Carlos

I hate college

75 posts in this topic

The US universities on the other hand, look like to me they are trying to create "mini-countries" with arcane rules and their own social engineered environments. They try to clone the outside world, in stupid projects like the leisure pools that Carlos E. Jordan was mentioning and try to make themselves as self contained and insular as possible.

It worries me a lot that 18 year olds in America, rather than discovering the real America and gain experience in the real America upon reaching adulthood, get boxed away in these arcane social experiment worlds where silly rules apply such as some of the shockers that FIRE have enlightened me to and those form the first adult experiences of their lives.

Universities don't treat students like adults, and for the most part the students don't act like them. Which one follows the other I couldn't say.

However there is variation in the school environments. Although I believe all schools offer housing and meal plans, they vary in how integrated they are with the community. I went for one year to University of Maryland at College Park and the rest at State University of New York at Binghamton, and in both cases we had a campus isolated from the rest of the area. I know of a couple schools off-hand, though, like University of South Carolina at Columbia and New York University (NYC) that are just a part of the city.

In either case, there is always private housing available off-campus and the ability to live there rather than pay the school for a dorm room. You also don't have to buy into a meal plan if you have other arrangements. I rented an apartment at Binghamton for my time there with no problem. So the social control isn't complete.

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The US universities on the other hand, look like to me they are trying to create "mini-countries" with arcane rules and their own social engineered environments. They try to clone the outside world, in stupid projects like the leisure pools that Carlos E. Jordan was mentioning and try to make themselves as self contained and insular as possible.

It worries me a lot that 18 year olds in America, rather than discovering the real America and gain experience in the real America upon reaching adulthood, get boxed away in these arcane social experiment worlds where silly rules apply such as some of the shockers that FIRE have enlightened me to and those form the first adult experiences of their lives.

Universities don't treat students like adults, and for the most part the students don't act like them. Which one follows the other I couldn't say.

From my personal experience, my study habits would be strong with professors who were inspiring and firm in their standards, and conversely my habits deteriorated significantly when taking classes taught by professors who were more apathetic and constantly giving in to the requests of students for special favors.

From what I've seen basically the moment the professor starts giving in to the demands of students (being far too merciful with the grading scale, repeatedly postponing the due dates for assignments, etc.) the class is fundamentally broken for the rest of the semester: I think it causes them to--at critical moments when they could go either way--choose to whine and beg for help instead of just pushing themselves harder with the studying, so they lose any kind of self-reliance or motivation. Also, once it has become established that the schedule of the course is not set in stone the amount of procrastination on the students' part increases dramatically.

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I spent the first four of my total of eight undergraduate years in the Physics program at Purdue University. Your comments strike a very familiar cord with me, especially when you say,

I can't help but to think that anywhere from 80-90% of my undergrad career was wasted on fluff courses. As an example, I completed 18 hours of Math courses to get a minor (was required 15 for physics program), but I had to take a grand total of 16 hours of Portuguese! So when I had my mind set on an E&M assignment that would require 30hours to complete, I would be distracted by the task of cutting out pictures from a magazine to make a silly poster for a Portuguese course (by the way, I can only say one or two sentences in Portuguese, we learned nothing).

The most shocking waste of time is in the other majors I see. Some high school friends of mine got degrees in business or marketing, and one of them admitted to me around his Junior year that "I never do any homework". Based on the number of hours they spent per week on meaningful coursework, I can't help but think that a very large percentage of students at universities could have their degrees condensed down into a year or two of trade school courses.

Fed-up with everything and changing interests made me go after a business degree the second four years. I have to say I'm surprised that business schools don't pump out a stream of 4.0s! It was amazingly easy (especially the math involved, though that could be my physics background) for me and I routinely did not study and simply completed homework, arrived on time for examinations, and listened to every lecture. Yet all around me there were those who seemingly did not even understand their basic accounting classes! Actually, my experience in college has led me to believe that my level of intelligence is rare and that understanding such as my own does not come easily to most of the population. I'm worried that I might be conceited, but it seems true to me...

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The fault isn't the course materials, it is paid professionals who are literally incapable of teaching or interacting meaningfully with the students.

Professor: And therefore we get blah-blah-arcane math-blah blah

Student (confused): I don't understand what that means, could you explain?

Professor: Well it's quite simple really, just hyperbolic sines and blah-blah arcane math...

Student (more confused): But what does it mean?

Professor (slightly flustered and quicker): Well it's just *repeats arcane math*

Student (still confused, but pretends to understand): Oh... ok.. thanks.

For most of my physics classes, I think the students simply show up and pretend to be interested and understand the lecture, but they get virtually nothing from it and show up mostly because it looks bad if they don't.

I know this situation well.

The problem here is that the math required for the course has to be taught first and I doubt it's being taught well. In my experience, if you have received an excellent education in math, when it comes to science or engineering, the rest is easy by comparison. If ewv is referring to Zachery Robinson, then Zachery learned math thoroughly to a very high level before ever entering university. His father home schooled him. He also had the advantage of a father who is a brilliant chemist, so he was around the lab a lot.

It is true that students not capable of the material are allowed to enter university, but I think the bigger problem is the teaching prior to university. When you have that solid foundation it takes a ton of pressure off you, so that you can focus on just the material for the one course and not have to learn all of the foundational material that is a pre-requisite plus the course material all at once.

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The fault isn't the course materials, it is paid professionals who are literally incapable of teaching or interacting meaningfully with the students.

Professor: And therefore we get blah-blah-arcane math-blah blah

Student (confused): I don't understand what that means, could you explain?

Professor: Well it's quite simple really, just hyperbolic sines and blah-blah arcane math...

Student (more confused): But what does it mean?

Professor (slightly flustered and quicker): Well it's just *repeats arcane math*

Student (still confused, but pretends to understand): Oh... ok.. thanks.

For most of my physics classes, I think the students simply show up and pretend to be interested and understand the lecture, but they get virtually nothing from it and show up mostly because it looks bad if they don't.

I know this situation well.

The problem here is that the math required for the course has to be taught first and I doubt it's being taught well. In my experience, if you have received an excellent education in math, when it comes to science or engineering, the rest is easy by comparison. If ewv is referring to Zachery Robinson, then Zachery learned math thoroughly to a very high level before ever entering university. His father home schooled him. He also had the advantage of a father who is a brilliant chemist, so he was around the lab a lot.

It is true that students not capable of the material are allowed to enter university, but I think the bigger problem is the teaching prior to university. When you have that solid foundation it takes a ton of pressure off you, so that you can focus on just the material for the one course and not have to learn all of the foundational material that is a pre-requisite plus the course material all at once.

Agreed! My sophomore year in Physics I WAS the student in the above situation. At the time I thought that I might have something wrong with me but in retrospect is was because I didn't have the math! I was essentially asking a math question to my professor and he didn't realize it and wrote me off as stupid. Actually, my problems in physics, and why I eventually chose business, can all be traced back to that day in his office.

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Agreed! My sophomore year in Physics I WAS the student in the above situation. At the time I thought that I might have something wrong with me but in retrospect is was because I didn't have the math! I was essentially asking a math question to my professor and he didn't realize it and wrote me off as stupid. Actually, my problems in physics, and why I eventually chose business, can all be traced back to that day in his office.

A lot of dreams are being crushed because of bad educators. But, hey, you can always correct things and give it another try.

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Actually, my experience in college has led me to believe that my level of intelligence is rare and that understanding such as my own does not come easily to most of the population. I'm worried that I might be conceited, but it seems true to me...

From my experience intelligence has little to do with your performance in college, and the determining factor is work ethic. I would bet the reason that understanding doesn't come easily to others around you is because they are lazy or apathetic.

I tutored all sorts of students in different subjects at the Texas Tech Learning Center last year, and I can hardly recall ever encountering a student who sincerely tried and still had trouble understanding the material; I think it would amaze us what most people are capable of learning if they actually applied themselves.

My major exception to this is students who had failures for professors:

I tutored helpless students in a Physics II class who had a professor that was literally becoming psychotic, they certainly tried but it was a doomed effort given their instructor :).

Another example was a particular student who was trying hard but still failing his algebra course. When I learned who is professor was I strenuously warned him about how worthless the guy was, so the student transfered to a different class and got an A! (This was my old Linear Algebra professor who graded a test of mine, gave it back to me, then gave me a D for the course months later because he said I never turned in the test! I was very grateful to have my GPA padded by him like this...)

When discussing this professor with a fellow physics student and tutor, she expressed a similar degree of disgust for this guy. She had apparently contacted some high-up people in the math department to complain about how terrible this professor was. Their answer: "We know--we just try to put him where he does the least damage."

It is an incredible injustice that literally thousands of students across America are putting themselves in debt for years to come so that paid professionals can absolutely butcher their education. I cannot describe how angry it makes me to know that compared to most of my Physics professors I could do a marvelous job as an instructor, but no department would ever hire me because I'm not some hot-shot fancy-pants researcher with no people skills. Meanwhile generations of uninspired, uneducated physics majors get churned out of departments like welfare babies from a white-trash whore.

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One of a very few common denominators that I've observed over the years about the characteristics of Ayn Rand fans/Objectivists is: significantly higher intelligence.

I strongly disagree, but this is getting off topic. Maybe a new thread on common denominators of Objectivists would be a good idea.

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Though I have had some complaints about Engineering professors in the past, their flaws are insignificant compared to Humanities professors. To get an engineering degree at Rutgers you have to take 18 credits hours worth of humanities/social science electives. I am currently taking what is supposed to be a 300 level class on the history of the Roman Empire; in truth it is nothing more than an introductory class, having less detail than a number of quality Introductory Roman History books that could be read in depth in a month's time. I do not understand how you can have a class on the history of the Roman Empire and not have to read Suetonius, Tacitus, Justinian, or Edward Gibbon!

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One of a very few common denominators that I've observed over the years about the characteristics of Ayn Rand fans/Objectivists is: significantly higher intelligence.

I strongly disagree, but this is getting off topic. Maybe a new thread on common denominators of Objectivists would be a good idea.

I have split off relevant posts to a new thread titled "Objectivism, Intelligence, and Cultural Change" here.

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After several months of being away from this thread and thinking I've come to some new conclusions.

I began my freshman year with a large number of fellow physics majors (over 20). We were all bright, good, eager students and members of the university honors program.

By the time I graduated nearly every one of these students to the man had either failed out, switched majors out of apathy or frustration, or if they did ride it through, graduated with an Engineering Physics Degree (a sort of hybrid dual degree) and promptly got the hell away from physics and took a job in engineering, where they learned from their employers that the physics background was useless and they should have just gotten a straight engineering degree.

Of the few who actually completed a pure physics degree most went into graduate health sciences, engineering or chemistry programs. I and only one or two others went into physics grad programs.

The overall mood was that the undergraduate experience in Physics had been difficult, frustrating, and mostly fruitless, and by the end of it basically were surviving simply to graduate and move onto something else in life.

What I think has gone wrong here is that the Physics department became too abstract, too pretentious, too removed from the research happening in the "real-world", basically too academic in the bad sense of the word, and it alienated themselves and turned away some very bright young minds. "Engineering" was regularly used as a slur, denoting people or research of inferior intellect, and this view was sometimes openly expressed by professors themselves. The way we were educated was basically to prepare us for a career in the academic world, with a focus on theory over real world application.

Flash forward to the present day: now the number of physics undergrads has plummeted to the point that the university is considering closing down the Physics program, and it's really no surprise. The average student doesn't want to be an academic, he wants to work in the real world doing real applied research. The way I see it is that Physics Departments are failing to fulfill this need, and after completing my Master's I'm considering hanging up my Physics hat and switching over to "the dark side", engineering (EE to be more precise).

If my experience at the two departments I've been at is representative, I honestly have no clue why someone would get a Physics degree anymore if their goal isn't to work in the academic world or in some national lab doing abstract science research. Whatever gratifying spiritual fulfillment came from taking courses like "Modern Physics" and "Cosmophysics" really starts to dim when you realize that after years of hard work your educators failed to meet your practical needs.

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Carlos, do a search on dice.com and monster.com for jobs requiring physics degrees. I see quite a few. Companies like Raytheon and Boeing, for example, are looking for people with degrees in physics.

Also, have you looked for any co-op/internship programs to enroll in? That will give you real world experience, with the potential of a job at a company. Many companies do this, e.g. Boeing. You may want to check out the websites of various companies.

Physics departments are likely too abstract and too removed from the real world, but the real world needs physicists.

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http://web.mit.edu/hml/ncfmf.html

Check out these videos on Fluid Mechanics from back in the early 1960s by Ascher Shapiro. It is the best approach to the teaching of physical principles that I have yet seen.

Now compare that to how they are commonly taught in colleges.

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After several months of being away from this thread and thinking I've come to some new conclusions.

I began my freshman year with a large number of fellow physics majors (over 20). We were all bright, good, eager students and members of the university honors program.

By the time I graduated nearly every one of these students to the man had either failed out, switched majors out of apathy or frustration, or if they did ride it through, graduated with an Engineering Physics Degree (a sort of hybrid dual degree) and promptly got the hell away from physics and took a job in engineering, where they learned from their employers that the physics background was useless and they should have just gotten a straight engineering degree.

Of the few who actually completed a pure physics degree most went into graduate health sciences, engineering or chemistry programs. I and only one or two others went into physics grad programs.

The overall mood was that the undergraduate experience in Physics had been difficult, frustrating, and mostly fruitless, and by the end of it basically were surviving simply to graduate and move onto something else in life.

What I think has gone wrong here is that the Physics department became too abstract, too pretentious, too removed from the research happening in the "real-world", basically too academic in the bad sense of the word, and it alienated themselves and turned away some very bright young minds. "Engineering" was regularly used as a slur, denoting people or research of inferior intellect, and this view was sometimes openly expressed by professors themselves. The way we were educated was basically to prepare us for a career in the academic world, with a focus on theory over real world application.

Flash forward to the present day: now the number of physics undergrads has plummeted to the point that the university is considering closing down the Physics program, and it's really no surprise. The average student doesn't want to be an academic, he wants to work in the real world doing real applied research. The way I see it is that Physics Departments are failing to fulfill this need, and after completing my Master's I'm considering hanging up my Physics hat and switching over to "the dark side", engineering (EE to be more precise).

If my experience at the two departments I've been at is representative, I honestly have no clue why someone would get a Physics degree anymore if their goal isn't to work in the academic world or in some national lab doing abstract science research. Whatever gratifying spiritual fulfillment came from taking courses like "Modern Physics" and "Cosmophysics" really starts to dim when you realize that after years of hard work your educators failed to meet your practical needs.

I really think the key is to have a very clear idea of what it is you want to do, when you graduate. Then really research course content. This is not always easy at 18. In the UK, quite a few kids wait a year or two before going to college. This makes sense to me.

It is true a great many courses royally suck, but you have to take a degree of personal responsibility here, (though I am certainly not trying to suggest you are at fault for the content).

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What I think has gone wrong here is that the Physics department became too abstract, too pretentious, too removed from the research happening in the "real-world", basically too academic in the bad sense of the word, and it alienated themselves and turned away some very bright young minds. "Engineering" was regularly used as a slur, denoting people or research of inferior intellect, and this view was sometimes openly expressed by professors themselves. The way we were educated was basically to prepare us for a career in the academic world, with a focus on theory over real world application.

Just an idea: you could write all of this to the head of the physics department. Maybe you could make an impact.

As for your choice of career - I don't see why you would give up on teaching physics, or research.

And one last thing, here is a great blog post identifying the correct understanding and approach to crappy education: Self-Esteem and College Assignments

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What I think has gone wrong here is that the Physics department became too abstract, too pretentious, too removed from the research happening in the "real-world", basically too academic in the bad sense of the word, and it alienated themselves and turned away some very bright young minds. "Engineering" was regularly used as a slur, denoting people or research of inferior intellect, and this view was sometimes openly expressed by professors themselves. The way we were educated was basically to prepare us for a career in the academic world, with a focus on theory over real world application.

Robert Stadler vs John Galt.

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I really think the key is to have a very clear idea of what it is you want to do, when you graduate. Then really research course content. This is not always easy at 18. In the UK, quite a few kids wait a year or two before going to college. This makes sense to me.
I've always known what I wanted and it's never changed. The world turned out to be a different place than I expected at 18, and I've adjusted accordingly.
It is true a great many courses royally suck, but you have to take a degree of personal responsibility here, (though I am certainly not trying to suggest you are at fault for the content).

I have to take a degree of personal responsibility for the fact that the majority of the courses I was required to take in college had almost no meaningful value?

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Carlos, do a search on dice.com and monster.com for jobs requiring physics degrees. I see quite a few. Companies like Raytheon and Boeing, for example, are looking for people with degrees in physics.

Also, have you looked for any co-op/internship programs to enroll in? That will give you real world experience, with the potential of a job at a company. Many companies do this, e.g. Boeing. You may want to check out the websites of various companies.

Physics departments are likely too abstract and too removed from the real world, but the real world needs physicists.

Yes, Physicists can get jobs, but in general you have far more job opportunities as an Engineer with an equivalent degree. I've read lots of different personal stories of Ma or PhD Physicists trying to get jobs in business or industry and it amounted to them desperately trying to explain in job interviews over and over why they could be just as valuable as an engineer.

I can't tell you how many different exciting job opportunities I've looked up that involved some kind of military or industry R&D, but inevitably they are looking for someone with a graduate degree in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering.

The way I best heard it described was that as Physicists we are capable of doing anything but trained to do nothing.

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Just an idea: you could write all of this to the head of the physics department. Maybe you could make an impact.

I sincerely considered it but then dropped the idea. From personal experience I don't think college departments take student complaints of education that seriously, and I say that as a tutor and as someone who's been in college for a while.

As for your choice of career - I don't see why you would give up on teaching physics, or research.
I haven't at all. If anything I'll have prospects for much more exciting research outside of Physics. Electrical Engineering departments often have huge grants from the military, so you can only imagine how exciting that research has to be :lol: Trying to study the breakdown of dielectrics when exposed to GigaWatt microwaves sounds pretty cool to me!

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Carlos is right, engineering research opportunities are far more numerous than those in physics. The distinction between "physics research" and "engineering research" seems to me to be almost entirely artificial, so I would certainly expand any job/research searches to engineering.

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From personal experience I don't think college departments take student complaints of education that seriously, and I say that as a tutor and as someone who's been in college for a while.

In review my comment here sounded more pretentious than substantive so I want to explain exactly what I meant.

From my experience of 6 years of higher education and primarily my senior year spent tutoring I've come to the conclusion that the college educational system is fundamentally broken.

My job was to tutor Math, Physics and Engineering students 15-18 hours a week for the PASS Learning Center at a rate of seven dollars an hour. My job was to--on a yearly income of a few thousand dollars--clean up the educational wreckage left by tenured professors who get paid tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year who were incompetent as teachers.

In all honesty I think I spent more personal, intimate teaching time with those students over two semesters than some professors may spend in a career. Because really, what does the average professor do in the way of education? Many show up and read from a power-point presentation or go through slides, meaning that there is no actual lecture but instead a kind of spiritless book recital. Many professors have their students do their homework over the internet on electronic programs that automatically grade the assignments for them. If actual physical homework was handed into a professor, many would hire undergraduates to grade the homework for them. Many courses have pointless labs that you must take with the course, and the labs are ran and graded by grad students--not the professor.

So you have highly paid, tenured professors who don't dirty their hands with education, and then a sort of slightly higher paid tutor would work for each professor, getting his notes and spending several hours a week re-teaching the class to groups of students. When the students still had trouble even after the re-teaching, they came to us in the PASS Learning Center, where we would re-teach the re-teaching and the students would actually learn. Many of the tutors in the PASS Center were actually good, enthusiastic teachers but will never teach a university course in their life. That is a broken system.

So if these professors don't really teach what do they actually do? Well they research... well, sort of. Several of the incompetent teachers who joined our Physics department were involved in research that was going on at the Large Hadron Collider. So their publicly funded job as a professor was to be involved in a massive tax-payer funded program to look for a tiny particle which may or may not exist with a multi-billion dollar detector that breaks down. If the particle is or isn't found doesn't really matter, as it will have no impact on the lives of the taxpayers who graciously funded it, and even if the program fails it will be presented in PR reports as a sort of holy-grail search for truth that is of unquestionable spiritual value to the world.

Some of the professors did good research in Solid-State Physics or Condensed-Matter Physics, but probably the most significant research in this area happens where the money actually is--the Electrical Engineering department. Whenever I hear about the great breakthroughs in solar cells or other technology it is usually by an EE department, not a Physics department.

A few other professors did quality research in Bio-Physics, but once again probably much more Bio research is happening in other departments.

So really, permit me to be heartless here, but in hindsight my old Physics department really was a giant money-pit, and I wouldn't be surprised if many other departments are the same way, because really, what is the University paying for? Paying millions of dollars for professors to exist in a dream-job where they can't get fired and have no accountability either in research or teaching?

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Carlos is right, engineering research opportunities are far more numerous than those in physics. The distinction between "physics research" and "engineering research" seems to me to be almost entirely artificial, so I would certainly expand any job/research searches to engineering.

My old Physics and newly converted Engineering buddy often described the division as "Physics guys research the phenomenon and Engineering guys research applications of the phenomenon" but even this isn't a fully accurate picture, and the boundary between what's Physics research and what's Engineering research is a lot more fuzzy and artificial than many people would think.

Many of the researchers at the Texas Tech EE department apparently have PhD's in Physics, and a really solid professor that was recently hired in the physics department who does amazing research has a PhD in EE! The old physics chairmen of our department now works and does research in the EE department!

I think the dramatic difference though is that the engineering research will be heavily funded by people who earnestly are seeking some kind of practical result, whether it be military or commercial. So the research is driven from both ends by the profit motive, and everyone wins.

With the physics department the money is primarily given as grants from government programs, and as such no profit motive is applied to the research. You don't get the research money by mutual trade. you get it by taking an official from the Department of Energy out to dinner, kissing his butt, and cajoling him in a silver-tongue why your specific research project is of greater spiritual value and deserves the taxpayer funding. So then my theory on the issue is that in contradistinction to the the profit driven results focused research, the exact opposite happens with the abstract physics research. It becomes a matter not of results but of squashing competitors who threaten your funding, forming huge international groups that can collect massive amounts of taxpayer dollars and learning how to spin politics and public image to your favor...

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Many of the researchers at the Texas Tech EE department apparently have PhD's in Physics, and a really solid professor that was recently hired in the physics department who does amazing research has a PhD in EE! The old physics chairmen of our department now works and does research in the EE department!

It sounds like you really like EE. You must love the Fourier series :lol:

Engineering departments have their own problems, though. The professors are generally not native English speakers, coming mostly from China, Taiwan, India, and Eastern Europe. So not only do you have to learn a complex topic, you have to learn to understand what it is they are saying.

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Engineering departments have their own problems, though. The professors are generally not native English speakers, coming mostly from China, Taiwan, India, and Eastern Europe. So not only do you have to learn a complex topic, you have to learn to understand what it is they are saying.

Uh, Physics departments are dialect festivals! All of my physics courses are taught by foreigners, and in grad school only a tiny minority of students are American (which has kind of a disturbing implication... does America not produce any scientists anymore?)

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Engineering departments have their own problems, though. The professors are generally not native English speakers, coming mostly from China, Taiwan, India, and Eastern Europe. So not only do you have to learn a complex topic, you have to learn to understand what it is they are saying.

Uh, Physics departments are dialect festivals! All of my physics courses are taught by foreigners, and in grad school only a tiny minority of students are American (which has kind of a disturbing implication... does America not produce any scientists anymore?)

Science is "boring" and for "nerds". Haven't you heard?

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