There is no shortage of online resources for students interested in engineering (as a Google search on "engineering careers" shows). What is not as well known are the reasons a student who is interested in engineering would choose to major in physics.
If you've known ever since you were a child that you wanted to do mechanical engineering, that all you have ever wanted to do is mechanical engineering, and that when you are doing mechanical engineering you feel God's pleasure, then you should probably enroll in a mechanical engineering program at an accredited engineering school.
Engineering is an exciting field! One of our professors, Johnny Lin, received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an M.S. in Civil Engineering-Water Resources from Stanford University and loves both fields. If your heart is set on a specific type of engineering, it would be a wonderful choice to pursue that early on, during your undergraduate career.
If, however, you are interested in several types of engineering, desire math and science skills that are transferable to many branches of engineering, and want a well-rounded, holistic education that also includes the humanities and arts, then majoring in physics at a liberal arts college may be for you.
Many of the most exciting advances in engineering research today are at the intersection between fields, for instance between biology and medicine or mechanical engineering and electronics. The breadth of a physics education, which covers mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetic fields, quantum mechanics, solid state physics, and nuclear physics, gives you the foundational tools to work at the forefront of both engineering and science.
Majoring in a broader discipline, like physics, during your undergraduate career also helps prevent you from premature specialization while giving you more options for future graduate work in engineering. Many students enter college without a clear idea of the differences between the different types of engineering. And many of the most interesting aspects of specialization occur in graduate school. By majoring in physics as an undergraduate you are able to experience the multiple branches of the physical sciences that become the branches of engineering. This breadth, when coupled with summer research experiences in areas of engineering interest, is strong preparation for specialization in a particular type of engineering in graduate school.
Physics is excellent preparation for all the branches of engineering (except chemical or biological, where chemistry and biology provide better preparation). This is because much of engineering is applied physics. Interested in air flow over a wing, the operation of a turbine, or the general circulation of the atmosphere? All these phenomena are studied using the physics branches of fluid mechanics and thermodynamics. Interested in the behavior and construction of semiconductors? This is studied through the physics theory of electromagnetic fields. Physics and the mathematical and conceptual tools it provides forms the foundation for engineering.
This is why most of the first year for engineering students is math and physics. As an example, in the 2005–06 typical sequence for a mechanical engineering major (p. 214) at Stanford University, the freshman year includes 6 courses in math and physics (mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and light and heat) and 1 in engineering. In the 2005–06 typical sequence for an electrical engineering major (p. 145), only math and physics courses are expected during freshman year. In both cases, the concepts learned in the physics courses are needed for engineering courses later on.
At North Park, physics majors have an exceptionally well-rounded education, covering philosophy, theology, and history, in addition to math and physics. Physics majors are encouraged and supported to be broad in both their curricular and extracurricular activities. Classes are small and faculty are focused on teaching and mentoring students.
The department has a strong history of graduates who pursue graduate study in a variety of fields of engineering (e.g. mechanical, traffic, and engineering management). Our goal is a comprehensive and well-rounded education, the type of education that will give you the analytical tools vital to any engineering profession as well as the ethical and character formation that is needed for the responsible practice of engineering.
The university has a 3-2 Engineering program for undergraduates interested in both a liberal arts education as well as an accredited undergraduate engineering degree. Students completing the 3-2 program will receive a B.A. in Physics from North Park. The program consists of 3 years at North Park at which time the student transfers to an accredited engineering school.
The 3-2 program can give an engineering student the best of both worlds. During the first 3 years at North Park, the student benefits from the small classes (particularly important for introductory courses which are often very large at large universities), curricular breadth, and intentional integration between faith and learning that a Christian liberal arts college provides, while during the last 2 years, the student benefits from the specialized expertise and large range of research opportunities available at a research university.
For more information, please see the 3-2 program's academic planning sheet or contact any of the faculty in the department. Also see the Recent Graduate School Acceptances and Placement - Partial List; scroll down to see where recent Physics graduates from North Park have gone on to graduate school as well as universities where North Park 3-2 Engineering students have finished off their engineering B.S.