Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy

Year 1 - Part IA - Materials Science

Highly desirable: A level Physics or Chemistry and Mathematics
No previous knowledge of the subject is needed.

This course covers a modern, fast-growing and interdisciplinary area with very flexible boundaries, hence its composite title. Great diversity arises in materials because they comprise atomic and molecular structures organised in complex patterns over many different length scales. The resulting intricate microstructures produce striking physical properties, leading to electrical, optical and mechanical behaviour of both scientific and technological relevance.

This course explores the fascinating science of structure-property relationships through an integrated system of lectures and practicals that are supplemented by web-based learning. You will engage in a wide range of hands-on activities, including nanoscale characterisation and fuel-cell construction. In addition, you will learn, for example, how liquid-crystal displays work, how biomaterials inspire materials design, and why aeroplanes do not fall apart. The course forms an important part of physical sciences teaching at Cambridge, and contains invaluable background knowledge to underpin in subsequent years, the study of Materials Science, Mineral Sciences or other physical sciences such as Physics and Chemistry. European vacation-placement schemes are available for those wishing to continue into IB.

For a summary of the course content, see the IA Materials Science booklet.

Further details on the course, including lecture course handbooks, are found on the dedicated course website and informal enquiries may be made to the Director of Undergraduate Teaching (