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robbins_2015 January 5, 2011 17:42

PHD on Mechanical Eng or Chemical Eng?
Dear My CFD Freinds:

My B.S.c course was chemical Eng and my M.S.c is mechanical Eng.
I really love both fields and in these two field I am an outstanding student of my college. But I don't know which field should I continue. Please guide me to deal with this problem


Jade M January 11, 2011 12:56

I would consider the following
- Courses offered in both departments
- Research projects available with professors in both departments
- Job advertisements for the type of work that interests you

One could take courses in either department which would count towards either doctoral degree.

When I was an undergraduate student, a professor who I greatly respect gave a seminar about graduate school. He said that the most important decision one will make is the choice of advisor. For me, as a former professor and former graduate student, I am well aware of things that go on and I completely concur. It sounds like you are interested in scholarship and so I think this may be true for you as well. Depending on the motivation, this decision may not be important, for example, if someone just wants the credential, then they need not be as concerned about the most optimal doctoral experience.
- Unless the department can provide support as a TA in the long run (or some other means of financial support is available), then the offer of a research assistantship (RA) from a decent professor with an interesting project may be the deciding factor. Research-active professors are generally very very busy people who may not have the time to give thoughtful attention to a research project for which they are not financially responsible.
- The advisors' responsibility is to mentor their graduate students, i.e. to train them for the workforce, develop their careers. Unfortunately, often other things interfere such as career survival (for an untenured professor), a contract whose work is involves routine engineering (not really scholarship), or even ego, just to give a few examples. Ideally, one wants an advisor who is interested in the student's best interests, i.e. who involves the students in the intellectual thought process or scholarship and gives them visibility (sends students to conferences, publishes papers with the students, graduates students in a reasonable amount of time).
- An ideal situation may not be possible. In that case, be sure to avoid a faculty member who abuses students, i.e. very long time in graduate school, improper/no credit given to student, etc.
- Some faculty members have joint appointments in other departments (or can easily get it) so one can get a degree in mechanical engineering but conduct doctoral research in chemical engineering or vice versa.
- Research assistants can be a great source of information in recommending a prospective advisor.

In terms of jobs, either degree might be fine, especially after a number of years of experience. Lots of job advertisements will list at least a few degrees that are considered acceptable.

It seems that, in general, a chemical engineer can be hired for a mechanical engineering position but not vice versa. With one degree in chemical engineering and of the chemistry that a mechanical engineer would not, this may not be an issue. Investigating this issue in some detail, especially if CFD applications that are more specific to chemical engineers are of interest.

Good luck!

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