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Engineering is, more or less, the application of math and science to the manufacturing, design, and optimization of machines, structures, and materials. This STEM field is very broad and engineers work on everything from bridges to renewable energy. Engineers are not scientists, just as a practicing physician isn't a physiologist. Some, however, conduct research in fields like materials science and mechatronics.
Noteworthy People Who Are/Were Engineers
There are five major disciplines in this field.
- Mechanical engineering concerns itself with the design, research, and manufacturing of mechanical systems. This includes automobiles, airplanes, and renewable energy.
- Civil engineering deals with the design and creation of infrastructure like bridges, roads, and buildings. Environmental engineering is a major sub-discipline of CE.
- Industrial and Systems engineering seeks to optimize the efficiency of organizations and systems while minimizing the money, capital, and time they use.
- Chemical engineering applies the principles of chemistry to refine chemical processes like fermentation and the extraction of oil. It also, like ME, includes the study of materials and energy.
- Electrical engineering focuses on the design and manufacturing of electrical and electronic systems like circuits and electronics. Computer engineering originally stemmed out of, and is closely related to, EE.
In college, the last two are known to ravage GPA's, although some people can still do well in them. Many more specialized disciplines exist, such as biomedical engineering and petroleum engineering.
Regarding the first two in the above list, a common joke goes, "Mechanical engineers design weapons, and civil engineers design targets."
Most engineers are reasonable people and some conduct scientific research. This includes scientists working in engineering (look at computational fluid dynamics or combustion research and you'll see scientists and mathematicians with engineering titles) and engineering professors who conduct research at their colleges (engineers participate in materials science, mechatronics, and biofuels research). Unfortunately, however, engineering as a whole seems to attract an alarming number of creationists. The field is also, overall, more conservative than the natural sciences as a whole. Unlike most fields of the traditional sciences, engineers overwhelmingly enter industry, which is associated with conservative politics.