skip to content

Subject Summary: Part IB Materials Science

This course applies a broad range of scientific principles in the quest to design new, more advanced materials as well as to understand the functions of materials in modern society. Hence the course is of great benefit to anyone intending to pursue Materials Science, Physics or Chemistry at a higher level. Some ideas introduced in the IA course are studied in much greater depth in order to produce a thorough understanding of how the key scientific aspects of processing, structure and properties interact with factors such as cost, safety and sustainability when considering which materials are suitable for particular applications.

The course looks at advances that continue to be made with metallic materials, where new developments continue to drive forward the improvements in properties of metallic alloys, and also in the area of polymers. Alongside this, you will look at how materials function in service, whether a material is likely to degrade through chemical processes and when a structure may be susceptible to failure under the imposed mechanical forces. In addition, you will learn the scientific principles of functional materials, such as semiconductors, that have revolutionised society in the last few decades, allowing us to build smaller and more powerful devices by combining new materials with advanced fabrication processes. In addition to the lecture courses and associated practicals, there is also a series of projects which develop skills allied to Materials Science. The course follows on from Materials Science in Part IA and combines well with other subjects in Part IB such as Physics A and/or B, Chemistry A and/or B, Mathematics and Earth Sciences A and/or B.

Programme Specification: Part IB Materials Science

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


This course builds on Part IA Materials Science, adding further depth of knowledge and understanding across a range of materials classes. There is a broader coverage of applied aspects such as materials fabrication and usage. The project activities aims to develop skills allied to real world Materials Science issues and is designed to enhance practical materials characterisation skills. The course is valuable for those studying other experimental physical science subjects as well as providing the key framework for those intending to specialise in Materials Science in Part II.


Learning Outcomes

At the end of the Part IB Materials Science course, students will be expected to have:

  1. acquired broad knowledge of the major types of materials and how their properties can be experimentally determined or theoretically modelled;
  2. developed a knowledge of fabrication methods and be able to assess the reasons why particular materials and methods of production are chosen in order to achieve a desired set of properties;
  3. developed skills in the areas of quantitative analysis, scientific reasoning and written communication;
  4. developed practical skills in laboratory work and the necessary associated awareness of health and safety in the laboratory;

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, supervisions, practical classes, microscopy exercises and a series of project tasks related to key skills in Materials Science.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • two unseen written examinations based on materials given in lectures and practicals throughout the year;
  • completion of online worksheets related to each practical class, and submission of short lab notes;
  • a series of microscopy exercises;
  • a series of project tasks.

Courses of Preparation

Essential: NST Part IA Materials Science.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.