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Time travel, hoverboards and instant pizza: Degrees to consider on Back to the Future Day

From philosophy to food science, these are the university degrees to consider if you fancy yourself an incarnation of the great Doc Brown or the adventurous Marty McFly from Back to the Future.

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Carly Minsky

October 21 2015
DeLorean Time Machine


Welcome, Marty McFly!

Today, on the 21st of October 2015, Back to the Future’s intrepid travellers are due to arrive in a time-travelling car that quite literally runs on rubbish – all the way from 1985.

Back to the Future II predicted many wondrous inventions for 2015, only some of which bear any resemblance to life as we know it today.

But innovative and futuristic research happens every day in universities around the world. Here are some degree courses worth considering if you fancy yourself an incarnation of the great Doc Brown.


There really are professors who dedicate their research to the paradoxes and possibility of time travel. It may surprise you to learn that some of them are not wild-haired scientists making precise calculations, but in fact philosophers, armed with only pen and paper.

Questions such as “Does time exist?”, “Is time travel possible” and “Could I go back in time and kill my own grandfather?” are continuously subjected to rigorous reasoning by specialists in logic and metaphysics. The last question is so well known that it even has its own name: “The Grandfather Paradox”.

So if you want a real excuse to discuss Back to the Future in class, philosophy could be a perfect choice.

Automotive engineering

The DeLorean car, in its original form, was on the market in the US in the 1980s.

Now, a team of students at Queen’s University Belfast are transforming an old DeLorean into a road-worthy electric car.

As far as I know, engineers have yet to develop a car (or flux capacitor) that is powered by household waste, but there are projects to produce an engine that can run on water, and on liquid air.

To contribute to a similar project, you’d do well to study automotive engineering, or more generally mechanical engineering, which includes the construction of engines and power systems.


You’ve definitely already heard about commercially available hoverboards. Impressively, they are not too far off the models featured in Back to the Future’s vision for 2015.

The very best examples use electromagnets and superconductors in the board and in the ground, so that the electromagnetic fields repel each other, causing the board to hover.

The theory is actually fairly simple, and is taught in every first-year undergraduate physics course.

Take the course now and your future self could wind up working on the next stage of these innovations.

Food science and technology

It may not be the most high-tech invention from the Back to the Future films, but it is certainly one of the most popular.

Dehydrated pizza is a memorable invention, and dehydrated food has been used for astronauts for many years. If food scientists and technology researchers dedicated themselves to the task, it could reach supermarkets this very year.

However, dehydrated food is unlikely to become a priority on Earth. Anyone desperate to try it will just have to go into outer space – which may be a little more effort than it’s worth.

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