I recently got an email asking a load of questions about my degree. For you prospective students, here are my answers:
Is there a lot of Chemistry/Biology in Materials?
There is quite a lot of chemistry in Materials, yes. In the first year, you have to study thermodynamics of reactions and corrosion, both of which are very important for metallurgical processes and use of metals in tricky environments such as the sea (ie oilrigs). Second year you continue studying corrosion. This is an important part of being an engineer and you will have to cover it in an engineering degree too – though not in as much depth.
As for biology, there is one compulsory biomaterials module in Year 1, which is very small and part of the microstructure part of the course. You don’t have to have done biology at A level. The only reason I do so much is because in third year you choose options, and I decided to do Bio. Note when reading through my blog that I was more interested in the SCIENCE part of the course when I decided to do Materials, and engineering holds little interest to me. None of my choices were ‘engineering’ – there are modules on alloys, aerospace and a few more too, which I didn’t do.
Is there a lot Mechanics/Maths/Physics involved?
There is a lot of maths, mechanics and physics. For maths, in first year you study/revise basic calculus, complex numbers, series, matrices, and a few others which I can’t really remember. In second year this is expanded upon. There is also a computing course where you learn to program in C++. In terms of mechanics, you do a lot of ‘materials’ mechanics – that is mechanics on a micro/nanoscale. We do some structural mechanics in first year, and fluid mechanics in the second, as well as yield behaviour. For physics, you study quantum mechanics, magnetism, electronics and dielectric behaviour, with more depth in second year.
Then, do you really recommend Materials? I mean, is it really interesting or are you often annoyed during lectures, work, etc. It’s actually quite an important issue for me…
I love my degree. I know in my blog I complain a lot about it, but don’t let it fool you. It’s so interesting. The world around you takes on a different meaning – for example, after the polymers course I have never been able to pick up a plastic object without trying to analyse it. I keep fish, and spend quite a lot of time analysing the materials my tanks are made of… you also learn why planes crash because of Materials flaws, how to make a hydrogen fuel cell…so many things. The best thing about it is that it has everything Imperial does in it. Maths, computing, physics, chemistry, biology, engineering…it’s incredibly varied and gives you a lot more choice. Don’t be fooled – there is a lot of work. But you’ve applied to Imperial, and you won’t be able to do a course which hasn’t got a lot of work here!
Oh, and you’re a girl (I’m male btw), is it true that there is like 7 boys for 3 girls at IC? This sounds a bit crazy but I’ll have to cope with it I believe…
As for girls, you’re almost right – the ratio is more 3:1. It’s worse on engineering degrees, but to be honest I don’t know many blokes who find it that much of a problem because don’t forget you will be living in London, which is amazingly varied. Also, it’s probably one of the only places in the world that a girl will think you aren’t a total freak/geek/nerd if you’re really clever and into your subject! (Well, I don’t – maybe I don’t speak for the majority, but I’d like to think I qualify!)
One of my coursemates opinions (also female): I totally agree with you! And I also think it is one of the few places that a girl can love her degree, be smart and still be considered attractive and not just some odd thing.
Do you know if I can transfer from Materials to Engineering once I’m at Imperial? I chose Materials with Management Beng…Is it easier to transfer to Materials with Management Meng than Mech eng?
As for transferring, it’s very easy to do. I would recommend you stick out Year 1, because you might regret it if you don’t – but plenty of people do change. As for Management MEng, there isn’t that option, because as your options in 3rd and 4th year you can just choose to do extra management modules – there are compulsory ones in fourth year anyway, which you would study if you were doing the BEng course in third year. I don’t know a lot about what the BEng is like, I think it’s quite a lot of work – the management guys spent a lot of the first term of third year doing a big project they’d been set, but I don’t know how big it really was! You can always transfer at the end of second year to whatever you want to do, whether it’s Materials with Management, Materials with Nuclear Engineering or just plain old Materials!
(I’m not a geek btw, just an interested person)
You’ve applied to Imperial, and at some point you will have to accept you’re a nerd, embrace the fact, and learn to love it!