help! astro/aero engineering and physics

(108 Posts)
Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 08:39:38

I am an airy fairy arts person with ds wanting to do physics and then aero/astro engineering.

Any advice on the best universities for this? England/abroad? Obviously we are looking ourselves, but all advice/thoughts very welcome.

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TeaandHobnobs Wed 19-Jun-13 08:47:14

I did aero engineering about 10 years ago, so my perspective may be a bit out of date now, but my suggestions would be:
- Imperial
- Kingston
- Bristol
- Southampton

Cambridge/Oxford you would have to do two years of general engineering before specialising, whereas I think the Unis above are all specialist courses from the start.

Yay for your DS wanting to do engineering grin

rightsaidfrederick Wed 19-Jun-13 08:56:54

Manchester is meant to be very good, though they now ask for A*A*A - A*AA. You can do physics with astrophysics there too.

rightsaidfrederick Wed 19-Jun-13 08:57:11

^For physics

Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 09:04:36

Thanks, he wants to do physics as a first degree and then a masters in engineering, does that change things?

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glaurung Wed 19-Jun-13 09:30:59

Oxford and Imperial are probably the most highly regarded universities for physics (you can't do straight physics at Cambridge).

lapucelle Wed 19-Jun-13 09:56:52

In Cambridge you do Nat Sci and specialise in physics from the second year onwards. Cambridge physics is generally more highly regarded than Imperial physics and most people who did Nat Sci (Physics) would consider the first year spent doing chemistry, geology etc to have been worthwhile.

I'm not sure why one would do a first degree in physics followed by a specialised masters in aero/astro engineering. The physics degree would not be the best preparation for the engineering masters and it might be difficult to get into a competitive masters with that background. Oxford and Cambridge engineering is quite theoretical and has a strong physics component, so would be a good preparation for aero/astro engineering while including some physics. Also, as I understand it, while you can enrol on aero/astro engineering courses right from the beginning at other places, many of the modules are still shared with mechanical engineering, electro engineering etc and students have the option to transfer up to the end of the first year or so.

In terms of grades most of the places mentioned are going to be looking for A*AA+.


Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 10:00:36

Would it not be better to do physics to keep options open?

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Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 10:01:00

It might just be me thinking that, ds is fairly determined on what he wants to do.

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NewFerry Wed 19-Jun-13 10:16:02

When DS1 was choosing between maths and engineering degrees, a uni professor summed up the difference as maths is theoretical and elegant.
Engineers take the theories and make them work in the real world.

I suspect that maths and physics degrees both share that elegance, engineering is about using it to create something new and previously undreamed of.
Which does your DS prefer the sound of?

nohalfmeasures Wed 19-Jun-13 10:17:53

?Glasgow if you want flexibility. In Scotland degrees are 4 years but in the first year other subjects are studied to give a broader scope. you then specialise after that. You can skip first year if A levels are really good

TeaandHobnobs Wed 19-Jun-13 10:28:31

Does he prefer the theoretical side of physics or the more practical / applied aspects for engineering? They are going to be quite different I think (whilst allowing for some courses being slightly different, e.g. the Oxbridge engineering courses can be quite theoretical)

If he does a first degree in Physics, I can see it being possible to then do a Masters in Applied Physics maybe, but I think engineering is too much of a leap at that point (ridiculous as that may sound) - engineering degrees nowadays are usually undergraduate masters courses (4 years) as a three year course is generally accepted as insufficient to cover the subject.

How old is he now? Could he get some work experience with a company who works in that area? Might be worth getting in touch with the relevant institute (Royal Aeronautical Society / Institute of Physics? If that is the right name) for some advice perhaps.

Does he have any idea what he wants to do as a job at the end of it? I certainly wouldn't think doing engineering instead of physics would be limiting one's options.

Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 10:31:33

That is interesting, thanks. He's definitely more interested in the practical application I think. Maybe engineering then, after all. I suppose it makes sense if you really know what you want to do?!

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rubyanddiamond Wed 19-Jun-13 10:34:38

As a 6th former I wanted to study physics, but then changed my mind and applied for engineering as I thought it sounded more practical and grounded in the real world. Also, when I looked into it properly, the Engineering degree was more like what I was studying for A-level physics than the physics degree (although, I might also be out of date on this). Agree with NewFairy's summary, physics is about the theory and engineering is about creating things. So even if you study the same things, the underlying philosophy is a bit different.

In the first year, there's quite a lot of overlap between the subjects, then they start to diverge. Your DS could take a look at the syllabus for the two degrees and see what modules most appeal. If he is also keen to do a masters, then take a look at the syllabus and perhaps get someone who knows the field to give advice on whether the masters will follow naturally from the undergrad degree.

I don't think that physics necessarily is better for keeping your options open, but I think your DS's strategy of a more general undergrad followed by a specialist masters is a great idea.

Owllady Wed 19-Jun-13 10:35:41

My husband has worked as an engineer in aerospace and lots of people go into engineering with physics degrees, it's quite common.

My husband did the apprenticeship route, hnc, hnd, degree in engineering, msc in something or other (can't remember now)

He has worked for Imperial as well on space probe design, so erm, if you are a good engineer with a good background it really doesn't matter what your background was/is, it's not all old school anymore.

Owllady Wed 19-Jun-13 10:36:54

I agree with ruby though, engineering is creative. Has he done any of the psycho babble tests to see what kind of personality he has (oh dear my HR side is coming out now)

PointlessPost Wed 19-Jun-13 10:44:03

How old is he?
Have you looked at the HEADSTART courses. They are fantastic. My DD went on a five day residential course at the end of year 12 and it really helped her firm up exactly what she wanted to study at Uni. I am sure it also helped in her interviews.
Lots of Uni's have their own programes such as Imperial. You could look at whatever Unis are closest to you. There are lots of these type of courses going on, you just have to hunt them down.

Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 10:50:17

He did the Morrisby one, which said he has an exceptional level of reasoning ability and of general practical. All the mechanical stuff is off the page and round the corner. Top two career suggestions are mechanical and aerospace engineering. I'd forgotten all that. Hmmm.

What about Jane Austen? <weeps>

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Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 10:50:58

He's done a smallpeice one and will apply for a headstart. I'll get him to look at the Imperial too.

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lapucelle Wed 19-Jun-13 10:51:21

I work in maths/physics and disagree slightly with the characterization given above.

Nowadays about 2/3 of the research done in most maths departments is not pure mathematics - it is statistics, operational research and "applied mathematics" which ranges from theoretical engineering to physics to mathematical biology. A good fraction of research income comes from industrial grants and some research is even done to order. Similar research in physics ranges from blue skies theoretical work on the origin of the Universe to developing next generation computer chips. In most universities there are considerable overlaps between maths, physics and engineering departments and there are frequently cross-departmental research teams.

What is taught at undergraduate in 3rd year and for MMath/MPhys/MEng strongly reflects the research profile of a given university. That means that in some places the MEng can be pretty theoretical while in other places the MPhys can include a lot of applied physics (nearer to materials science, chemistry or engineering).

For the OP I would think that talking to universities and checking out particular courses would be a good idea. Choosing a program that is flexible is generally recommended as very few students know enough about the subject to be completely sure that they want to do e.g. aero engineering right from the beginning. The latter includes quite a lot of applied maths, fluid dynamics, which students have not met at school so they can't be completely sure that they will enjoy it and be good at it.

bruffin Wed 19-Jun-13 10:56:07

Also look at Arkwright scholarship for 6th form for budding engineers. My ds's Headstart next month at Imperial is being paid for by part of his scholarship. Application for Arkwright is in yr 11. Also get lots of connections through it.

Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 10:57:33

He's applied bruffin and had an i/v. Waiting to hear if successful!

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AnneEyhtMeyer Wed 19-Jun-13 11:09:15

DH is in aero engineering. He did a physics degree at Imperial.

Hullygully Wed 19-Jun-13 12:02:53

Thanks all for contributions.

Not entirely sure I have a definite conclusion but still.

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zamantha Wed 19-Jun-13 16:56:11

I'm interested in this thread as my DS also wants to do Aeronautical engineering at mo and is off to do his Headstart course next month and did Smallpiece last year.

I don't know if this is MN world or a scary over competitive world but why are only Imperial /Oxbridge seriously discussed? Surely other successful grads from different uni's are also around!!

I'm also arty, successful and did not go to above!!

We are particularly interested in Surrey, maybe Souhhampton but the A* are scary and we have the thought of Brighton and Sussex if things don't go to plan. Sure Imperial would be perfect but life includes many more than those lucky few.

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