Hardest Major

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idlehandsrome18
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby idlehandsrome18 » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:55 am UTC

0xBADFEED wrote:
idlehandsrome18 wrote:I'm a comp sci major, which is probably the easiest engineering major.


This really depends on the late night double feature picture show. At my uni I think Comp Sci and EE/CE were probably the hardest Engineering majors in terms of what was expected of students. At the upper-level, problem sets for CS classes could easily take 40 hours.


I suppose...but the homework is still almost always assigned early so that the students can work out bugs before having to turn it in. Plus comp sci has less exams than chemical engineering, physics, or electrical. I think projects are way easier than tests. Although, sometimes the teachers require ridiculous amounts of testing documentation be turned in with the program (like graphs, charts, explanation of procedure, etc). That annoys me because I didn't major in computer science to write.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Anubis » Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:46 am UTC

I am double majoring in mechanical engineering and math, and I have to say that so far, I find it almost absurdly easy conceptually, but very hard in terms of credit hours and amount of homework. For someone without a natural ability for math, however, it would be literally impossible. In the same manner, obviously someone with no musical talent would fail at a music major.

Based on what have observed from people I know, biomedical engineering is probably one of the hardest single majors. Physics at a higher level is probably very hard conceptually, although the physics required for engineering is basically just math and intuition. I can't speak for music majors, but I can say that I would do much better in a history, English, or art major than most history, English, or art people would do in engineering.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Metacelsus » Wed Mar 04, 2009 10:40 am UTC

I'd like to update my opinion.
I've just started a med degree and while the stuff isn't conceptually that difficult there's just so MUCH. As far as workloads go it's definitely up there, I spent less time at uni during my honours project than I have in the last month and I know I'm not fully up to date.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby berandeve » Thu Mar 05, 2009 9:14 pm UTC

From my experience, I'm surprised there hasn't been more mention of Economics in this thread. It's a combination of trying to understand, explain and predict human nature, and requires the use of both calculus and statistics. Plus, when I tell people one of my majors is Economics, they usually respond with some variation of "Oh god that's awful." :P

Really what it comes down to, as others have said, is what you're good at. I have a friend who got a 4.0 in every Mechanical Engineering class he took, but got his only 3.5 in a 100-level biology class he had to take. Economics just seems to be a difficult combination of social science and math that makes it hard for many to grasp.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby redhelix » Thu Mar 12, 2009 7:35 pm UTC

Man, I loved my economics and accounting classes in college. I'd have probably pursued that if my Networking & IS major didn't pan out.

Which actually would've been pretty hard because speaking of which, Networking is probably one of the easier BS degrees (as in bachelor of science, not the other kind of BS) you can get your hands on. Yes, I am calling my degree easy.

A lot of it is just conceptual understanding, supplemented by endless amounts of "hands-on, try it yourself" resources you can get for free on the internet, from major vendors no less. (Even Microsoft lets you take Server 2003 for a 3-month test drive.) I think that's what cinches it. It's pretty nice being able to get hands-on experience in almost everything you study or want to study, for free, from the comfort of your oversized computer desk chair at home.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Zohar » Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:54 am UTC

I have a BSc in physics and math (it's a sort of combined one, did equal parts of both) and in my experience math is much, much harder than physics. And physics is hard. It depends on your choice of courses, of course, but on average, math was more difficult.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby zerohero » Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:01 am UTC

Physics is probably one of the toughest subject areas I've ever studied in my life so far. Maths a distant second (but much more bearable). And I'm only working for an AS/A2 qualification in both (in addition to AS+A2 in computing); I can only imagine what trying to earn a maths/physics degree in uni would be like (if I do get into a uni, it'll be so I can study Computer Science, by the way).
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Sun Mar 22, 2009 2:07 am UTC

I don't think I could ever earn a music degree. Since I don't "love" music I probably quit or hang myself after the 1000th hour of oboe practice. I'm a CS major and it's alot easier or harder depending on how your mind works. The hardest course I ever took was metabolic biochemistry, I'm fairly good at memorization but somewhere near the 32nd intermediate reactant of the 12th pathway in a ten week course I had trouble keeping up. Economics is can be really tough if you're under the illusion that it's a science.

If I had pick one to be hardest across the board I'd say theology. If nothing else because of how seriously it's taken. It's the only case I think think of where a degree from an ivy league school could be considered mediocre. There are usually some enormous requirements, four dead languages for christian scripture, word for word memorization in Islam, something on the order of a million lines of text in Hinduism, exercise involving being kicked in the testicles at Shaolin temple. I've know several catholic priests who've taken PhDs in fields like psychology or anthropology as afterthoughts.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby leer es poder » Sat Jun 13, 2009 12:44 am UTC

has anyone ever heard of an easy architecture major?
the one at my school is probably the most demanding major i can think of and I'm a Biosystems engineering major.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Reg Berkeley » Sat Jun 27, 2009 8:27 pm UTC

At Cal, it was EECS - Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Mmmm, Pi » Sat Jun 27, 2009 9:32 pm UTC

I'd have to ask how you define Hardest. Medicine is one of the hardest for the workload, Nursing for the placements, Languages are also up there with the contact hours.

Amount of time spent in library etc goes to stuff like law and arch.

How hard it is to get your head around goes to the physics and EE courses.

I'd say Medicine or something like Chem Eng with a language would be your hardest. Chem eng at my uni has the most contact hours of all the engineering, and we have lectures from all over the sodding place. You really need to have the broadest knowledge of all the engineering departments. The amount of times we get chucked in the deep end with stuff we've never actually been taught also bumps up the difficulty level. Quite often I need to do research just to understand the question they are asking, never mind have any idea how to answer it.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Intrepid » Wed Jul 01, 2009 6:03 pm UTC

BioMed Engineering. Because most of those people in that major these days all want to be doctors, so the school just cares about filtering you out.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby cathrl » Thu Jul 02, 2009 12:39 pm UTC

We used to define "hardest" by "most exams in Finals." Classics won, hands down. Bear in mind that at the time you did finals two 3 hour papers per day, morning and afternoon, no breaks, until you finished. Except for Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Classics had thirteen papers.

I did physics and we only had seven, or eight if you'd opted for the theoretical option instead of third year practicals.

It's not as bad now - they only do one paper a day. Though that does mean that the poor classicists' exams take over a fortnight.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby You, sir, name? » Fri Jul 03, 2009 1:09 am UTC

I don't think it's possible to make blanket statements about it. What's difficult is highly individual. Effortlessly I cut through physics like a megawatt laser through butter, but I couldn't bring myself to reading half a chapter of a textbook on economy if I got paid to.

It's individual, and depends on what you find interesting (disinterest is a major factor in how difficult a subject is), what tasks your brain is good at, your pre-existing knowledge, etc.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Dil » Fri Sep 04, 2009 6:17 pm UTC

Alot of people have been saying that the 'hardest major' is subjective (dependent on the individual), which I agree with.

So I can only post my opinion/experience. I'm a geology student, with a minor in philosophy, so I think I have a unique range of experiences with coursework. I was doing good in physics up until after newton, and then we got into electromagnetic waves and relativity, and then I got fucked over conceptually. Like, I can do random blocks rolling down hills, but when you get to stuff like "What direction does an electron move in when there is a magnetic field going up and electric field going right, does the electron move up or down or counter clockwise" *dies*

I did matrix algebra and multivariable calculus and I thought those were OK. When I tried to do symbolic logic in philosophy, I got completely screwed over because I found it so hard to grasp. Like Calculus at that point seemed goddamn straight-forward compared to the symbolic logic (it was just so hard).

The one course, that I was not capable of doing, was Latin. I think, Latin is the one thing in my life which I seriously don't think I could ever master. It's INSANE! Out of all my chemistry, math, physics, philosophy, english courses, I could do them all, but the only one I could not do was Latin. But I kinda suck at foreign languages to begin with. Actually, I'm terrible at compsci too, I would pick math over compsci any day.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby phtoge » Thu Nov 26, 2009 6:36 am UTC

Most people seem to be referring to the sciences which for me would definitely be difficult. I'll put in a brief argument for the art major. I was roommates, in undergrad, with a person double majoring in engineering and physics. One of my degrees was in art and I spent more time studying and on campus by a long shot. I almost literally lived at the campus every weekend and past midnight most weekdays. Even grad school is taking less time than those darn art classes.

With that said, the hardest part of art is that it's subjective. There isn't a right answer so it's basically left up to the bias (hopefully consciously fighting the bias) of the prof. As a degree, not a subject, art can be very difficult if your not on the same page as the school. Which doesn't make any sense because as an artist you should be on a different, hopefully new page.

It does definitely depend on the person and what comes naturally to them. I work in the biomedical field and my hat is off to all the biomedical and chemical engineers, I certainly couldn't do it.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Korandder » Thu Nov 26, 2009 9:26 am UTC

I think physics is harder than economics for two reasons. I believe the math and the concepts are easier in economics than in physics.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby jetzzfan » Tue Dec 08, 2009 1:28 am UTC

I completed a BS in Microelectronic Engineering and am pursuing an MS in the same discipline. It's a mix of EE, ChemE, physics, and if you do MEMS, MechE. Add in some optics for the lithography portion and it's fairly comprehensive. It's not the hardest thing in the world, but a regular EE would struggle some.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby xxMrA » Wed Dec 09, 2009 1:07 am UTC

Computer Science BAM!

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby LuminaryJanitor » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:05 am UTC

EvanED wrote:(Depending on your concentration. I got a math major (double with CS), and it was largely looking at the courses I had taken because of CS or out of interest and going "hey, I'm like 3 classes away from a major." The only really hard math class I took was topology. That said, I also chose what is probably the easiest concentration within the math major.)

That is downright eerie. That's what I did, almost down to the last detail.

Doing CS. Realised I'm three units short of a maths major. Tried to pick some easy units, and for the most part, breezed through it.

Actually, the one I found the hardest - ironically enough, for someone doing a CS degree - was "Introduction to Computational Mathematics"...
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Zetetic1123 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 10:38 pm UTC

I wonder what courses those who claim CS is harder than Math took. Really, you can make either of those majors as hard as you want to, given that there are enough classes. Just take 6 math classes a semester and top off with a bunch of grad courses, or do the same with CS. Same with physics, though the standard major is probably more difficult than the standard major routes in CS and Math most of the time.

Really, nothing in math or CS is that difficult until the grad level anyway. Go read Hartsorne's book on Algebraic Geometry and then go read Kozen's book on Theory of Computation, do all of the problems in each book and tell me how easy math and CS are.

In conclusion, I guess the basic major in physics is probably more difficult than the basic major in math or CS, but who really only does the basic major (aside from those with multiple majors)? So the point is moot because when one guys says "CS Major" what is being named is probably different from what is named when someone else says it Q.E.D.

If you want to show off,just do an overall course comparison. Then you can factor in all of the aspects in a reasonably objective way.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Nowhere Guy » Sat Jan 09, 2010 2:43 am UTC

If we define "hardest" as being something along the lines of "most conceptually esoteric" and "having the most coursework", then I'd say Biomedical Engineering. However, I don't intend to go into that branch of study. Personally, I'm a businessman with my eye on an MBA.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Meteorswarm » Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:47 am UTC

Zetetic1123 wrote:Really, nothing in math or CS is that difficult until the grad level anyway. Go read Hartsorne's book on Algebraic Geometry and then go read Kozen's book on Theory of Computation, do all of the problems in each book and tell me how easy math and CS are.


And Kozen's a good teacher, too (I've had him for two classes). On the other hand, in a lot of subjects, the difficulty evens out - if classes are curved, the department or professor can set the difficulty arbitrarily high or low, and it's difficult to separate intrinsic difficulty with implementation difficulty, particularly when you have wildly varying aptitudes across subjects and students.

Personally, I think all the CS I've been exposed to so far is trivial, and I've had to put the most effort into my Chinese classes, but that's probably because I'm good at CS, and language classes are just obnoxious.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby waltwhitmanheadedbat » Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:07 am UTC

Financial Engineering is supposed to be ridiculously difficult. For at least a while, and maybe even today, banks were actually hiring physicists because they were some of the only ones who had a handle on the math necessary for risk management and pricing bond and derivative options: http://www.amazon.com/My-Life-Quant-Ref ... 962&sr=8-1

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby MadRocketSci2 » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:31 am UTC

I would submit a distinction between two different types of difficulty:

On the one hand, you have the complexity and rigour of the subject. Here, when the going gets tough, you can expect attrition, but it will be a reasonable amount of attrition due to people not putting in the time and not actually wanting to go through with understanding the subject. You'll see massive attrition in freshman and sophmore years, when people decide where their strengths and interests really lie, then it will trail off to something like 10% afterwards. This type of attrition weeds people out on the basis of merit and application. Here, if it's really your goal, your life's dream, and you are going to apply yourself and work extremely hard, you probably won't be randomly failed.

The second type of attrition is crazy over-the-top deathcamp attrition where only the lucky survive. This is where 90% of the students won't make it out the other end, even if they are already pre-selected from a pretty talented and dedicated pool (say, grad school candidates) because someone needs a reputation as brutally hard reinforced. Or where there are only so many slots, or so much support to go around, and too many applicants, and the only way to make one meet the other is to weed people out for every minor slip-up and random factor outside the applicants control, not the actual base level ability to do the job well, and otherwise cruelly crush people's dreams. (eg pilot and astronaut slots)

I don't mind the former. I try to avoid situations where I suspect the latter obtains.

Maybe a third type of difficulty: Back-stabbyness - when you are going into a situation where you are going to be judged on someone else's subjective whim, rather than your objective mastery of the material. Another reason why I like the hard sciences.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby GrizzlehBat » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:26 am UTC

I am finding physics is hard, maths is easier. Maths is easier in some sense because you get the general idea of how things work, but if you don't, you just keep on trying till you get it. Physics is harder because you need to be able to do the maths required, but then know how to use it with the problem, and then also understand concepts.

I think if I was doing a BA I would not be doing so well, but I am not doing too badly with a BSc. I kind of want to try an arts subject out at some point though, it might be fun to try something new, and to see how hard it is.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby KestrelLowing » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:04 pm UTC

Old thread, but fun topic.

I'll chime in and put my major in the mix - but with a BIG caveat.

The major of mechanical engineering is really hard because it's so broad. Basically, if there is a new topic in engineering (say, nano technology) at least some part of it gets thrown into mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineering has also been the 'father' at least partly of several other branches of engineering, such as materials and biomedical. Often, you still have to learn the basics of those disciplines as well.

Basically, the most common 'definition' I've heard for mechanical engineering is taking energy from a source (be that mechanical, potential, chemical, electrical, etc.) and transferring that energy to do something you want it to do.

So mechanical engineering can be seen as pretty easy because we don't go into a huge amount of depth, but that's because there is SUCH a broad topic base. So depending on how your brain works, ME could easily be a really hard major.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby ThirstyMonkey » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:42 am UTC

leer es poder wrote:has anyone ever heard of an easy architecture major?
the one at my school is probably the most demanding major i can think of and I'm a Biosystems engineering major.


I'm very surprised no one mentioned Architecture. I think it consistently comes up at the top of "most hours for major" lists. And they're not really hours that you can get out of if you're a natural. Making models and drafts simply takes time. My brother is getting is M.Arch at Penn Design and called me a few weeks ago at the end of his semester and said, "I think I just set a new personal record. I haven't slept in 68 hours."

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Dopefish » Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:43 am UTC

So, I recently completed my BSc with honours in physics and chemistry, and so those are the only two majors I can really compare. And in that case, I have to say that chemistry is significantly easier then physics.

The expected level of mathematical ability is way way higher in physics, even when it's the same math being used on the chem side. My most notable memory is from a (third year I believe) chem course giving an extension on an assignment and holding extra office hours just because it involved partial derivatives. Those showed up pretty early on in my second year physics courses, and even then they were deemed pretty trivial (because, y'know, they are).

I really do feel like a good chunk of first year and second year chemistry could really just be done by careful dimensional analysis (so, a mole of A has different units then a mole of B), along with some simple sketching, where on the other hand physics is running you through mathematical boot camp (incidently, I'm pretty sure a single math-for-physics physics course I took taught me more math then all the half dozen math courses I took combined) and also throwing things like relativity at you.

3rd year quantum chemistry course for me was basicly a subset of what was covered in my 3rd year quantum physics course, to the extent that a few things the prof spent a week going over in class were things that I had previously derived myself in the form of quantum physics homework problems. Now to be fair there was some stuff unique to the chem side of things, but still, a great deal of chemistry is basicly just applied physics.

Also, physics has E&M (and it's sucessor course, Electrodynamics). That stuff consists of walls and walls of vector calculus that is apt to be highly unfamiliar to students at that point, plus it's conceptually unfriendly, so even if you can manage the vector calculus you may still have no idea why you're doing it or whats going on physically.

All the Physics I took without {physics tools (math boot camp), E&M, Electrodynamics, Quantum II (which includes quantum electrodynamics)} would probably be roughly comparable in overall difficulty to all the Chemistry I took maybe, but since those courses do exist and are in fact required for honours physics students (only the first two required for non-honours), it definitely renders physics the harder of the two.


Sorry, I guess I rambled a bit there, that ended up far longer then I intended.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Blackdomino » Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:51 am UTC

Having done 3 different courses (double psychology/media and then med). I can give my opinion only on them.
Media is ridiculously easy, essentially watching films and then writing about them. If you need a bludge subject do media.
Psychology is not at all difficult in its concepts. It is a lot of contact hours for the credits. I was doing 26 hours a week of class time for psych and 3 of media in final year.
Medicine is ridiculous in the volume of material and the hours. We had 30 hours of class, 10 hours of clinical and about the same again in reading each week. I had to do summer school the first year as I just found it so overwhelming. The material itself is challenging but not impossible, there's just so much of it!

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby sam_i_am » Thu Jul 19, 2012 12:52 am UTC

all the majors at once is the hardest major

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Uncle Sherm » Sun Jul 22, 2012 2:50 am UTC

I have a bachelor's degree in History, I've studied Architecture, and I've tried Industrial Technology (Engineering-lite). Now I'm getting my bachelor's in Electrical Engineering (and since my gen eds transfer over from the old History degree, I'm getting a minor in Poli Sci to fill in the slow semesters). At my school, The Liberal Arts are about middle of the road in terms of national rankings, and above average in Engineering.

History was pretty easy. Write an essay about how you believe event A transpired and how it affected event B, and justify your answer with evidence.

Architecture was not easy. Everything you do is seemingly pointless and judged with entirely subjective criteria by hipsters.

Industrial Technology was easy, but mostly aimed at people seeking a career either as an OSHA inspector or Shop Teacher. If you graduate with that degree, you won't know enough to be an engineer, but you will know how to tell everyone else what they are doing wrong.

EE has been hardest so far, but I'm much older and wiser now than I was my first time in college. It is definitely not a program for people looking to just get a job. You really have to have a genuine interest in what's being taught or else you will fail to keep up. When you aren't studying for class, you should be studying because you enjoy learning about what you are being taught in class.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby Tirian » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:42 pm UTC

ThirstyMonkey wrote:
leer es poder wrote:has anyone ever heard of an easy architecture major?
the one at my school is probably the most demanding major i can think of and I'm a Biosystems engineering major.


I'm very surprised no one mentioned Architecture. I think it consistently comes up at the top of "most hours for major" lists. And they're not really hours that you can get out of if you're a natural. Making models and drafts simply takes time. My brother is getting is M.Arch at Penn Design and called me a few weeks ago at the end of his semester and said, "I think I just set a new personal record. I haven't slept in 68 hours."


I agree. When I went to Carnegie Mellon, the freshmen thought that the ECE's was the hardest program, but that's because they didn't know any architects. The moral of the story is that the architects didn't even have time for a marginal social life. Then again, the one architect I knew was impressed with my four year BS/MS (pure) math program, so maybe the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

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Re: Hardest Major

Postby sourmìlk » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:37 pm UTC

Most any artistic major. The thing about technical and mathematical majors is that there are steps to coming to objectively and provably correct solutions. And though this requires effort and thought, and is often immensely difficult, at least you can know what your goal is and when you've gotten there.

Artists have no such luck. They have to create, often ex nihilum, and when they do they can never, for certain, know they're doing it correctly. Or even that a correct solution exists! It's largely a shot in the dark. The hardest program I will ever have to right and the most difficult algorithm I will ever have to understand will never be as difficult as writing a single poem or composing a single piece of music or analyzing one passage of literature because I know that there is a way to accomplish my goal, and I know what it will look like when I do.
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Re: Hardest Major

Postby clockworkbookreader » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:11 pm UTC

photosinensis wrote:The biology disciplines aren't that hard, actually. The only problem is the general disdain that biologists in academia have for people interested in the medical professions. I can't entirely tell you why this antipathy exists, but it is there. When I was a bio/pre-med sort of person, they'd relax once I said that I was more interested in research medicine than in medical practice. Of course, I got fed up with even that after a few years...


More true words re: bio sciences were never spoken. My BS is in Bioch: insane memorization for this was good practice for medical school. And since Biochem touches on EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF MEDICINE... getting my MD was child's play next to getting my BS. That being said, at PSU in the mid-late 80's, Bioch had to take most of the math of the engineers, all Bio of the straight biology, all the Micro of the germy people, and all the Chem through PChem of the chemistry majors. So naturally I got a minor in Creative Writing to keep my sanity.

This is my theory as to why acedemic biologists hate medical people:

Those of us who follow medicine are the repairmen of the biological sciences.... and thus we make more than those who devote their entire world to why something happens instead of fixing it when it breaks. Just like a plumber and an electrician make more than most ME/EE PhDs in academia, MDs make more than the PhDs in the various biological disciplines. It's pure jealously of the mighty dollar.
In the event of pneumothorax, stab me with an 18g angiocath just above the second rib in the midclavicular line.
Thank you.


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