As many people know I plan to go to college for civil engineering. Whenever I tell people this, they always ask me what exactly civil engineering is. So, to kill two birds with one stone, I'm going to explain via blog post!
So basically, to put it in simplest terms, civil engineering is the physics of structures.... sort of. Civil engineering, like engineering in general, has many many many different sections within it. For example, there's structural, geotechnical, materials, construction, transportation, water resources, sewerage, and so much more. Even environmental engineering is considered a subset of civil engineering, although personally I think they should just give environmental its own group, but that will probably happen in the near future with the increase in demand for alternative energy. I am interested in structural engineering, which includes anything from homes to bridges.
As a structural engineer, I would be in charge of a variety of things. The dictionary definition is an engineer who "analyzes, designs, plans, and researches the structural components and systems." So during a project, I would need to work with other engineering professions and architects constantly to create a design and during the construction of the project.
Civil engineers use trigonometry a lot because almost all structures involve trusses, but as for physics there are several "units" that can be used. For example:
Dynamics: Newton's laws, free body diagrams. The purpose of free body diagrams is actually to find the force on each beam of a truss (not to make our lives miserable)
Linear Momentum: Center of mass, this is used a lot for I beams and of beam types.
Finally Rotational Momentum: Torque. Torque has everything to do with trusses because you what static equilibrium in all structures. How safe would you feel if the building shook every time there was a gust of wind? I would be very scared.
One of the final things a civil engineer could be responsible for is overseeing the construction, especially paying attention to the details when the project is being finalized. When I went on a shadowing day, I visited a site with a civil engineer, who kept talking to his partner about certain details that the construction workers screwed up, which irritated him a lot. Not only did I find that humorous, that moment I knew that civil engineering would be perfect for me.