We asked Dr. Mark Coleman, our Senior Lecturer in Metallurgy, some frequently asked questions:
Materials Science and Engineering is the design and discovery of new materials, understanding how things are put together, how it can be used, how it can be changed and made better.
The course includes subjects on the structure, mechanical performance and functional properties of advanced alloys, polymers, composites and ceramics.
Our story begins in 1920 when the University was founded by Metallurgists and funded by steel industry that wanted engineering expertise. Our department has a history of links with industry, and therefore, we are always on the edge of what industries want, developing materials that they need.
We are proud of our cutting-edge facilities and equipment, which are one of the best in Europe. Best of all, it’s accessible to all students from all levels; not just research.
If you are a curious and inquisitive person who loves to ask why, then Materials Science is right for you. Not only are Materials Scientists problem-solvers, they’re also a little bit like detectives. In addition to asking the questions like why are things the way they are, how do things work, even down to the atomic level, Materials Scientists enjoy doing detective work and working backwards where they ask questions like, why is this type of metal brittle? What is the problem with it? How can we make it more durable?
Year 1 focuses on getting everyone up to the same level, no matter what background or abilities you have. Year 2 will see a lot more lab-based work, using microscopes and working on case studies to use the fundamental knowledge learnt in Year 1 and applying it to experiments, testing materials and essentially smashing things. Year 3 focuses on your dissertation. Topics of projects are always current and relevant to real industries, working directly or indirectly with them, further demonstrating why industries love our graduates and how we achieve such excellent employment rankings year on year.
Although it varies, in semester 1, you can expect to have 24 hours of lectures per week and 12 hours of tutorial office hours that you can attend, making us one of the most engaging departments in Engineering between staff and students. In semester 2, you will do a lot of group lab work, and some opportunities to undertake individual lab work in Year 2. You are also expected to do approximately 3 hours per week of independent study to achieve your best on the course.
On average, our graduates have a starting salary of £25,000 and there are a wide range of areas our graduates can enter, from non-destructive technology (NDT) to aerospace, the power industry, defence, communications, transport, medical, bio-materials, alloys, metals, polymers, composites, structural, testing and even more. Many of our students have gone on to work with companies such as Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Renaults, Sony, Tata Steel, EDF Energy, Cummins Turbo Technologies, Airbus and Timet.
It’s not every day you hear about a Materials Scientist. One reason is Materials Science covers a wide range of activities and touches on many different fields – including Chemistry, Biology and Physics. But as diverse as they are, Materials Scientists emphasise understanding how the history of a material influences its underlying structure, and thus the material’s properties, how processing changes it, and what the material can do and how it performs.