Help Finding a Major for My Research Interests

<p>Hello! So I am currently applying to colleges, and I am at a cross roads because I have to make the final decision whether to apply to the arts and sciences division or engineering division.</p>

<p>I want to do science research, specifically in the fields of drug discovery, molecular engineering, biomaterials, and nanotechnology (and I have a growing interest in neuroscience). I like engineering and have done some HS engineering programs, but I don't like "building", if that makes sense. I would love a job that includes wetlab, which can be hard to find in biophysics and more computational aspects of chemistry and biology, especially in ChemE.</p>

<p>So my choices come down to either ChemE with biological applications, biophysics in the physics departments, or a double major in computer science with either biology or neuroscience. I am 99% sure that I want to go into academia or research at a major biotech company, but I also want good job prospects (just in case) which makes me lean towards ChemE. </p>

<p>Any advice?</p>

<p>You can go into academic research whether you choose an engineering or a science field. It depends on what focus you want to take with it.
One big thing is that engineering programs are a lot more strict. There is less room for electives and flexibility. If you are somewhat uncertain about what path you want to take in academia, I might recommend going with the sciences. This lets you tailor your class choices somewhat as you discover your research interests. For example, I started out as a neuroscience major because I liked my high school psychology classes but wanted to take a more scientific approach. However, my interest developed more in the direction of motor learning and computational research, so I have added a minor in computer science and am using my electives to take additional math courses to prepare for graduate school.
If the 1% chance for back-up job prospects is the main reason you are considering chemical engineering, I think that’s another clue you’d be better off going with a non-engineering major. If you go for a double major with computer science (which is what I would do if I were starting over), that will give you great skills for research and the job market - every field needs computer people!
In short, I think any of these options would work for what you’re looking at, but as a non-engineering major, I’m biased toward that option.</p>

<p>I think one of the reasons I was interested in ChemE was the aspect of drug delivery engineering, which I find fascinating. I am also interested in nanotechnology in biological systems and biomaterials.</p>

<p>However, I do also have strong interests in computer science and neuroscience/biology/biochemistry and cancer biology, so I find it really hard to commit to any particular program, especially because the only engineering exposure I have is mechanical engineering. </p>

<p>The one thing that doesn’t appeal to me about science is that I don’t only want to discover what is wrong, I also want to research and create the solution (i.e. engineering), which is why I have such strong interests in drug discovery and delivery. I also think neuroengineering sounds cool but I want to engineer cells or nanotech, not chips in the brain. I like things on the micro scale.</p>

<p>For example and example of research that I love: [Hammond</a> Research Group](<a href=“]Hammond”>
Professor Hammond is part of the ChemE department at MIT as well as Professor Langer, and they both studied ChemE. Since my research interests align with theirs so well, it makes me seriously think that ChemE is for me. But maybe that is just the department at MIT. I see that UCSD has most of this research classified in their bioengineering dept.</p>

<p>Research has gotten messily interdisciplinary. Like a lot of emerging fields, it’s hard to classify it into a single department or field. You can see this as a good thing (you can come at it from a lot of different directions) or as making things difficult (it’s hard to decide what path you should start on to get there).
You seem to be saying that science is less appealing because you don’t want to just discover what is wrong, but also find solutions. Science is about finding solutions, too! Do you think you would be more interested in the consumer/end product (industry) or the core research (academia)? (It’s totally fine if you’re not sure.) Though I’m not an expert, engineering would probably lend itself more to the industry side of things.
I have heard the complaint from a few people in engineering that what they learn is much more about a linear development process, not the type of creative/hypothesis-based thinking you do on the science side.</p>

<p>I’m hesitant to tell you to pick one thing based on even really strong passions at this point. Yes, it’s totally possible that you will end up completely following this route, but when I started college I discovered a lot of new courses and research opportunities that I didn’t know existed, which really changed my path. I don’t want you to get locked into something that doesn’t end up being what you want to do.</p>

<p>Another thing to think about: it’s usually a lot harder to transfer into engineering programs (because they are competitive and have strict requirements) than transfer out of one to a science program.</p>

<p>Here’s another idea I thought of: have you tried contacting anyone in the field for suggestions? It might be a long shot, but it doesn’t hurt to try reaching out to a professor or even a grad student or undergraduate in this area of research.</p>

<p>Yeah I was thinking about applying for engineering, and then if I hate it, transferring out. For example transferring from ChemE or BioE to a biology or chemistry major shouldn’t be too hard, since they share many common core requirements.</p>

<p>I will definitely try emailing some students/professors and seeing what they say. At this point I especially love colleges that let all students try out both engineering and arts and sciences before committing to one department or the other.</p>