddly enough. That is because with EE, I had to swim against the stream, since there wasn't enough explanation of the theory, which I was unable to accept.
  6. Nov 8, 2011 #5
    No more opinions? No stories from EE grad school where more math helped you or something lol.
  7. Nov 9, 2011 #6
    It can't hurt, not sure how much it will help either (especially if you are already pretty good at the math).

    Here is my experience which may be slightly different: I did my EE Master's part time while working. Why this may matter: I never had a super heavy course load which meant I had time to teach myself any math needed to know but didn't already. But again if you are a full time student then you will have more spare time than I did to begin with...

    Class wise I focused on Signal Processing and Control Systems. In controls, I encountered a good bit of linear algebra I didn't know from undergrad but was able to pick it up pretty easily. But again my focus was learning it enough so that it could be applied and not the proofs behind what was going on.

    In signal processing I hit some probability/statistics stuff I hadn't seen before but was able to learn that as well. Overall I would say I am still much weaker in that area than others and it would probably serve me well to brush up on that.

    So to answer your question more directly:

    If you want a deeper understanding of the math, or want to go into some area that uses more abstract math you haven't encountered in engineering classes already the math idea is very good. Otherwise, at least for masters level engineering, the focus in my experience is still on a functional understanding of the math and how to apply it.
  8. Nov 10, 2011 #7
    Math in EE graduate school

    << Moderator's note -- two threads merged >>

    I asked this question over at the academic guidance forum but didnt get very much guidance. I figure I'd get more EE specifics here.

    So I've been thinking about dual majoring in EE and math with EE being the main course. I've already reached the point of a math minor (1 course short) but I also kinda want to do an entire major in it. This would add another year till graduation (pushing me to 5 year total). Another year would also let give me more time overall. For instance I could push my senior design project until after some other electives (rather than concurrently) and space out the more difficult courses out. It would also give me more time to find internships and maybe do some research.

    So I was mainly wondering if this second major would be any helpful in graduate school if I choose to pursue a Ph.D afterward or is it not worth the extra year.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2011
  9. Nov 10, 2011 #8
    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    Math is very important. I don't know the requirement of math major, but make sure you have PDE( that include Fourier Transform, Laplace Transform and Green's Function for modulation, PLL and EM), Complex analysis(for advanced EM). Classes that help would be class of probability, statistics(for modulation and communications) and if possible, numerical analysis( lots of solutions of EM resort to this).

    You'll be way ahead of the game if you get that conquered. I think it is important to have the math major also, that will open up possibility for you in the future. I don't know your grad school, some don't require much EM in grad school, even pretty good school like U of Santa Clara only require one Adv. EM quarter which is nothing more than a review of the undergrad and a little more. They are using the "Engineering Electromagnetic by Hyatt and Buck which itself is only an undergrad book. If that is the case, you should consider enroll in the graduate electrodynamic class in the physics major as you are strong in math. It is really mostly math involving Green's Function, PDE, and other math that you'll be way ahead of the game. That will open you to EM jobs that most EE are weak in. Jobs like Fiber optics and others that involve heavy EM.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2011
  10. Nov 10, 2011 #9
    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    You probably don't need to do it. You pretty much have all the math that you need. Any additional math that you will need, you will be taught in the course that you need it for. Also most grad programs require you to take 2 grad level math courses, so you will get more math that way. If I were you I would not put off grad school for a year just to get a EE/math double major. If you really want a double major consider another engineering discipline (e.g. optical engineering). That might only add one semester instead of two.
  11. Nov 11, 2011 #10
    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    I respectfully disagree. If you look at the section in EM after the electrostatic, the next chapter is "Special Technique" in a lot of the EM books and is taught in the class. Usually right after the Method of Image technique, they get into separation of variables with given boundary conditions. Those are PDE. You don't learn PDE in just a few pages or a week or two of lectures. Particularly you do separation of variables in cylindrical and spherical coordinates. In order to really appreciate the boundary conditions and solving the problems, you need to even learn Bessel's Functions and LaGendre Functions. This involve more than half of the PDE class. You can just remember the formulas and methods and solve the given problems. But in order to get the feel and really solving boundary problems, it is advantageous to actually studied the PDE class. Not to mention PDE give you at least the introduction of Green's Function that is very helpful in solving EM problems.

    In communication, if you look at those books, sure they have Fourier Transform, some Probability and Statistics in the appendix section, that is a far cry from really dig into the topics. I myself attempted to study and gave up all the OFDM, QAM even though I studied Fourier Transform, but still needed study Probability and Statistics to understand the different methods of modulations, failure etc. I finally said to myself, I rather go into more electronics rather dealing with the other part of the communication systems. I so wish I have time to study those. It's just because of my failing memory in my old age that I have to pick and choose the battle!!!!

    The minimal requirements of Calculus I, II, III and ODE in UG EE major is woefully inadequate. I already left out Vector Calculus and just let him struggle some in the EM class. Calculus III really just give you a taste of multi-variables and lightly skim over the most important part of line integral, Divergence and Stoke's theorems.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2011
  12. Nov 11, 2011 #11


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    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    I say go for it! You will get to satisfy your interest in math, and stick around for another year of barhopping.

    - Warren
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2011
  13. Nov 11, 2011 #12
    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    So yungman, is your opinion that I should do the double major and lose a year? I agree with what you said. For example Fourier Transform and Laplace transform are pretty similar problems with similar properties (at least in circuit analysis where I've learned them) however I am much more comfortable with the Laplace transform because I've studied them in a math class. I have more of an idea of how they work and why they have those properties. I have little understanding of the Fourier Transform at this point but I can solve them easily.

    I'd have to give the best answer award to chroot though lol
  14. Nov 11, 2011 #13
    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    I thought about the extra year, but there is something to say about spending too much time on preparing and you can burn yourself out. It is always good to study and prepare more, but you don't want to study so much and burn out and quite before you get the PhD program.

    This is my experience right now. My goal is to master antenna design, I set out the goal 6 years ago. In order to master this, I need to be good in EM. In order to be good in EM, I had to be strong in Math. I am a self studier, I have been an engineer, senior engineer and manager of engineering for almost 30 years, but I never have a formal education in EE. I had to spent two years studying math on my own, then I spend almost two years studying EM, but still I don't think I understand enough even though I am sure I can get an A after the first year, so I went back and studied PDE and re-studied the undergrad physics major EM and I got a much better feel of the subject. Finally I feel comfortable about at these. I studied more on Green's Function and different things just to get ready for the antenna. I always feel you need to really understand the math, the basics to be the best that you can be.

    To make the long story short, I started study antenna theory this last July. I am burnt out!! After two months of studying, I had to take a break. I have not been studying for the last few months. I just can't even look at the book. I just hope I can get back to it one day. Looking back, I could have skip a lot of the preparation and just dive in and I could have got it done.

    The story is that you don't want to burn too bright and burn out, there is a lot of truth about just do it and don't keep trying to get ready to do it. You add one year, of cause you are going to be much better off. I was that close to tell you to take that extra year to get yourself better prepared, I was even thinking about this when I went to bed whether I should edit the post. But I don't want to take a chance you get so tired of studying and drop out the last year in the PhD program.

    I don't know you and how you handle things, I just want to share with you my own very experience. You have to do some soul searching and decide yourself. It might because I am 58, not young like you either. I so hope I have the fire to finish my goal one day, but of cause I don't need to find a job, so there is really no urgent for me to do it either. Hope this help.
  15. Nov 11, 2011 #14


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    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    :biggrin: I completed a major and two minors in 3.5 years in undergraduate school, and eventually came to wish I had spent more time and smelled the roses a bit more. I'm a EE, too, and work in a very theory-intensive field (computational photography). I took a minor in astrophysics, which seemed useless as the time, but ten years later it helped me land my dream job. Things have a way of coming full-circle!

    In my opinion, there are two reasons to attend university: to learn what you already want to learn, and to ignite your interest in fields you haven't yet encountered. If you're very interested in math, pursue it! See where it leads you intellectually--it might even shift your career goals. An extra year is a small price to pay for such knowledge of yourself.

    - Warren
  16. Nov 11, 2011 #15
    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    Thanks for all the advice and anecdotes. I still have a semester or so to decide since making this decision wont change what I'm doing this spring.

    The next big thing will be deciding if I actually want to go for a PhD lol. Maybe that extra year is worth taking just to figure part out.
  17. Nov 13, 2011 #16
    It is just so lucky to hear ideas and thoughts from all of your guys, and these advices, are also rather worthy for me, a student majored in microelectronics who is planning to pursue a PH.D of E.E in USA.It seems lucky that during my first years, classes such as probability, partial diferential equation, mathematical and physic equation have been taught, although not so deeply. Maybe I should also learn more knowledge on maths and meamwhile go on to acquire expertises in devices and abilities concerned.
  18. Nov 13, 2011 #17
    Re: Math in EE graduate school

    If you can afford it and you like the subject, go for the PhD.
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