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The limited impact of many engineering education reforms may be due in part to treating engineering as a single monolithic discipline. We are using student motivation to characterize differences in engineering majors in order to inform educational practices and differences in student learning. Here we report on differences in student attitudes towards their engineering majors, elucidated through the use of survey data collected from first year students and longitudinal data on their majors 2 years later. We provide a detailed picture of the complexity of the engineering population, which will help direct more in-depth qualitative research to examine possible correlations between student motivation and learning in different engineering majors.