Scientists study the world as it is; engineers create the world that has never been.
— Theodore von Kármán
There exists an overlap between the sciences and engineering practice; in engineering, one applies science. Both areas of endeavor rely on accurate observation of materials and phenomena. Both use mathematics and classification criteria to analyze and communicate observations.
Scientists may also have to complete engineering tasks, such as designing experimental apparatus or building prototypes. Conversely, in the process of developing technology engineers sometimes find themselves exploring new phenomena, thus becoming, for the moment, scientists or more precisely "engineering scientists".
In the book What Engineers Know and How They Know It, Walter Vincenti asserts that engineering research has a character different from that of scientific research. First, it often deals with areas in which the basic physics or chemistry are well understood, but the problems themselves are too complex to solve in an exact manner.
There is a "real and important" difference between engineering and physics as similar to any science field has to do with technology. Physics is an exploratory science that seeks knowledge of principles while engineering uses knowledge for practical applications of principles. The former equates an understanding into a mathematical principle while the latter measures variables involved and creates technology.
For technology, physics is an auxiliary and in a way technology is considered as applied physics. Though physics and engineering are interrelated, it does not mean that a physicist is trained to do an engineer's job. A physicist would typically require additional and relevant training. Physicists and engineers engage in different lines of work.But PhD physicists who specialize in sectors of technology and applied science are titled as Technology officer, R&D Engineers and System Engineers.
An example of this is the use of numerical approximations to the Navier–Stokes equations to describe aerodynamic flow over an aircraft, or the use of Miner's rule to calculate fatigue damage. Second, engineering research employs many semi-empirical methods that are foreign to pure scientific research, one example being the method of parameter variation.
As stated in the revision to the classic engineering text Foundations of Solid Mechanics:
Engineering is quite different from science. Scientists try to understand nature. Engineers try to make things that do not exist in nature. Engineers stress innovation and invention. To embody an invention the engineer must put his idea in concrete terms, and design something that people can use. That something can be a complex system, device, a gadget, a material, a method, a computing program, an innovative experiment, a new solution to a problem, or an improvement on what already exists. Since a design has to be realistic and functional, it must have its geometry, dimensions, and characteristics data defined. In the past engineers working on new designs found that they did not have all the required information to make design decisions. Most often, they were limited by insufficient scientific knowledge. Thus they studied mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and mechanics. Often they had to add to the sciences relevant to their profession. Thus engineering sciences were born.
Although engineering solutions make use of scientific principles, engineers must also take into account safety, efficiency, economy, reliability, and constructability or ease of fabrication as well as the environment, ethical and legal considerations such as patent infringement or liability in the case of failure of the solution