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Materials Science*

Subject Summary: Part II Materials Science

Materials Science is increasingly recognised as a key discipline in the modern world, spanning both physical and biological sciences and also involving various branches of engineering. Recent technological developments in areas as diverse as medicine, sports goods, forensics, energy generation, electronics, communications and transport have all been largely dependent on improvements in the performance limits of constituent materials, rather than on advances related to physical principles or engineering design. People with an understanding of how the properties and performance of a material are determined, and might be improved, are therefore in great demand throughout the world, across a wide range of organisations. This understanding cannot be obtained solely by studying courses such as Physics, Chemistry or Engineering, since it relies on familiarity with various subtleties and interplays in the processing-microstructure-property relationships. The Materials Science course covers these relationships for all of the main types of material and builds on the basics provided in the IA and IB Materials Science courses. 

The aim of the course is to complete basic instruction in Materials Science by providing a core set of lectures supplemented by examples classes and practical work. In addition to a course on business, management and patent issues, students choose either language classes, teaching experience, or a computing course. The Part II course also involves project work and a literature review. The projects provide an introduction to sophisticated analytical tools (e.g. transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and thermal analysis) and computational techniques (finite element analysis and molecular simulation). Industrial visits and invited lectures from industrialists trained originally in Materials science will also enable students to set the subject in a wider context. Students are strongly encouraged to gain industrial experience in materials science and technology. Help in finding jobs or projects during the summer is available through the Department for all students. The Part II Materials Science course is an accredited qualification towards Chartered Engineer (CEng) status. 

Programme Specification: Part II Materials Science

The course is taught by the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.


  1. to study in depth the production, characterisation and practical application of materials and devices, building on knowledge obtained in Part IA and Part IB Materials Science;
  2. to develop an understanding of the biological, electrical, magnetic, thermal and mechanical properties of materials and their relationship to microstructure in a wide range of different systems, including polymers, metals and alloys, ceramics, composites and biomaterials;
  3. to learn business and management methods, with particular application to scientific industry; and patent law.
  4. through language, education or computing options, to provide transferable skills which will be of use in a future career;
  5. to provide sufficient background to enable students to continue with more advanced topics in Part III Materials Science;
  6. to provide training sufficient to allow exemption from certain steps towards Chartered Engineer registration.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course the students should:

  1. have acquired knowledge of the major types of materials and how their properties can be calculated or determined experimentally;
  2. be able to design, perform and analyse experiments to characterise materials and devices;
  3. have developed practical laboratory skills, together with relevant knowledge of health and safety;
  4. have developed transferable skills in the areas of quantitative analysis, scientific reasoning and communication;
  5. have obtained experience of independent investigation through reading and through experimentation;
  6. have sufficient background understanding to allow students to graduate in Materials Science, particularly those who do not wish to seek a further qualification in the subject or a similar science;
    have sufficient knowledge and understanding of materials in order to be able to continue into Part III Materials Science.

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, supervisions, examples classes, revision clinics, practical experiments, a techniques project, a literature review, industrial visits and presentations.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • four unseen written examinations, based on lecture material;
  • write-ups of practical work performed, including one in-depth practical report;
  • a literature review;
  • a poster and viva on a group techniques project performed;
  • assessed work for the business course and the transferable skills (language, education or computing) courses.


Courses of Preparation

Highly Desirable: NST Part IB Materials Science. Transfers from other Triposes and/or participation by other students are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.