Ben, a Materials Science student at St Edmund Hall
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Student profile - Ben, Materials Science

What do you like best about your course?

I chose Materials because is a cross-disciplinary subject, incorporating maths, physics and chemistry - meaning that I didn’t have to drop any more subjects when I left sixth form. The Oxford course initially covers a very broad base of knowledge which you then use further when you begin to specialise. It’s also extremely interlinked; when I come across something new, I’ve often seen a similar problem in a completely different context - this is really helpful for learning and revision.

How is your subject taught at Oxford?

In first year it’s roughly 2-3 lectures every week day with labs on Thurday and Friday on alternating weeks (with a report to hand in the following week). 3-4 lectures makes up enough content for a tutorial, so there are roughly 2-4 per week spread across the term. There’s also a crystallography class with the whole year group, which is really good for getting to know people. There are 4 preliminary (Prelims) exams at the end of the year with prizes available (but they don’t count towards your degree).

Second year is a very similar shape to first year but with 3 lectures a day, and labs take 3 days to complete. There’s also an introduction of an options module: most people do a team business plan but some do a quantum chemistry module with the chemists. No exams at the end of the year, but everything you learn fits into 4 exams at the end of 3rd year.

Third year has 2 two-week projects at the start of the first two terms. One is a Team Design Project and the other is a choice between Characterisation or Modelling of Materials. You also have options courses for 2 options papers where you choose the topics you want to answer. Towards the end of the final term you sit 6 exams: 4 from 2nd year, 2 from 3rd year. This is two-thirds of the degree.

Fourth year is a research project usually in the department, but you can go to other universities (we have a link with MIT) or into industry. As far as I’m aware, it’s really good fun whilst giving you a taste of what it’s like to study a DPhil!

What advice would you give potential applicants interested in studying your subject?

If you’re at all curious about materials (or if you want a good book to talk about) then I’d suggest reading Mark Miodownik’s Stuff Matters. It’s a really good read and talks about all of the different categories of material that we use everyday.

What is life like as a student here?

Teddy Hall is great because it’s such a vibrant college! We’re geographically quite small, but numerically quite big, so you can’t help but bump into people whenever you’re in college!

A highlight for many students (myself definitely included) is the food - if you’re invited for interview try and arrive the day before, so that you can see what the food (and also accommodation) is like! There is also a plethora of clubs and societies to join - if you’ve got a passion that’s too niche for college then it’s still highly likely that the wider university will have something for it.

What sort of extra-curricular activities are you involved in at Oxford?

I’m vice-president of the Materials Society (MatSoc) which runs various events for the materials students. I’m also a member of the college boat club as a rower (and occasionally also as a cox) and I’ve been part of that committee for two years as well.