Freshers' Week
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Materials Science

St Edmund Hall has the longest history of Materials Science in OxfordThe College has three Teaching Fellows and three College LecturersSix of the College’s Fellows in Materials Science have been elected Fellows of the Royal Society

Why Materials Science at St Edmund Hall?

The tutors at St Edmund Hall represent several specialist areas within Materials Science and show how the subject is truly interdisciplinary. A focus is placed on teaching as much as possible within the College, and drawing on the skills of all of our academic staff.

One of the exciting aspects of Materials Science is the vast range of real-world applications of the subject. For example, a huge amount of world-leading research on batteries is not only based in Oxford, but conducted by teaching staff at St Edmund Hall. This research may well pave the road to better electric cars and provide solutions for large-scale renewable energy storage.

St Edmund Hall has the longest and most distinguished association with Materials Science. William Hume-Rothery (1899-1968) was appointed as a Fellow of the College in 1958 on becoming the first Isaac Wolfson Professor of Metallurgy. It is also a rare distinction that six of the Hall’s fellows in Materials have been elected fellows of the Royal Society (Hume-Rothery, Hirsch, Christian, Hunt, Pettifor, Bruce).

The College has strong links with industry, with alumni going on to work for companies such as Rolls Royce, Element Six and PwC.

Ben, Materials Science

Current student Ben talks about studying Materials Science at St Edmund Hall

Our Tutors

Professor Jonathan Yates originally studied Physics before specialising in theoretical and computational materials science. By combining the skills found both in Physics and within Materials Science, Jonathan looks to solve problems computationally, rather than practically, to further predict and understand the properties of materials.

Dr Mauro Pasta entered the field of Materials Science having first studied Chemistry, and specialises in batteries, looking beyond lithium ion (Li-ion) which has become ubiquitous in phones, laptops and electric cars, and is employing novel techniques to both convert and store energy on large scales. He delivered a short talk entitled 'Lithium-ion Batteries and Beyond' as part of the 2017 St Edmund Hall Research Expo. You can see his 'Teddy Talk' below.

Professor Sergio Lozano-Perez is the George Kelley Associate Professor of Materials at the University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow at St Edmund Hall. His research focuses on the use of steel in nuclear reactors, specifically looking to understand the cause and spread of stress corrosion cracks. He delivered a short talk entitled ‘Looking at atoms to understand mega-structures’ structural integrity’ as part of the 2015 St Edmund Hall Research Expo. You can see his ‘Teddy Talk’ below.

Dr Rebecca Nicholls, a stipendiary lecturer at the College, specialises in energy applications. She uses both electron microscopy and quantum mechanical simulations to predict and study the structure of materials at the nanoscale.

John Waite teaches the solid mechanics aspect of the course, in particular the elastic and plastic properties of materials. He is a DPhil student studying the irradiation properties of High-Entropy Alloys for applications in Fusion Reactors. John completed his A-levels at Cirencester college and did his undergraduate degree in Materials Science at St Edmund Hall.

Ben Jenkins studied Materials Science as an undergraduate at St Edmund Hall and is now a DPhil student in the Atom Probe group. Ben uses atom probe tomography, a microscopy technique with high spatial and chemical resolution, to investigate nanostructural changes in steels during service in nuclear reactors. He teaches a variety of courses on the mechanical properties of materials and on the processing of components.


The Course

Materials Science combines many aspects of the physical sciences to make a unique discipline. The underlying concept is the link between how a material is made, what it is composed of at the microscopic scale, and what the material does.

Materials Scientists at Oxford research a very wide range of topics, from carbon nanotubes for quantum computers to new alloys for nuclear fusion power. The tools used include high-level computing, the world's most powerful microscopes and industrial-scale metal-forming machines.

The subject is thus likely to appeal to those with wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary interests in physical science. Applicants will need to have a good grounding in mathematics and its application to physical problems; they will need to be able to think across traditional subject boundaries and to work with problems to which there is no ‘right answer’. It helps to have a strong practical aptitude, and to be able to write coherent essays and reports as well as to set up and solve equations.

Students also have an opportunity to take part in an industrial tours, which previously has been to countries such as China, Sweden and Canada. Additionally, students are encouraged to undertake a voluntary summer project in industry or research, with recent students at the College working in institutions such as MIT, the University of Tokyo and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Materials Science Interviews at St Edmund Hall

Shortlisted applicants usually have one interview at St Edmund Hall, followed by a separate interview at another college. The interview will explore the Physics and Chemistry already covered at school or college, as well as looking at the applications and uses of materials in the world around us.

“When preparing for an interview in Materials Science, why not, when you have a few moments to spare now and then, look around at the things around you – what are they made of? Why was that material chosen? What properties does it have (or not have) that make it suited for its particular task?” – Interview advice from Prof. Jonathan Yates.