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Old   April 18, 2010, 01:54
Default CFD in aerospace/defense?
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I just recently graduated with my BS degrees in physics and applied math but am interested in switching my career path towards ME/AE, in particular CFD. I honestly don't know much about CFD at all, so I was wondering how much of the fluid mechanics you learn in the ME/AE classes is actually used in CFD for the graduate-level courses, and for actual engineers who use CFD on their job. Since I enjoyed my classes in heat transfer, fluid mechanics, and numerical analysis instead of experimental/hands-on work, I heard that computational mechanics and CFD were good fits for me. Also, I want to apply my knowledge to work with aircraft fighters, missiles, and weapons systems for a defense contractor. So it seems I should try to specialize in CFD or thermal analysis

One thing that has me worried about getting an MS or phD in ME or AE specializing in CFD is that I heard that lots of engineers don't recommend others to pursue an engineering career because they don't like their jobs and the pay isn't great, and also because engineering doesn't have very strong job security and its hard to change disciplines as technology and economic conditions change. Also, I heard that outsourcing, in particular modeling/simulation positions using CFD, will just continue to become a major problem.

Since I enjoyed most my courses in heat transfer, fluid mechanics, PDEs, ODEs, linear algebra, and numerical analysis, I was also considering getting an MS or phD in applied math or Computational Science and Engineering. If one is concerned about employment like me, should I not do an MSME and instead do an MS in Computational Science and Engineering/Applied math? That way, in addition to positions working on CFD, missile and thermal analysis (which are the ones I want the most), I can also have doors to other positions with possible better job security?

Also, to pursue a career in aerospace/defense, what would you say is better: phD or MS? I really don't want to do the phD since takes so much longer to complete. But I guess if it opens doors to much better job positions, then I'll have to do it
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Old   April 19, 2010, 06:35
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Quote:
I just recently graduated with my BS degrees in physics and applied math
Congratulations.

Quote:
[I] am interested in switching my career path towards ME/AE, in particular CFD. ... so I was wondering how much of the fluid mechanics you learn in the ME/AE classes is actually used in CFD for the graduate-level courses, and for actual engineers who use CFD on their job.
Ok, let me make my response absolutely, 100% clear. You can NOT do CFD without a very good understanding of fluid mechanics. The better you understand the fundamental, first principles of fluid mechanics, the better an engineer you will be. This is true in industry or academia. I once had a conversation with a senior aerodynamist from Boeing and I was simply amazed by his knowledge of fluids.

The fluids courses offered in engineering schools are extremely diverse, ranging from the hard-core theoretical through to the very experimental. All are useful to the aspiring engineer (as a theoretician myself, I really wish I had a more thorough grounding in experimental fluids!).

Many universities will also offer one or two CFD courses, but few will offer any more than that. If you want to do nothing but CFD, you'll be out of luck. But courses in numerical methods/analysis, continium mechanics (like structural analysis), PDEs, control theory, computer science / programming and (especially) signal processing and statistics can also be really useful in CFD (in my humble opinion).

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One thing that has me worried about getting an MS or phD in ... that I heard that lots of engineers don't recommend others to pursue an engineering career because they don't like their jobs and the pay isn't great...
Who ever told you this doesn't know what they are talking about. Many engineers love their jobs, and as an engineer working in CFD I was never poorly paid (although friends of mine were certainly earning more than me!).

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...and also because engineering doesn't have very strong job security ...
My response is anecdotal, but in my experience the security of jobs in engineering is better than most. It takes a lot of time and money to train an engineer, and most companies and government departments recognise that if you're a good engineer, you're an asset to them. Consulting and contracting companies may have lower job security though (it's a feast or famine industry).

Quote:
and its hard to change disciplines as technology and economic conditions change.
This is so wrong I don't really know where to begin. Engineering (should) focus on basic skills like problem solving, creativity and just getting stuff done. To take a leaf from my own career, I worked in several different engineering disciplines before I made the jump to .... atmospheric and oceanic science. The basic physics and maths I learned in engineering still serve me well.

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I was also considering getting an MS or phD in applied math or Computational Science and Engineering.
Only you can make this decision. But the job security concerns really shouldn't be an issue. I know many companies that use CFD are happy to hire mathematicians and physicists, but in my experience, the vast majority of personnel working in CFD are engineers. Look carefully at syllabi at universities you're thinking of going to and see what courses they offer? Are they up your alley? Can you do some maths courses in a engineering stream? Can you do some engineering courses in a maths stream?

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Also, to pursue a career in aerospace/defense, what would you say is better: phD or MS? I really don't want to do the phD since takes so much longer to complete. But I guess if it opens doors to much better job positions, then I'll have to do it
I'm not sure you understand what a PhD entails. It doesn't just take longer to complete... it's something entirely different. During a PhD, you will live, eat and breath a discipline for several years until you know enough to advance the field. Do not do a PhD unless you really, really, love a topic. If you do, you'll find a PhD rewarding. Otherwise, stick with a Masters. Unless you would like a career in research or academia, there is no real career advantage to undertaking a PhD.
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Old   April 19, 2010, 08:56
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I would echo everything ChrisC has said, with one minor caveat - having a Ph.D. opens some doors that having a Masters degree won't. I certainly didn't pursue my doctorate for that reason - I did it for the love of the academic pursuit. I would not recommend to anyone to pursue a doctorate simply for job security. But having those three little letters after your name, with a good work ethic, seems to carry a lot more weight with a lot of managers and corporate higher-ups, than simply having a good work ethic. But then, as one of my colleagues told me many years ago, it also means that they expect you to know how to solve any problem.
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Old   April 19, 2010, 13:18
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Ok, let me make my response absolutely, 100% clear. You can NOT do CFD without a very good understanding of fluid mechanics. The better you understand the fundamental, first principles of fluid mechanics, the better an engineer you will be. This is true in industry or academia. I once had a conversation with a senior aerodynamist from Boeing and I was simply amazed by his knowledge of fluids.

The fluids courses offered in engineering schools are extremely diverse, ranging from the hard-core theoretical through to the very experimental. All are useful to the aspiring engineer (as a theoretician myself, I really wish I had a more thorough grounding in experimental fluids!).

Many universities will also offer one or two CFD courses, but few will offer any more than that. If you want to do nothing but CFD, you'll be out of luck. But courses in numerical methods/analysis, continium mechanics (like structural analysis), PDEs, control theory, computer science / programming and (especially) signal processing and statistics can also be really useful in CFD (in my humble opinion).
So if I hated my experimental physics courses, then does that mean I shouldn't do CFD? Also, I've only taken one Intro to fluids class so far. I liked most of the stuff we covered until the very end when we covered shock waves, sonic/subsonic/supersonic flows, isentropic flows, etc.



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Originally Posted by ChrisC View Post
Who ever told you this doesn't know what they are talking about. Many engineers love their jobs, and as an engineer working in CFD I was never poorly paid (although friends of mine were certainly earning more than me!).

My response is anecdotal, but in my experience the security of jobs in engineering is better than most. It takes a lot of time and money to train an engineer, and most companies and government departments recognise that if you're a good engineer, you're an asset to them. Consulting and contracting companies may have lower job security though (it's a feast or famine industry).
I thought these negative opinions were fairly common among engineers? Below, I will post comments made by some engineers who wrote to a PE magazine.

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Originally Posted by ChrisC View Post
This is so wrong I don't really know where to begin. Engineering (should) focus on basic skills like problem solving, creativity and just getting stuff done. To take a leaf from my own career, I worked in several different engineering disciplines before I made the jump to .... atmospheric and oceanic science. The basic physics and maths I learned in engineering still serve me well.
Would you say it's easy and common to switch from CFD to other fields such as atmospheric and oceanic science? Does it make a difference if your degree is in applied math vs ME? Does it make a difference if you have a MS vs phD? Also, I heard from another engineer that computational/numerical work in such areas as FEA and CFD are rapidly moving to places like India. HIs company contracts a lot of FEA to India because it is a routine task and can be bought cheaper in India



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Originally Posted by ChrisC View Post
Only you can make this decision. But the job security concerns really shouldn't be an issue. I know many companies that use CFD are happy to hire mathematicians and physicists, but in my experience, the vast majority of personnel working in CFD are engineers. Look carefully at syllabi at universities you're thinking of going to and see what courses they offer? Are they up your alley? Can you do some maths courses in a engineering stream? Can you do some engineering courses in a maths stream?


I'm not sure you understand what a PhD entails. It doesn't just take longer to complete... it's something entirely different. During a PhD, you will live, eat and breath a discipline for several years until you know enough to advance the field. Do not do a PhD unless you really, really, love a topic. If you do, you'll find a PhD rewarding. Otherwise, stick with a Masters. Unless you would like a career in research or academia, there is no real career advantage to undertaking a PhD.
I might like to do R&D in industry, but you can do that with just an MS, right? Other than that, the only other reason why I considered getting a phD instead of an MS is that I thought with if you have an MS and work in industry, even if you specialize in CFD, you might still have to do lots of hands-on and experimental work? Also, I heard those with MS degrees still do lots of boring and grunt work, whereas those with phD's can always do work that isn't boring?
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Old   April 19, 2010, 13:25
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a Gallup poll indicated more Americans would recommend that a young person find a job in the medical and health care field rather than a job in engineering. Here is a selection of the responses from readers submitting letters to a PE magazine:

I wish that someone had offered me advice about entering the health care field rather than engineering. I graduated high school in 1976 and college in 1980. I have never seen such a bad economy for being a civil engineer.
John Snowe, P.E.
Fort Pierce, FL

I'd not recommend engineering for the following reasons:

The industrial exemption from licensure requirements;
There's less employment stability (and less money to be made) than in any other "learned profession;" and
Most importantly, though, engineering is not one field but many, and the fiction that engineers can change disciplines as technology and economic conditions change is just that—fiction.
I'd say to any student interested in engineering, "Get a degree in physics (or perhaps math)." This will give you the flexibility to pursue most relevant technical careers without being told by an employer that, "Well, you're a mechanical engineer, but we need civils this week."
Ray Mignogna, P.E.
The Villages, FL

...Many American companies will pit your skills against the outsourced talent they employ overseas, where the pay and cost of living is much less. Was there ever a time without the claim of an engineering shortage? If a shortage truly exists, why has the entry level salary remained unchanged in the last 20 or 30 years, when annual inflation of 3% to 4% is considered?
Terry Wicks, P.E.
Jupiter, FL

Would I recommend engineering as a career? Not likely. Instead, I would recommend investment banking.

Although I enjoyed the engineering aspects of my career in aerospace, I was continually troubled by the threat of layoffs and by the bullpen working conditions. My children grew up watching my dilemma. I was careful not to steer them into engineering. They became investment bankers. They are now far better off than I ever was.
George W. Hillman, P.E.
Tulsa, OK

I have a master's in mechanical engineering and 18 years experience. I've worked in a variety of industries, from medical products to high-voltage power transmission design. I've never been happy as an engineer. I wouldn't recommend engineering to anyone asking career advice. If they were set on a technical field, I'd recommend one of the pure sciences and staying in academia. The reasons are many, but every engineering job I've had ends up being far too specialized. The competition from oversees may demand this, but the job is just not fun or rewarding in today's world.
Rob Miller, P.E.
Spokane, WA
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Old   April 19, 2010, 14:09
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I have a number of friends who are medical doctors who make similar comments about young people going into medicine - in fact, one of them (only half-jokingly) volunteered to talk my son out it when I mentioned that he was going into pre-med. When I delved deeper into the sources of their frustration, invariably it had nothing to do with the core of their work - they really love working with their patients to provide the best care they can. Rather, the frustration is in all of the ancillary junk that goes with their work. Reading those comments you posted puts me in the same mind - the core work is enjoyable, but there are all these side issues that enter in. Guess what - no matter what you do you are going to find those parts of a job that really suck, and CFD is no different. I have worked as an engineer for over 20 years, and my focus has changed several times within the modeling/simulation world. Sometimes it's been great, other times not so much. Would I do it over again? Maybe, maybe not - one of the great advantages of getting older is the perspective you gain that allows you to see other paths you could have traveled. But I don't regret the path I've followed, and I would not complain if any of my children decided to take it up. Ultimately, it's really going to depend on what you are willing to put into it.
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Old   April 24, 2010, 14:12
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ChrisC made many excellent points. The first key to success in CFD is understanding the "FD" - the fluid dynamics. The second key to professional success is pursuing your passion, so if you're into CFD put everything you've got into it and take satisfaction that you're able to do something you love.

As for job security, I can only tell you what a VP once said at a major US defense contract where I used to work: when things here are bad, they're bad. And when they're good they're not a helluva lot better. The point being that working for a major defense contractor has its ups and downs. The ups include working on cool, high-profile things; a large number of highly skilled and interesting co-workers; the resources of a big business behind you, etc. The downs include being treated like a number, engineers being treated like so many interchangeable spare parts, lots of corporate BS, etc. (Note: these are my opinions. I have many friends who enjoy and thrive working at these big companies.) Not to contradict myself, but there are also organizations that progressive and employee-friendly.

As for pay, there will always be people earning more than you - in engineering and in other fields. However, engineering offers a decent level of compensation that's higher than many. This is where you have to examine what it is you want to accomplish professional and personally during the course of your career.

As for the MS vs. PhD, since you state that your goal is to get a job, I'd recommend finishing the MS and getting out. You can get few years of experience and perhaps that will focus your ideas and interest on going back to school for a PhD. Who knows - your employer may pay for your education.

Best of luck.
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Old   July 19, 2010, 23:05
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Thanks for all the responses. I just have one last question to ask: If I want to work in the aerospace/defense industry, my guess is that companies would rather hire an AE/ME than an Applied Math person, right?

If thats true, then I'd easily choose AE/ME instead of Applied Math. But don't those companies also expect engineers to do lots of hands-on and experimental work? I want to avoid that kind of work as much as possible
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Old   July 20, 2010, 07:51
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jck87:

No, companies would not rather hire an AE/ME than Applied Math. It depends on the position you're applying for, but math majors and engineers of all types can get hired. What's important is whether or not you can do the job.

Regarding hands-on and experimental work, I worked for a major defense contractor for 7 years and never got my hands dirty. I was hired to do analysis. This was a big company. At a smaller company they may prefer to have tech staff who are able to a broader range of tasks.
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Old   July 20, 2010, 23:06
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jck87:

No, companies would not rather hire an AE/ME than Applied Math. It depends on the position you're applying for, but math majors and engineers of all types can get hired. What's important is whether or not you can do the job.

Regarding hands-on and experimental work, I worked for a major defense contractor for 7 years and never got my hands dirty. I was hired to do analysis. This was a big company. At a smaller company they may prefer to have tech staff who are able to a broader range of tasks.
What kinds of stuff do applied math people do at aerospace/defense companies? Based on what I've seen on job listings, it seems like they can only do systems engineering, software engineering, and signal processing and not much else. It doesn't seem like they get to do heavy numerical analysis, numerical linear algebra, or CFD
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Old   July 21, 2010, 08:19
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jck:

You ask that question as though you expect me to reply with a list of occupational codes and the corresponding required degrees. It's not that clear cut. It depends on your skill set and the employer's needs.

Stated another way, anyone who categorically denies someone a CFD job because they don't have a degree in ME or AE is just being silly.
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Old   August 1, 2010, 16:56
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Hi All,

I just want to tell you first, Job in Defense Companies is mainly depends where r u applying? and what is your nationality.

Secondly, i did Bachelor’s in Applied Mathematics and had working experience indirectly with Defense organization. Being a mathematician my work was very specific (related to code writing) they won’t give me and try me the other stuff.

But after that i did my Master's in Aerospace (CFD) and now i can go anywhere where i want to go Defense or aircraft any kind of aerospace. I feel myself better.

I just wanted to share my personal experience with you. Hope it helps u to make any decision.

Regards,



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What kinds of stuff do applied math people do at aerospace/defense companies? Based on what I've seen on job listings, it seems like they can only do systems engineering, software engineering, and signal processing and not much else. It doesn't seem like they get to do heavy numerical analysis, numerical linear algebra, or CFD

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Old   August 5, 2010, 13:06
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jck87,

I had a graduate student who received an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering under my direction after obtaining a B.S. in Applied Mathematics with an engineering emphasis. This opened up a lot of doors for him. I believe that even in the worst of times, unemployment rates for engineers are very low.

Professors love math students, because they are generally more skilled at math and like the subject matter more than most engineering students. Getting an advanced degree in engineering will most likely take you more time than mathematics because the graduate coursework will have prerequisites that are undergraduate engineering courses.

If you really want a career conducting CFD analysis, I would say that the skill set is most important -- regardless of the degree, you will need to have the proper coursework in fluid dynamics, heat transfer and CFD and a thesis research that involves CFD. Most likely this could be more easily accomplished in an engineering curriculum. I do believe that a degree in engineering will open up more doors. Unless you feel strongly about aerospace, Mechanical Engineeing is more general and opens up more opportunities compared to Aero Engineering.

Good luck.

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Old   August 5, 2010, 13:19
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I am totally agree with "Jade" comments and want to say u , skills are more important then the name of degree however for Engineers job opportunities are higher then the mathematician.

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jck87,

I had a graduate student who received an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering under me after getting a B.S. in Applied Mathematics with an engineering emphasis. This opened up a lot of doors for him. I believe that even in the worst of times, unemployment rates for engineers are very low.

Professors love math students, because they are generally more skilled at math and like the subject matter more than most engineering students. Getting an advanced degree in engineering will most likely take you more time than mathematics because the graduate coursework will have prerequisites that are undergraduate engineering courses.

If you really want a career conducting CFD analysis, I would say that the skill set is most important -- regardless of the degree, you will need to have the proper coursework in fluid dynamics, heat transfer and CFD and a thesis research that involves CFD. Most likely this could be more easily accomplished in an engineering curriculum. I do believe that a degree in engineering will open up doors. Unless you feel strongly about aerospace, Mechanical Engineeing is more general and opens up more opportunities compared to Aero Engineering.

Good luck.
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Old   August 5, 2010, 13:49
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I have been lazy to do this myself in the past, but this was a recommendation that I've heard which I think is a good idea. Look at job advertisements for the types of jobs that interest you ... then look at the skills and credentials that the job requires. I think that this is a fantastic way to understand the skills and credentials that are needed. Good luck!
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Old   August 12, 2010, 01:57
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thanks for all the replies. I had thought that ME/AE opens up more doors, but I also thought applied math grad school would be better to get into based on my stronger background in it than ME/AE.

In regards to the above post, it seems that the jobs that most interest me require an ME/AE degree. But then again, I haven't seen many job postings for CFD analysts that require an applied math background
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Old   August 17, 2010, 16:54
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I doubt that you'll see job postings for CFD analysts that require an applied math background. However, this does not mean that a strong applied math background is not beneficial ... quite the opposite, it is very useful for CFD. In fact, your background with the appropriate further training might be very well suited toward code development. It sounds to me that you very much want to conduct CFD. I would say go for it, if you think you'll regret not having done so. Life is short and so many people work at jobs which they do not find satisfying. I wish you the best of luck in your decision!! It is a big one and I'm sure that you'll make the right decision for you since you are giving it a lot of thought.
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Old   August 25, 2010, 06:05
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let me give you an advice......


i am mechanical engineer, and i was working several years on oil and gas companies not as a cfd or fea expert but as engineer, all the time my boss was focus on me because i was really good, after that i focus on fea & cfd for 12 years, not i have my own company from 2004.

i never took a MSC or Phd because i never had time for that, i learn CFD and FEA after i read and study a lot, really lot,

now i can say that i am close to expert but this does not mean i am expert because non is.

CFD and FEA are huge storys and departments,

cfd can be combustion , naval, impact, subsonic, etc do not forget the mesh... hypermesh... harpoon... etc...

YOU CAN NOT BE EXPERT TO ALL OF THESE !!!!

i have friend in US that are expert in turbo engines ( cfd) but they do not know anything for hydroplanning....

my opinion is

if you good and even more if you like these stuff.. go forward to learn more, take a job to a company that need a cfd engineer and do not work else where.. stay focus on that.

after you learn more then you will choose a job and not the job to choose you...

and do not forget that each department has different software, i am working on defense and i am using cfd ace+ , if you are working on naval you need iowa... or something else....

just learn ... learn... learn....

if you are from europe.. www.interfea.com
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Old   August 25, 2010, 12:00
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by the way

does pointwise support CFD-ACE+ ??????????
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Old   September 10, 2010, 14:26
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Thanks for all the replies. Not considering the employment factor, I'm still not sure whether to get my MS or phD in applied math vs ME/AE. It's hard for me to make that decision since I haven't taken an advanced fluids class. I did take an intro fluids class, but it dealt more with hydro statics. But I did audit an aerodynamics class for a few weeks. The last thing we covered in that class, before I had to drop it, was thin airfoil theory. It wasn't as interesting as what we had previously covered. I loved the derivations and math involving vorticity, stream function, velocity potential, and Laplace's equation.

However I haven't had some interest for basic fluids concepts, such as the flow of air around a baseball. So maybe an applied math program is better for me? If so, I'll certainly miss not getting to take heat transfer (one of my favorite classes) and possibly propulsion classes (which I haven't taken but would like to)
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