Freshman Student looking for Guidance

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SyntheticWeb
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Freshman Student looking for Guidance

Postby SyntheticWeb » Thu Aug 11, 2016 2:00 pm UTC

This fall I start my freshman year of college as an Energy Engineering major. However, I have always felt that I would much more enjoy majoring in a science field(either CS or physics). The problem is that whenever I mention the idea to my dad(an electrical engineer) he immediately shoots me down and gives me his whole speech on how engineering is so much better and more applicable than a science degree. My parents have threatened to take away their part of funding my education if I end up switching. I have this summer worked an engineering internship and I can say confidently that although I would be perfectly happy in an engineering role, I am afraid that I will regret not going into a scientific field. There is a program at my university for a dual major in Physics/Electrical Engineering but my dad doesn't even support that. My end goal for my career would be doing research on nuclear fusion or working with spacecraft. Any advice?

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doogly
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Re: Freshman Student looking for Guidance

Postby doogly » Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:16 pm UTC

It's worth noting your father is absolutely wrong and is being an asset about it. It is worth some not inconsiderable moneys to keep that observation to yourself though, it would seem! It might be possible to present some resources on the complete baselessness of his worries about possible career paths with a CS or Physics degree, but this now is a question about the psychology of your parents. But if they're unhappy with a double major, it seems like a pretty unreasonable scenario... do they feel alright with a minor?

I think you should be fine with EE though, it's pretty adaptable. Take any extra physics, CS and math courses you can, and steer the internships thoughtfully. What was the last internship? Also, do you have folks at your university who are working in these areas of interest (in either department?) They may be useful to loop in.
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Re: Freshman Student looking for Guidance

Postby Zohar » Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:26 pm UTC

That's a tough situation. I understand why your dad wants you to go into something he believes is lucrative and hopes you'll be easily independent, but in this case it seems like he's pushing a lot on you.

First, just because someone does an engineering degree doesn't mean they can't continue into sciences afterwards in graduate school. And just because someone gets a specific degree in college doesn't mean they have to work in that area (for example, I have a bachelor's in physics and math and my first job after uni was as a computer programmer).

Second, yes, your dad is kind of an ass. Unfortunately it seems like unless you can independently pay for college, you're kind of stuck. I suggest concentrating on electives that interest you, at the very least. I don't know if you can involve other people in this discussion - another parent, a relative that can bridge the gap between the two of you, etc. If you can get others involved and advocate on your behalf, that might make things simpler. But like doogly mentioned, you'll have to judge how likely that is to be effective.
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LaserGuy
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Re: Freshman Student looking for Guidance

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:47 pm UTC

FWIW, your first year of an engineering program is not going to look very different from a first year physics program (and probably not appreciably different from a Computer Science one either). There may be a few courses here and there, but you won't really start to specialize until 2nd year at the very earliest, probably closer to 3rd year (depending on your school). So if you're stuck with EE at this point, you'll get another shot next year with minimal setbacks.

It's also worth noting that being an electrical engineer rather than a physicist does not preclude you from working on fusion or spacecraft or many other related projects that you might want to think about pursuing. It's also fairly likely that you will need a graduate program before you can really pursue either of these options anyway, so if you've planned well (ie. loaded up on math/physics electives), even if you do a major in EE, you should still be able to do your Masters/PhD in physics if you so desire. Near the end of your first semester/year, consider visiting one of your favourite physics profs in office hours (btw. super valuable resource that's WAY underused, especially by freshman--take advantage!) and ask what elective courses might be most helpful to you.

Is there any chance your father might be persuaded by some diligent market research on your part--ie. if you can show him that degrees in physics or CS have similar pay/prospects to EE, would he find that persuasive? Or is this more of an emotional, "I'm right, you're wrong", kind of deal? Academic advising at your university might have such information on hand.

SyntheticWeb
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Re: Freshman Student looking for Guidance

Postby SyntheticWeb » Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:11 pm UTC

doogly wrote:What was the last internship? Also, do you have folks at your university who are working in these areas of interest (in either department?) They may be useful to loop in.

This summer my main project was with an autonomous semi-truck. My favorite part of it really was the theory and the deriving of the math involved in moving a vehicle with a trailer autonomously before we put It in matlab/dspace. In answer to the second question, I do have a good friend who will be a junior in my universities CS department that really enjoys it.

LaserGuy wrote:Is there any chance your father might be persuaded by some diligent market research on your part--ie. if you can show him that degrees in physics or CS have similar pay/prospects to EE, would he find that persuasive? Or is this more of an emotional, "I'm right, you're wrong", kind of deal?

Unfortunately I think that this is a "I'm right, you're wrong", situation as I have even given him full studies on jobs, prospects, etc. on both of those fields but I don't think he even has read them.

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Re: Freshman Student looking for Guidance

Postby Jorpho » Fri Aug 12, 2016 10:27 pm UTC

I agree with Mr. LaserGuy. Specialization is not going to make much of a difference at this particular juncture.

Also, I'm not sure what sort of research you've been doing, but everything I've ever heard (and let's not forget https://xkcd.com/1052/ ) is that someone with a Physics degree is extremely likely to end up not working in physics. In fact, I'd be very much inclined to believe that someone with an engineering degree is much more likely to be doing "research on nuclear fusion" or "working with spacecraft" (whatever that means). Then again, I have no idea what exactly "Energy Engineering" entails.

Also, I think most would agree that "computer science" does not exactly constitute a "science field".

My favorite part of it really was the theory and the deriving of the math involved in moving a vehicle with a trailer autonomously before we put It in matlab/dspace.
No shortage of that sort of thing in Engineering.


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