Physics Engineering Schools/Careers

<p>Like all students, I've been having a difficult time deciding where to go to college and what career to pursue. Initially, I dreamed of getting a Ph.D. in physics and going on to do research. This essay by a Wash U professor sort of crushed that dream, though:
Don't</a> Become a Scientist!
What do you guys think about that?</p>

<p>Since reading this I've been going back and forth between my original plan and majoring in aerospace, mechanical, or maybe nuclear engineering. I am good at math and physics. I know I have the passion for physics need to pursue a Ph. D. I am currently teaching myself basic concepts and math of special relativity, and I chose to write my 15 page research paper in my English class about special relativity and its impact on the world. Physics is a sort of learning that I enjoy to experience even if it's not for school. I'm torn between pursuing a Ph. D. and research in physics or pursuing some sort of engineering.</p>

<p>As far as schools, I live in Illinois about 20 minutes from St. Louis. I am pretty sure I either want to go to University of Illinois-Urbana or Wash U in St. Louis. Wash U seems like an overall more prestigious school. However, U of I has one of the top physics and engineering programs in the country, and Wash U is usually never rated as good as U of I in the departments in which I am interested. Which school do you think would serve me better? </p>

<p>Also, I'm kind of a liberal hippie music kid, so I feel like I would like the diversity at Wash U better. U of I comes off as a bunch of party frat kids, which I'm sure would probably be fun, but I just imagine it as a bunch of the kids that I avoided in high school. But then again, Wash U gets the stereotype that the kids are always engulfed in their studies, and they never have time for doing stupid, fun stuff. Which school sounds like more of my social scene?</p>

<p>Here's some of my stats if you guys have any suggestions on other colleges:
30 ACT
4.0 GPA
Rank 1 of 499
Did not take SAT
Moderate amount of extracurriculars. Lots of music. Part time job for last two years of high school.</p>

<p>If the lefty hippieness extends to political viewpoints, you might not like the types of jobs and projects that aerospace and nuclear engineers often find (e.g. military airplanes, nuclear power plants).</p>

<p>thanks for the advice. it doesnt extend to political views. i was just using that as a reference to what kind of social atmosphere i like.</p>

<p>First of all, take a look at the date of that essay, 1999. A lot of time has passed and research is going on and there are still Ph.D. students graduating and finding jobs.</p>

<p>I am a physics professor at Illinois Institute of Technology and I have had a number of students graduate with a Ph.D. from my group and find jobs which are satisfying and permit them to make a living. Are they all university professors at a research university? No, but I don't think that they regret doing the Ph.D.</p>

<p>If you are smart and interested in research there will be lots of possibilities to find a career in the more applied areas in industry or in the more basic research at a university. The direction that my research took me could not have been predicted but there are a lot of interesting problems out there to work on and with a solid Ph.D. in physics (or engineering for that matter), you can work on them.</p>

<p>From the perspective of which school to go to for a B.S. in physics or engineering, my recommendation is to decide based on your impression of the university and which one gives you the best financial package. If you are planning to major in physics, the curriculum at all universities is pretty much the same and if you put a lot of effort into your education you can get into a great graduate program no matter which university you attend. You can, however, get a leg up if you choose a program where you can become involved in undergraduate research in a meaningful way so that you have a faculty member who is able to give you a strong personal letter of reference.</p>

<p>The myth that you have to graduate from a big school to get into the best graduate schools is just that, a myth. Of the 5 physics majors at Illinois Institute of Technology who graduated in Spring 2011 and pursued graduate school in physics, one went to MIT, one went to University of Wisconsin-Madison, one to Notre Dame, one to University of Virginia and one to Johns Hopkins.</p>

<p>I graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (many years ago!) and it is a fine school. It is a big school and you don't have to get involved in the party stuff if you don't want to. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable there. If Washington University is a better fit because it is smaller and this works better for you, it is an excellent choice as well. However, make sure that whichever you choose makes the financial aspect work for your family. That will keep the stress levels low.</p>

<p>Good Luck!</p>

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<p>Be careful at smaller schools, including some "liberal arts colleges". Fortunately, you can typically look at the course catalogs on the web sites to make sure that the school has sufficient breadth and depth in your intended or possible major(s).</p>

<p>If you decide on engineering, look for [url=<a href="http://www.abet.org%5DABET%5B/url"&gt;http://www.abet.org]ABET[/url&lt;/a&gt;] accreditation in the subject. (In a few cases with bioengineering, engineering science, or computer science, a top-reputation school in the subject has foregone ABET accreditation, since PE licensing is typically not needed in those fields. But less well known schools will get ABET accreditation as a validation of meeting a minimum quality standard, and ABET accreditation should be considered necessary for the other engineering majors, especially civil, where PE licensing is most important.)</p>

<p>Thank you both! this helps a ton!</p>