This article appeared in the Summer 2000 edition of the Purdue Engineering Magazine
PEM Two-Headed Pig
The Guide to Pursuing a Fellow Engineer
By: John Fisher
The theory used to be that language or tool usage is what separates humans from other animals, and as I see it, occasional romantic encounters with other live humans is what separates engineers from CS majors and other technical people. Unfortunately, many engineers choose to satisfy their visceral needs by dating another engineer, and while I could spend pages cautioning you about the inherent dangers and complications of such efforts, I know that these intra-engineering dating impulses will strike you sooner or later, so the time has come to blow the lid off this under-discussed facet of being a Purdue engineering student.
The issue stems from the fact that you believe yourself to be fairly intelligent (I mean your major is engineering, right?) so you typically want to date someone who is somewhat intelligent, and your classes are full of intelligent people, thus it becomes only natural you might want to date a classmate rather than trying to meet normal people. Furthermore, there are many perks when you are dating someone who is stocked up on the essential supplies (read: free engineering paper), and who has the earning potential to allow you to retire together at age 35.
Selecting the engineer to go after can be a problem, but following a few simple rules can aid in your search and ensure success. First, never pursue an engineer whose magor is above yours in the engineering food chain. We all know that there is a hierarchy among the different disciplines, and it will greatly simplify any future breakups if you can retreat to a position of superiority based on your tougher coursework, and say to yourself, for example "He/She couldn't even draw a Bode Plot, much less a Mohr's Circle! Their loss!" which will greatly expediate getting over them. Secondly, avoid engineers, usually males, who wear the same shirt more than once per week. There is no need for your conquest to have an innate sense of Abercrombian style, but a complete lack of basic fashion sense concerning the wearing of clean clothes conveys a sense of inattention to detail that is not becoming of someone who would make a quality significant other. Also, steer clear of anyone who wears more than one item made of denim at a time. Special exceptions can be made for individuals from Iowa or other plains states. The third major rule is that it is often a bad idea to capitalize on your core class crushes, since when things go wrong (and they will) you will still have to see them in lectures for many semesters to come. Do you really want such unpleasantness, sneaking in the back door of the classroom everyday to avoid talking to the ex-? I think not. Rather, you should aim to score in your discipline-overlapping engineering courses and technical electives. IE 370, CIVL 350, MSE 230, and EE 201 are the kinds of places to find low-risk catches. The granddaddy of them all for ME's and EE's is IE 343, since there are scores of attractive IE's and ChemE's in the class, and there is absolutely no need to pay attention during lecture, leaving copious amounts of time to mack. While the previous strategies are not gender-specific, the implications of "the ratio" cannot be ignored. There are simply not enough women in engineering, and until this situation can be corrected, the recommended recourse for lonely males is to join SWE, load up on IE courses, and hang out in the lobby of Earhart.
Another possibility for getting the attention of your special someone is writing a love note. While this option smacks of amateurish, grade school gallantry, you can help put your note in a more professional context by writing it on engineering paper and using the following format:
Known: You got it going on.
Find: A way for me to get to know you.
Assumptions: I am often able to discuss subjects unrelated to engineering, and I enjoy long walks and holding hands.
Solution: Meet me for coffee and a donut in the EE lounge tomorrow morning.
Now, wasn't that easy? Members of the opposite sex are often flattered when you make a fool of yourself for their benefit, and any romantic exchanges on engineering paper or in MATLAB code will be well received, or at the very least, get your foot in the door.
Assuming you have finally convinced another engineer that you are worthy of physical contact, you will have to be careful how you act within the confines of the Engineering Mall. Other engineers, often resigned to a neuter status, do not want to actually see you getting some, nor do they want you to licentiously refer to transferring files on TI-85s as "first base." The communication involved once you are finally in a relationship must also be adapted to your newfound engineering muffin, and this entails frequent e-mails of virtual flowers, mushy forwards, and Barry White .mp3 attachments.
In all honesty, dating someone who is not an engineer is by far the preferable route, but for many, the level of suave it requires is out of reach. Taking the path of least resistance by dating another engineer is still not for the faint of heart, because like any other relationship, you will need to develop new social skills and take on unnecessary risk, both of which are illogical actions for the average engineer. Having a significant other can also put the hurt on your GPA, however this can be hedged by using an engineering relationship to expand your network of people from whom you can copy homework assignments. Dating an engineer can give you access to a wider variety of gadgets and new calculators to play with, but it is important not to become too attached to your companion or their material trappings, since when you break up, it will be back to just you and your Palm Pilot.