The Importance of MATLAB

<p>Hello everyone,</p>

<p>I am a chemical engineering major. I am involved in a dilemna regarding whether or not I should take a numerical methods course (using MATLAB) or if I should take a materials course that counts towards a materials minor. How important is MATLAB for the industry?</p>

<p>Thank you all in advance.</p>

<p>MATLAB is easy. It takes a couple of hours to learn, so I wouldn't let MATLAB affect your decision. </p>

<p>Take numerical methods if you want to learn numerical methods, or take materials if you want to learn materials.</p>

<p>Learn MATLAB anyway, it's really useful, but it's not worth taking a course in.</p>

<p>Classic, I don't believe the OP is taking a course in MATLAB, but rather in Numerical Methods using MATLAB.</p>

<p>In any case, take what is more interesting and/or useful to you. Keep in mind that both numerical methods and MATLAB are always very useful things to know, and minors won't make a difference towards your future career.</p>

<p>Let me clarify.</p>

<p>The OP asked how important MATLAB is for industry. It's important. It's easy. That's why it's found such widespread use. Spend the 2 hours it takes to learn it regardless. Take whichever of the two courses interests you more, or is more useful. In other words, don't take the Numerical course just for the MATLAB if you actually prefer the materials course. The MATLAB you can learn easily enough anyway.</p>

<p>If you can handle any programming language, you can handle MATLAB. It is really just a compromise between a standard programming language like C and an advanced calculation program like Mathematica, so if you can handle the programming and understand the math, MATLAB should be no problem. So I agree with CRD: learn what you want, but get some experience with MATLAB regardless, because it should be pretty easy to pick up and is a very common tool in industry.</p>

<p>Sorry for the confusion. It seems like most of you agree that I should spend some time learning MATLAB regardless what class I decide to take. </p>

<p>However, I know very little about numerical methods. What exactly is the purpose of the class? All I heard was that it is strongly recommended. </p>

<p>Thank you all for the advice. BTW I also took a class on FORTRAN and I know some mathematica.</p>

<p>Numerical methods deals with solving complex mathematical problems using simpler (but still reasonably accurate) means suitable for a computer. The easiest example is the use of the trapezoidal method to calculate an integral, but more elaborate techniques include the finite element method and finite-difference time-domain method used to calculate electromagnetic fields.</p>

<p>The advantage of these methods are that (1) they allow the computer to do the heavy lifting, and (2) many problems are not easily solved analytically but can be solved with a high degree of accuracy by numerical methods.</p>

<p>There is actually quite a beautiful body of mathematics on numerical linear algebra and also numerical methods for solving partial differential equations. I took a class in numerical linear algebra and it was one of my favorites ever! There are issues like numerical algorithms for solving linear systems, or fast iterative methods for solving large linear systems which would be too slow to use normal methods. Also you probably never thought about how to actually compute eigenvalues in a numerically stable way, but it's a really interesting area. Big issues are stable vs unstable problems, accuracy, and how to prove these things. Stable means that your solution is the exact solution to a slightly perturbed problem, etc. </p>

<p>Most of the results end up in MATLAB toolboxes anyway, but if you want to know what's under the hood, it's good stuff.</p>