DEPARTMENT OF MATERIALS UNDERGRADUATE BROCHURE
Comments by Current Students (2007)
Helen Boffey (St Edmund Hall) 1st Year
For my A-levels I chose Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths, and I was keen to find a degree in which I could combine these subjects. The Oxford Materials Course offers the opportunity to do just that, whilst also introducing an engineering element. In the first year the course is quite general covering many important areas in the physical sciences. I am sure that this will be a good basis for the more specialised work covered in subsequent years. I think one of the best things about the department is its small size, which makes it very friendly. There are about thirty students in each year group and everybody gets to know each other very quickly. The atmosphere in lectures is relaxed and people are never afraid to ask questions.
I have particularly enjoyed my involvement with the JCCU, a committee which works to continually improve teaching within the department, as well as organising social events and an annual industrial tour abroad. This Easter I travelled to Tokyo visiting companies such as Hitachi and Nissan. I am currently involved in organising a tour to Milan next Easter, which I hope will be as enjoyable as this year’s tour.
Tutorials are held in college, with generally just one other student attending and these provide an excellent method to really understand the content of lectures with the help of expert tutors. The college environment provides a real sense of community, helping you to settle in easily.
The University offers a vast array of clubs and societies to get involved with. I have particularly enjoyed taking debating classes at the Union, performing in a play, college badminton practices and trying to learn to punt (it’s much harder than it looks!)
Femi Fadugba (St Catherine’s College) 1st year
I came to Oxford after a pretty eventful gap year and consequently I found it quite hard to cope with the first term of the Materials Science Course. Getting thrown into the first few weeks and dealing with the initial workload was quite difficult.
However, after taking some time to really try and grasp the new concepts being taught I found myself beginning to really enjoy the course. I am personally more of a ‘theory’ kind of guy so I found it quite enjoyable learning the basics in central topics like Thermodynamics, Crystallography and Math. Initially the course can appear abstract and quite bitty but fortunately by the end of the year all of the pieces of the jig-saw begin to come together and you end up with a rich and unique perspective of exactly what Materials Science involves. In addition, the tutorial system in the colleges provides a forum through which you can engage with your peers and top academics regarding the topics covered in lectures.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that if you plan your time well you can actually manage to have a lot of fun at Oxford as well. Being part of St Catherine’s College, ‘Best College in the World’ ™, meant I was able to take part in extracurricular activities such as sports and music at a level that I enjoyed and was happy with, whilst keeping ahead of my work.
Personally, the Materials Science Course has gone really well for me this year and the vast majority of my experiences at Oxford have been very positive. If you’re really interested in Materials Science, (or just passionate about Science and generally a bit uncertain about exactly which subject to study) then I’d definitely suggest choosing Materials Science.
Evan Wang (St Catherine’s College) 1st year
I chose Materials Science because it is a combination of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, which are the subjects I enjoyed most in school. It also leads to very exciting research fields such as Nanotechnology or Quantum Computing.
The first year course was enjoyable and varied significantly from Thermodynamics to Electricity. The emphasis on practical work gives us the chance to develop our understanding of the theory by doing experiments and gives us practice in writing scientific reports. By having different classes such as Crystallography and Mechanical Properties, we learned the ways of solving problems through discussion with demonstrators.
What I like the most is our Materials department, which deserves to have the highest ranking in the UK. The staff here are excellent and try their best to help students. To give myself as an example, they provided an 8-week placement joining different research groups in Begbroke this summer. After talking to group leaders, I am expecting a great experience during the placement. The industrial trip to Japan during Easter widened our horizons to foreign industrial process by visiting Hitachi and Nissan factory etc.
The college also supports us fully in our academic work. The famous tutorial system here enables us to discuss our problems with the tutor, who is normally the expert in that field. The facilities are great at the college. There is a very good library which is next door to where I live and a well-equipped gym is available for us.
After intense academic work, we can join various societies at Oxford. I represented Tae Kwon Do Society team to compete with Cambridge University. I am also the treasurer and the webmaster of the Duke of Edinburgh Society. If you are keen on learning, taking some language courses and computing courses are possible options. The computing service is very helpful with any IT problems you have, such as how to build a website.
Alexander Zawadzki (St Anne’s College) 2nd year
I took a gap year between my Advanced Highers (Scottish A-levels) and university and because of this I was fairly prepared for the self-motivated approach needed for studying. I find that the lecture/ study/tutorial system at Oxford works very well, it is a fantastic feeling to walk into a tutorial confused and walk out understanding what is going on.
I changed from Materials Science to Materials, Economics and Management after the end of the first year, and am enjoying the wide content afforded by the mixed course. Engineers learn how to make a system work but, as scientists, we learn why things work and I enjoy developing this perspective. I am also enjoying the Economics and Management side of my course. It is very interesting to look at Economic problems and refreshing to be spending some time writing essays again. I am on a committee which liaises between lecturers and students so I know that the lecture course content and delivery is continuously under review to make it as useful as possible for the students.
I didn’t know that there would be such a range of sports clubs and other social groups available. All of the societies at Oxford have websites and are listed online, so I checked up on societies that I was interested in before the start of term. Currently I practice Aikido (Japanese martial art), as well as Rowing, Ultimate Frisbee and Kitesurfing.
Tamara Ibrahim (St Catherine’s College) 3rd year
Oxford’s reputation was justified by having the top rated Materials department in the country. The more research I did, the more I became aware of the access to cutting-edge technology. This with the world-class teaching and the prospect of a real academic challenge convinced me that Oxford was the university for me.
Probably the biggest surprise about Oxford was the amount of work and independent learning we are expected to do. However, with good time management this is achievable. The course has such breadth and depth (as shown by the options we get to choose between in the third year) meaning it goes far beyond anything one could expect beforehand. I have particularly enjoyed when we have been able to see the application of material science first hand. The best example of this was my second year industrial visit to Toulouse, where we got to see the new Airbus A380 up close.
Another part of the course where we adopted a hands-on approach was the two week team project we were set at the beginning of our third year. Our team was given the task of designing a bandage that actively heals burn wounds. This gave us the chance to research materials related in the biomedical field and speak to professionals involved in biomedical research.
College provides a sociable atmosphere allowing you to have a wide range of friends. It also gives you the opportunity to get involved in various sports and activities. This ranges deeper at university level with every club imaginable. At university, I’ve been a key member of the Oxford University Malaysia Club, holding the position at Treasurer for a year and was even in the Oxford Beginners Dancesport team in my second year. In my experience, studying at Oxford is challenging but rewarding and has still allowed me to have a well balanced student life.
Katie Moore - (Mansfield College, 4th Year)
I found materials science as I was looking through the Oxford prospectus and I knew immediately that it was the right degree for me, combining all the aspects I enjoyed from chemistry and physics.
The materials course is very varied with lectures, tutorials, practicals, a business plan, team design project and in the 4th year an eight-month independent research project. I have found all of these incredibly useful and they have taught me many useful skills. There is something for everyone with subjects ranging from traditional metallurgy to ceramics, polymers and semiconductors. Options in the third year and the 4th year project allow you to specialise in your area of interest. My 4th year project investigated the corrosion properties of two new spray formed aluminium alloys.
The Department is small compared to other departments at Oxford, however this means that there is a very friendly atmosphere and all the staff are very approachable. Students often make friends in other colleges and as each college only has a few materials students there is a real family environment across the four years.
Materials Science is unique in that students organise an industrial tour abroad every year, in my second year I co-organised a trip to China. It was a really interesting experience and useful to see lecture material put into practice.
Although the course is challenging, with good organisation there is still time to enjoy Oxford and take part in the many activities available across the university. I have rowed throughout my degree, taking it up in my first term, and have taken part in many other college and university activities.
I have found the materials course very enjoyable and rewarding and the department is very friendly hence I have decided to stay in the department to do my DPhil.