Words On Diplomas

Gregory Edelston '15

Some lucky people know what they would like to major in when they first enter college. Many people will have it figured it out after a year or so. Almost everyone is able to answer by the time they've declared in sophomore year. Then there are people like me.

I'm in my third year of college. I submitted my paperwork declaring myself to be E:Robotics a full year ago -- or, as it appeared on my resumé, I was a "Candidate for a Bachelor of Engineering with a Concentration in Robotics." I had a rigorous plan of study laid out, with breadth, depth, and coherence. I was a mature, responsible adult who knew what he was doing in life.

As it turns out, the question of "what do I want to do with my life" isn't so easily answered. It's awesome that so many of my friends are sure of what they want to do, and I'm really happy for them, but I am instead in the middle of a conversation with my gut over which words I want written on my diploma.

Fortunately for Present-Day Greg, Past Greg did me a huge solid, and said that he would fulfill all of the E:C (that's Engineering with Computing, which is a lot like computer science at a "normal school") requirements in addition to the E:Robo requirements; that way, just in case Any-Point-In-Time Greg got cold feet, it would be okay to switch. With a little careful planning, I bought myself two years to decide between E:Robo and E:C.

A few months ago, after a little soul-searching, I realized that I was much more passionate about computing in general than about robotics in general. There are many computing problems unrelated to robotics which excite me, and there are many aspects of robotics that I don't really care about. So, E:C rather than E:Robo. Problem solved. Right?

Well, now I have a second problem. Now I'm also considering Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) as my major. I plan on fulfilling all of the requirements for both ECE and E:C, so essentially, it's a question of how I want to brand myself: What do I want on my resumé? What do I want to tell employers, and more importantly, family members who wonder what I'm up to? How do I want to describe myself to people?

The differences are subtle. An ECE is considered to be comfortable with both hardware and software. Electrons and pixels, or wires and code, or however else you want to think of it. E:C, on the other hand, goes much deeper into the software, without really dealing with the physical system behind it. Beyond that, the other major difference is that people tend to know what you mean when you say you're an electrical and computer engineer, while if you describe yourself as "engineering with computing," you need to get into this whole discussion about how it's like computer science, but with the rest of engineering as well, and it's an uncomfortable situation.

Frankly, I don't know how I want to answer this question yet. It's tricky, it impacts the rest of my life, and there are many factors to my decision. I'm having the conversation with my gut, as well as with people who know more than me (read as: professors, students, alumni, parents). Fortunately, I've planned out my path such that I don't need to decide for another year and a half -- but it's a question I'm actively wrestling with.

Posted in: Class of 2015