Author Topic: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life  (Read 12291 times)

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Offline dmlandrum

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Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« on: August 10, 2010, 02:16:01 am »
Up until this summer, I was a physics student, but I was an okay student, not the best, but good enough (B-average in advanced classes). The thing is, the life of the scientist, uninteresting research and fighting for grant money, doesn't appeal to me, so I finally made the decision to change to EE, and to not have wasted my time, minor in physics.

The thing is, all I see in this field are people in cube farms who develop one marketable product to the next and spend more time hunting for the cheapest parts than they do designing stuff they don't particularly care about. I'm beginning to regret my decision to change my major, but it might be too late to fix it now.

So, my choices are dry academia or anonymous mass product drone? Please, please tell me there exists somewhere in-between.
Darren Landrum
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2010, 02:38:01 am »
Oh, you haven't seen the half of it yet!  ;D

Wait until you spend 10 years in the cube farm and actually get nothing useful out the door at all in all that time! Sounds impossible to believe, but you'd be surprised at how much of a typical desk engineers effort in a big company will just go to waste.
I have a "dead projects list", it's orders of magnitude bigger than projects that have seen the light of day.

But it doesn't have to be like that, there are infinite options. The key is not to worry about that sort of stuff, just do what you enjoy, have a laugh, and work on your own projects outside of work if work isn't as satisfying as you'd like.
Everyone is looking for the "perfect job", and it essentially does not exist.
I've liked most of my jobs in one way or another, and took the good with the bad. But would I have done them if I didn't need to put food on the table? - no way.

If it's any consolation, there is very limited scope in physics compared to engineering.
Take Phil in my most recent video. Got his PhD in laser physics but had to work in retail for a while looking for a job. Never found a job in physics, and realised they didn't exist, unless he went back to uni to teach it, so went back to study and is now a Patent Attorney.

Electronics Engineering is not destined to be a Dilbert Cubicle Farm dwelling job. If you don't want to design electronics everyday then don't.
Want to get out and see the world?, no problem, plenty of jobs that offer that. A colleague of mine spent 6 months flying over NZ in a helicopter for an airbourne mapping company.
I've worked in the geophysics industry and could have taken my job anywhere if I desired. Survey boat in the middle of the North Atlantic? - no problem.
I almost applied for a job at the Square Kilometer Array a few months back, would have been typical boring big project work, but the application and project are incredibly cool.

Stick with engineering, there are countless options available to you. Physics will be very limiting.

Dave.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2010, 10:50:04 am by EEVblog »
 

Offline DrGeoff

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2010, 05:34:34 am »
Lots of money and long lunches? Try marketing :)
Was it really supposed to do that?
 

Offline XynxNet

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2010, 10:18:43 am »
Don't underestimate the amount of deskwork in an academic career.
I think an engineer has more options to choose an interesting and practical job.
 

Offline MrPlacid

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2010, 04:01:12 pm »
I am beginning to think going to medicine will be a lot easier.
 

Offline TopherTheME

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2010, 05:40:07 pm »
It sounds to me like you're a future grad student. There are many crappy jobs out there where you just sit in a cubicle doing meaningless tasks for 8 hours a day and have nothing to show for it. I used to have one of those jobs. But usually the hardcore R&D stuff is pretty exciting no matter who you're working for and you will probably find the line between engineering and physics to be non-existent. The only problem is that you usually need an advanced degree to get those kinds of jobs.

I'm currently working on my PhD in mechanical engineering and most of my research entails almost nothing that your average engineer would consider "mechanical". Much of my research is more based towards chemistry and the physical side of science rather than engineering.
Don't blame me. I'm the mechanical engineer.
 

Offline MrPlacid

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2010, 07:02:37 pm »
gynaecologist? anyone? :D

Count me in for that. My favorite part of a female reproductive system is the cervix ;D
 

Offline Time

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2010, 09:21:03 pm »
It sounds to me like you're a future grad student. There are many crappy jobs out there where you just sit in a cubicle doing meaningless tasks for 8 hours a day and have nothing to show for it. I used to have one of those jobs. But usually the hardcore R&D stuff is pretty exciting no matter who you're working for and you will probably find the line between engineering and physics to be non-existent. The only problem is that you usually need an advanced degree to get those kinds of jobs.

I'm currently working on my PhD in mechanical engineering and most of my research entails almost nothing that your average engineer would consider "mechanical". Much of my research is more based towards chemistry and the physical side of science rather than engineering.

This is a good point.  I got my masters in EE with a focus in pulsed power and plasma physics.  It was really a strong hybrid of physics and EE at a good (and wealthy) university based laboratory.  I was able to land a job in the core R&D group of one the biggest aerospace companies in the world.

Before I went to graduate school I was planning to go into medicine.  Once I got my minors in chem and bio I figured out my true passion was for physics even though I was not the best at it.
-Time
 

Offline dmlandrum

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2010, 04:53:10 am »
Thanks for the help, guys. :) I think I'll stick to the current plan and get my EE degree with a minor in physics. I realized some time ago that what will separate me from the crowd is not my academic performance, but what I do in my own time. So, I'll keep on making and documenting my personal projects.
Darren Landrum
 

Offline saturation

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2010, 12:06:57 pm »
Between pure and applied physics, any choice that has options to use skills to the applied arena: service, in-house design, sole proprietor etc., versus pure research, will give you more freedom in finding job choices through your lifetime.  What can be most applied if not engineering?

Pure folks can luck in and join a large stable company, but even they eventually have hard times, including former Bell Labs, and HP.  The folks I knew who stayed with a single company longest were at Bell Labs and had great fun exploring the unknown until they broke up into Lucent and forced him into early retirement, and those I know are currently in military R&D.  They also made the least amount of money but had a greater sense of security and fun, once you learn how to work a huge bureaucracy.
Best Wishes,

 Saturation
 

Offline Polossatik

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2010, 06:55:33 pm »
I realized some time ago that what will separate me from the crowd is not my academic performance, but what I do in my own time.

I can assure you that in almost any case your "academic performance" is almost irrelevant (unless you want to work at a university or so) by the time you are looking for your second job, and if it was relevant for your first job you don't want to stay there because , in general - there are exceptions -, people with "academic performance" are not the ones you need to solve a messy problem or come up with a funcky solution.

I worked personally with a - now former- college who has 3 university degrees, all A- stuff, but he could not come up with any practical solution, bright chap on most stuff, but utterly useless in the job ...
« Last Edit: August 12, 2010, 07:05:42 pm by polossatik »
Real Circuit design time in minutes= (2 + Nscopes) Testim + (40 +120 Kbrewski) Nfriends

Testim = estimated time in minutes Nscopes= number of oscilloscopes present Kbrewski = linear approx of the nonlinear beer effect Nfriends = number of circuit design friends present
 

Offline McPete

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Re: Physics vs. Engineering - Trying to figure out my life
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2010, 03:36:54 am »
Service and metrology for a power company would best describe what I do (I'm only an apprentice BTW), and for the most part, I love that.
Our design opportunities are few and far between, but repair jobs are pretty good, trying to trace a fault through a device. Some of the service jobs are a bit monotonous, but you'll see different jobs every day. Protection relay test sets, high-voltage phase-out testers, DMMs, 'scopes, plus the rest. If you want hands-on work, I'd recommend it!

It's just a trick in finding an employer that doesn't promote board jockey-ing :P
 


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