Is engineering worth it? Pre-med and MD/PhD bound

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Is engineering worth it? Pre-med and MD/PhD bound

Postby eaglemike » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:46 am

I am a biochemical engineering and biochemistry/molecular biology double major at UGA. I am interested in biochemical engineering, however I plan on going to med school for MD/PhD and pursuing a career in research. I am wondering if it may be more beneficial to only get the science degree instead of a degree in science and one in engineering. I am questioning this because I really like the upper level BCHE classes, but the requirements for the degree include about 30 hours of engineering core (statics, graphics and design, electrical circuits, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, thermodynamics, and quite a few more) that have nothing to do with the medical research career I want to pursue. Is this engineering degree a waste of my time? Is it likely that I will get the same things I need out of just BCMB classes that I would out of BCMB and BCHE? I want to do a good bit of research during undergrad, but I am worried that those needless but still very difficult engineering core courses will be taking up my time instead, as well as possibly dragging down my GPA. I feel like there is so much to think about, I would really just love some advice. Thanks you so much!
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Re: Is engineering worth it?

Postby DrDave » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:45 am

Eaglemike,

Every situation is unique but off the top of my head, I think there are some pro's and con's to each path.

First of all, whichever path you choose, make sure you take all of the required pre-med coursework (biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics - all with labs and at the proper level needed for med school).

MD/PhD programs are more competitive than medical school. I applied to a few MD/PhD programs and was accepted into a few of them, but ultimately I decided it was not going to be the right path for me. In addition to being competitive, the programs can take a long time to complete - at least 3 years in addition to the 4 years of medical school, and often more than 3 years. The programs are also very demanding on many levels - most people I know who did MD/PhD's found the transitions difficult. I know these comments are beyond your question.

An engineering degree is certainly not necessary to go to medical school and have a research career; however, depending on what you ultimately want to do, the knowledge you gain may be useful. Additionally, whatever other coursework you would take instead of engineering could potentially be useful too. I know some people who took advantage of engineering backgrounds in areas like cardiology. I'm sure there are many applications in medical research where an engineering background could be useful. One big advantage of an engineering degree would be if you were to eventually decide not to go to medical school or not to complete your medical degree. An engineering degree would provide a nice back-up plan.

I think you already listed some of the advantages of not doing the engineering degree. You'd have more time to take other coursework that may be of interest to you. Also, the engineering coursework is likely more challenging and may negatively affect your GPA. If you are a good candidate for the MD/PhD route, though, you likely are able to get good grades in those classes anyway.

I can't really comment on whether you would get the same sort of knowledge from higher level BCMB classes. You may want to talk to an advisor in your majors and see what they think.
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