engineering,  physics

those brave artscis at skule

Hi aska,

I have a few questions that I hope you can answer. I’m starting at U of T next year and an aspiring physics student, so you may be the perfect one to answer my questions.

First: I’d really like to take a practical electronics class but there seems to be nothing like that offered by the physics faculty and, as I understand it, engineering classes are off-limits to everyone else. Is there any way around this or any chance to take that kind of class? Electricity is so much a part of physics that it surprises me there are no practical classes in it.

Second: I’d like your general advice on balancing the courseload. As I understand it, to get into the physics major program you need Foundations of Physics I and II as well as a calculus class, leaving 2 spaces open for other things. I’d like to take Mandarin, for example, but am finding it difficult to decide what classes would make my workload too high.

I’m sure I had more questions but, lucky for you, I’ve forgotten them. Thanks in advance!


And lucky for you, I haven?t forgotten to reply your email. But first of all, let me just say a quick ?WELCOME TO UofT!? It?s always nice to see new prospective physics students. By the way, have I told you lately that I love you?! *aska unabashedly expresses his blatant favoritism*

You?re right ? there aren?t many practical electronics classes in the physics department. I?m looking at the list of existing physics courses right now, and the only one I see is:

Electronics Lab (formerly PHY305H1) [24L, 36P]

The laboratory functions as an integrated lecture course/laboratory program. Passive linear circuits: theorems, networks, and equivalents; meters, transient and steady responses, power, transformers, transmission lines. Digital devices: gates logic, Boolean algebra, minimization, flip-flops, counters, delays. Op-amps: dependent sources, amplifiers, integrators, feedback, slew rate, filters. Diodes: peak detector, rectification, regulators. Noise: sources, grounding, shielding, ground loops. Transistors: characteristics, analysis, amplifier design.

That sounds like the kind of thing you?re looking for. However, if you are really really interested in electronics, you may want to take some courses from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (which is part of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering), such as?”Introductory Electronics” or “Digital Systems”. Engineers are generally exclusive jerks ? they take our courses all the time, yet us Arts and Science students rarely get to take their courses. Still, if you take a look at your calendar, you?ll see that it?s actually possible to take courses outside the Arts&Sci:

If, however, they identify a course(s) offered in another division, faculty or school of the University that may be appropriate for inclusion in their degree program, they may petition for permission to register in the course for degree credit. In the petition, students must establish that the content and aims of the course(s) are valid for a specific Arts & Science program and cannot not be met by courses offered within the Faculty of Arts & Science. The students should initiate the procedure well in advance of the beginning of classes, so that they may choose alternate courses should the request is denied.

So you could potentially take some electronics courses from the Faculty of Engineering. But I have to warn you. You?ll have to do a lot of extra work. You?ll have to research the specific courses you want to take from engineering (a copy of the engineering course list might help here; you can find it online), and there will be a LOT of paperwork involved. But it?s been done before, so there is no reason to let an opportunity like this go. Your college registrar may be able to assist you with the petitioning process when the time comes, so you should definitely get in touch with them. The registrar at engineering might also be able to direct you towards courses that you may be interested in.

Also, the engineers hate on us a lot. They like to think that because they have more hours of class than us and they have to build robots that don’t work, their lives are harder. *rolls eyes* You may want to prepare for a lot of unjustified bashing of ArtSci. Just a heads up ;).

Foundations of Physics I and II actually constitute only one credit together. Calculus is a full-year course, so it also constitutes one credit. So you actually have 3 credits remaining for other subjects (generally, students take 5 credits per year). I think taking Mandarin is a great idea! It?ll be a nice change from the science and math courses you?re taking.

I think how to balance your course load is something that you will figure out as you continue on in University. One thing I?ve learned is that everyone has different limits, and part of University is about discovering those limits. Some people can take 6 courses and feel unfazed ? some prefer to stick to 4 courses a semester. My advice to you would just be to enroll in 5 classes for your first year. Choose courses ? like Mandarin ? that excite you and interest you now, because you might not have as much flexibility in your courses in upper years! Also, keep in mind that if you’re doing the physics major program (as opposed to the specialist), you’ll need another major or two minors, so plan your courses accordingly. You can always drop a course if you feel that you need more time to devote to your physics courses. Finally, taking Mandarin would count towards your breadth requirements, so it?s a win-win situation!


  • Some Engineer

    Hey, we don’t REALLY hate artsies that much. They’re the endless supply of females that are so hard to find in our own realm.

    No really, I don’t think you’ll find too much bashing by engineers. We’re a nerdy bunch… not an evil bunch.

  • aska

    Some Engineer,

    I actually transferred from engineering, and I was drawing on my own experience in the faculty. Maybe it was just my program, but the general attitude towards artscis was not that friendly. Furthermore, I encountered a lot of scorn when I was transferring to ArtSci, which made it that much harder for me. In fact, I still hear some of “artscis have it easy” comments when I walk through the engineering buildings.

    I definitely do not hate engineers and don’t think they’re evil. In fact, one of my best friends is in electrical engineering, and I have much respect for him. I was simply poking fun at the “artscis have it easy” attitude (which a lot of people, engineers and non-engineers alike, stand by). As well, I don’t actually believe that “engineers are generally exclusive jerks” – as I’ve stated in past posts, I’m not a fan of stereotypes myself. Instead, I was aiming to draw attention to the imbalance that is created by the separation of the faculties. Engineers take artsci courses all the time, get artscis are more or less excluded from engineering courses. Of course, that’s not the engineering students’ fault – it has to do with administration.

    I admit I may have gone a little overboard with the artsci vs engineering theme on this one, though. 😉

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