What is so special about studying Materials Science at St. Catherine’s College?
Duncan | 3rd year Materials Science undergraduate
“The course material is initially delivered through lectures – around 12 hours of these per week – by senior faculty members who are all active researchers and leaders in the field. This material is supported by practical classes – around 6 hours hands on per fortnight in the first two years – and each is written up in report form. In the second year there is the opportunity to learn how to produce a business plan or to study a supplementary subject or language. In the third year you have a choice of study options; and you will complete a Team Design Project as well as an extended practical project in modelling or characterisation. Finally, the 4th year is, for me, a real crowning jewel of the course in Oxford – in this year you complete an 8 month research project with a research group in the Department (or overseas) and write up a thesis – this is a great opportunity to really focus on something interesting.
Tutorials – which are arranged within your individual college – are the centre point of your learning in the first 3 years and you will have 2 or 3 per week. For each tutorial you will have to complete some task – usually a problem set, sometimes an essay or a presentation – which is handed in to the tutor one or two days in advance for it to be marked. A problem set can be pretty tough and always requires you to revisit your lecture notes and do some more reading.
In the tutorial itself you meet with your tutor for that particular subject, usually in a pair, for around 1 hour. During that time you will receive feedback on the work you submitted, learn where you have not understood material fully, ask any questions you have from the problems or wider reading, and be pushed beyond what you know with discussions right up to the leading edge of the field. This is a fantastic opportunity and is what makes Oxford learning special. You will have many tutors and each will be knowledgeable in the specific subject for which they teach you.
Through so much intimate teaching you build really strong relationships with your tutors and learn a huge amount directly from their expertise. At St. Catherine’s this extends to a really closely knit group of students and tutors in Materials Science which is something we are all very pleased to be part of. Materials Science students at St. Catherine’s come from all over the world – currently including the UK, Portugal, Holland, Singapore, Malaysia, and China – and many different backgrounds. We come from state schools, independent school, and international schools – here that background does not matter.
St. Catherine’s Materials undergraduates are involved in the wider student community in many different ways and, in 2012-13, include: vice-president of the Engineering Society, president of the Portuguese Society, treasurer of the Materials Society (also founded from St. Catherine’s), and president of the Octopush (underwater hockey) club. Many students are also involved in college sports and other activities.
Materials Science undergraduates at St. Catherine’s consistently perform very well, which we are very proud of. In 2012, the following University awards all went to students from St. Catherine’s: best performance in Part I and Part II combined; best performance in Part I; best performance in MEM; best performance in the Preliminary Examinations; and best 3rd year team design project.”