Choosing a major.

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Sulla158
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Choosing a major.

Postby Sulla158 » Fri Jun 06, 2008 2:35 am UTC

So I've graduated from High School, and I'm getting ready to go to college (University of Kentucky if it matters) the problem is I'm currently down as a Chemical Engineering major, but I don't think that that is really what I want to end up doing, I think I want to do more research, I get the impression that engineers are more on the application side. So now I'm left with science as an interest as I go into my first year of college with my registration and class scheduling coming up in a week and a half. I know many people switch majors, but am I better off going undecided until I figure things out? does anyone have some tips for picking a major? I know people say to choose what interests you, but too many things seem to interest me.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby jmorgan3 » Fri Jun 06, 2008 3:10 am UTC

Could you list those things that interest you so that we have a little more info to base advice on?
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby Sulla158 » Fri Jun 06, 2008 4:01 am UTC

I would like a career in science. I've taken Biology, Chemistry, and Physics classes in high school and liked the subject matter about the same. Those were the areas I had more in mind, but there may just be things I have considered. I like history and writing, but I kind of eliminated them from an actual job list, unless I could be a sci-fi writer, but I don't think that will happen to soon.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby saxmaniac1987 » Fri Jun 06, 2008 4:27 am UTC

Easy! Dual major Physics and Biochemistry!

Ok that wasn't probably very helpful. Apologies.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby psyck0 » Fri Jun 06, 2008 5:33 am UTC

Biochem is awesome. As an engineer, you probably wouldn't do much research (although why you want to do research is beyond me). In my experience, biology is taught terribly and is just boring (dumbed down because the idiots take biology), although real biologists are absolute geniuses. The stuff they come up with is incredible.

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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby GodShapedBullet » Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:02 am UTC

As for general picking a major strategy, just because you are undecided doesn't mean you have to declare yourself undecided. If you think a major might be a good fit for you but are curious about other ones, take a few classes from departments you are interested in to see if you might like them more. Also, if you have any friends that are in majors you are interested in, they are a valuable resource.

If you declare yourself a chemical engineer, it might be a bit harder than some other majors to actually take other classes for research, but you can still get a feeling of what other majors are like by asking around. And it'll be harder to get into chemical engineering from an undeclared status than the other way around, so if chemical engineering is an interest, maybe you might want to start with it.

Some chemical engineers might regard you as a quitter if you switch majors, but that's only because they hate their workloads and wish they had the courage to do the same.

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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby Vaniver » Fri Jun 06, 2008 6:35 am UTC

Sulla158 wrote:am I better off going undecided until I figure things out?
At most schools, the level of support for people with majors is significantly higher than the level of support for people that are undecided.

If you're going into research, you will need a PhD- and so your undergraduate degree might not matter too much. You can probably get into a grad school for Chemistry with a ChemE degree (and good grades in chemistry classes, and maybe a few extra ones), but that's something you should talk to the Chem adviser about.

Keep in mind that most of the low-level classes for these majors are going to be weeder classes- you have to trudge through the uninteresting chemistry to get to the interesting chemistry. You might not be able to say "this is the major I want!" after taking the first class or two in that major- but taking a few classes, and more importantly talking to professors about what they do, will help.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby Turambar » Fri Jun 06, 2008 9:27 am UTC

My advice? Do physics. Take that with a grain of salt.

I think you can afford to go undecided for a bit, although you should probably take the basic intro courses in chem/bio/physics, just to keep your options open and also to sound out which subjects (and which departments, that's also very important) you like more.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby hobbesmaster » Fri Jun 06, 2008 12:04 pm UTC

Turambar wrote:My advice? Do physics. Take that with a grain of salt.


If he declares physics, he'll have a lot of departmental support because he'll likely be the only entering freshman to declare that major.

And as to the guy saying major in biochemistry, he can't as its not offered. I believe there is a certificate in biochem option for a biology degree however. For CME there is a biopharmaceutical track that may be of interest.

Also, that entire "engineering != research" thing really hurts - there is a ton of nanotech research going on at UK within engineering. There should be tours during your summer advising weekend that'll take you through ASTECC and RGAN to show you big shiny toys. I'll ask my girlfriend (CME) later about exactly what research the CME professors are doing, but polymers, pharmaceuticals and nanoscale materials type stuff is what I've heard of (I don't know much chemistry, sorry). Their website might give you some idea of what various professors are up to (the EE one is horrifically out of date, but it gives you the idea).

As far as advising goes, you are strongly advised to keep an engineering major declared through your freshman year so you deal with Riggs and Freeman instead of central advising. You really don't want to deal with the advisers in POT...

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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby Sulla158 » Fri Jun 06, 2008 4:11 pm UTC

Thanks for all the help. It sounds to me like undecided is probably not the way to go. I think I'll probably stick with Chemical Engineering for a while anyway to try and get a feel for it and engineering in general. I should have some time to mess around anyway because of AP credit.

hobbesmaster wrote:
Turambar wrote:My advice? Do physics. Take that with a grain of salt.

Also, that entire "engineering != research" thing really hurts - there is a ton of nanotech research going on at UK within engineering. There should be tours during your summer advising weekend that'll take you through ASTECC and RGAN to show you big shiny toys. I'll ask my girlfriend (CME) later about exactly what research the CME professors are doing, but polymers, pharmaceuticals and nanoscale materials type stuff is what I've heard of (I don't know much chemistry, sorry). Their website might give you some idea of what various professors are up to (the EE one is horrifically out of date, but it gives you the idea).


I wouldn't be surprised to find out that I have some misconceptions about engineering. That's just what I've normally heard cited as the difference between a chemist and a chemical engineer, that the first does research and the second applies that research to large scale processes.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby hobbesmaster » Fri Jun 06, 2008 5:37 pm UTC

Sulla158 wrote:I wouldn't be surprised to find out that I have some misconceptions about engineering. That's just what I've normally heard cited as the difference between a chemist and a chemical engineer, that the first does research and the second applies that research to large scale processes.


Thats what they do in industry. In academia there may actually be no distinction between what a chemist and a CME researches. There will be some differences in what they teach of course. (also see EEs and solid state physicists) That said, there will be more applications driven research in engineering. And in some cases your "research" will just be implementing something for someone else (though, you might get a paper out of it too). For example a project I've been working on is basically just signal processing for a neurologist.

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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby GodShapedBullet » Fri Jun 06, 2008 9:17 pm UTC

Generally coming in undeclared isn't a problem, but if you are thinking about doing engineering it might be hard to come in undeclared and finish in four years.

Undeclared is a fun and exciting way to start your undergraduate career.

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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby Flying Betty » Fri Jun 06, 2008 9:23 pm UTC

If you're considering engineering, start off as an engineering major. It's way easier to switch out than switch in. This means you'll probably be taking some sort of intro to engineering class plus physics, so there's two of your choices already there for you to be taking and deciding amongst. Depending on your school's freshman requirements, you can try to fit a biology or chemistry class in as well, or at least take one second semester.

And engineers do to do research. What do you think they do in grad school? And once you get really into a research area, your general topic of concentration (say chemistry vs Chem E) won't matter nearly as much as the work itself as long as you do a decent job.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby TemperedMartensite » Sat Jun 07, 2008 12:49 am UTC

hobbesmaster wrote:In academia there may actually be no distinction between what a chemist and a CME researches.


It is surprisingly different as most chemists do chemistry (surprise surprise!) but the majority of ChemE's work on process design, analysis and improvement - basically the commercializing of so called "beaker chemistry". What you prefer just depends on your interests I suppose...

Also don't worry about going into engineering and not being able to do research - there is more research than you could shake a stick at in engineering.

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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby brilliantwhite » Sat Jun 07, 2008 4:13 am UTC

I am actually a CME major at UK. I would suggest holding off on changing your major at least until you get through CME 101 and learn some about what CMEs in industry and research positions actually do. Worst case scenario, you'll drop the engineering major after a couple of semesters, but with any engineering major at UK you will get a basic background in at least physics and chemistry that could be applied towards any science major. I would also suggest talking to some faculty members in the department before you decide that all of what CMEs do is industrial and not directed towards R & D. If biochem and biopharmaceuticals is what you're interested in, try contacting Dr. Dziubla, who is the director of the undergrad biopharm track (you take classes in CME, biology, and with the pharmacy school) and does a lot of research concerning membranes and drug delivery.

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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby Protector1 » Sat Jun 07, 2008 4:44 am UTC

I think undergrad ChemE is waaaaay more lucrative then undergrad chem.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby Sulla158 » Sun Jun 08, 2008 5:59 am UTC

Protector1 wrote:I think undergrad ChemE is waaaaay more lucrative then undergrad chem.


Yeah, I think on average the difference is about $20,000 which is a pretty big chunk. Sticking with engineering sounds like it should work out well at least for the first year or so. I never expected such a UK-specific response, nice to know I won't be the only xkcd fan on campus.
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Re: Choosing a major.

Postby Arp1033 » Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:39 am UTC

I think the best thing to do is to take what you love, write it down, find some friends who have declared majors, and take to them for a while. Your friends will do their best to make sure you are happy, while you still have control over what you are studying. Most important is that you are happy; make that certain before you think about careers.


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