Skip to Main Content
The historical fact that engineering programs emerged as options in physics departments has long influenced the first two years of our curriculum. For years, we have quietly tolerated duplication of subject matter between physics and engineering. It is about time that we should reexamine the traditions that all students take a year of physics before entering engineering. Modern physicists do research in astrophysics, black holes, new particles, high energy machines. None of this research relates directly to material in the first course. On the other hand, engineers do research in mechanics, electricity, circuits, solid-state devices, optics. The subjects of first-year physics couple directly with their research. Haven 't we claimed for years that such coupling always improves instruction? There are those who contend that engineers should learn how physicists think. This probably has its origins in the old days when physicists did fundamental research and engineers applied it. Things are different now. While physicists are worrying about black holes, Ph.D. engineers do our own fundamental research, and then work with other engineers in applications. There is another aspect of scheduling physics courses early in the program of engineering students. Such a course always serves as a filter, eliminating a significant fraction of those who enter engineering. Can we trust physicists to eliminate the right ones? After all, there is a difference in the functioning of the scientist and the engineer.