Residential Courses

Details and feedback on residential courses hosted by the Department

Headstart Residential Course for Year 12/S5 Students


Oxford Materials has successfully hosted a Year 12/S5 Headstart course for the last ten years. Further details of courses can be obtained from www.headstart.co.uk. A summary of those details is given below.

Headstart is a well-established education programme whose aim is to encourage students interested in mathematics or science to consider technology-based careers. It provides an opportunity for those in Year 12/S5 to spend up to a week at university prior to making their UCAS application.

Objectives

Four-day residential experience courses held at major universities, where students in Year 12/S5:-
Headstart course photograph
  • participate in practical problem solving activities
  • attend lectures and seminars
  • visit local companies
  • experience life as an undergraduate
  • identify sources of funding and support
  • meet academics and recent graduates

Headstart courses are residential and take place in summer. Dates are shown in the course descriptions and although applications can be made at any time of year, the website should be reviewed again in November as locations, dates and features may change. Successful applicants will be informed by Headstart and sent full Joining Instructions. A course fee is payable and relates to the event and accommodation during the course dates. Students are expected to pay their travel costs to and from the location. Financial assistance is available for families receiving income support and many schools will help with the fee or travel cost. Students should ask at school for details. Headstart is part of The Engineering Development Trust, monitored for quality and endorsed by The Royal Academy of Engineering.

Headstart course photograph
This Focus course aims to give an insight into Materials Science, or Materials Engineering as it is also known. The course will give insights into what it is like to study at Oxford University by staying in a College, attending lectures covering a range of Materials topics, and taking laboratory sessions aimed not only at giving a general idea about Materials Science but also conducting experiments similar to those performed by undergraduates. Two national laboratories, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and the Science and Technology Facilities Council at Harwell, are within easy reach of Oxford and an industrial visit to one of these or the BMW-Mini plant at Cowley will be a feature of the course. A Design and Build project, similar to the third year Team Design Project in the undergraduate course aimed at simulating the commercial aspects of scientific research, will also be carried out.

Materials Science is a vast interdisciplinary subject - which frequently brings together researchers from different physical and engineering sciences, but can also involve the Life and Medical Sciences, too. Essentially, it is the Materials Scientist who makes good use of the science developed by physicists, chemists and engineers by making it possible to improve and even develop new materials for novel purposes and help to maintain the role of the UK as a leading Industrial Nation.

Some of the areas which may be covered in the course include:

• Aeronautical - Designing materials to make jet engine turbine blades.
• Biomedical - Can we make a bone analogue material to coat metal implants - and one day produce replacement organs for transplant?
• Ceramics - Superconducting materials.
• Electron Microscopy - Scanning EM and Transmission EM.
• Entrepreneurship - How scientists become businessmen to market their own discoveries.
• Nano Technology - Engineering at the atomic level.
• Polymers - Applications of conductive polymers to produce cheap polymer photovoltaic cells.

By meeting staff and postgraduate students, you will gain even greater insights into the world of Materials Research but most of all, you will enjoy finding out what makes Materials Science so important and interesting - and lets not forget that the whole course is fun, too.


red dividing line

Headstart "Insight into Materials Science" Residential Course based at the Department of Materials and St. Catherine's College, Oxford


Headstart course photograph
Headstart course photograph
The course opened with 'getting to know you (and us)' sessions in the small lecture theatre attached to the St. Catherine's College JCR. Following a presentation about Materials Science, what is involved in studying it and possible careers, a guesstimate activity was introduced that showed how problem-solving skills could be applied to unusual queries. Following concern about how the United Kingdom was becoming subservient to the United States, it was with some relief that it was found that it would take the entire population of the United States approximately 130 years to devour the country completely - if it were made of pizza!
red dividing line

Headstart course photograph
Headstart course photograph
Following a restful night in the striking study bedrooms designed by modernist architect Arne Jacobsen, a full day of lectures and Masterclasses commenced. The three lectures covered topics as diverse as nanotechnology, creating stronger metals and the applications of conductive polymers. The masterclasses covered a range of unusual materials and techniques, as well as quantitative exercises in tensile testing and Young's Modulus.
The following day saw another set of masterclasses and lectures covering topics including corrosion, nanotubes and Transmission Electron Microscopy. The final session introduced the Team Design Project where the group was split into eight teams competing to win a contract to design and build a satellite recovery system.

red dividing line

Headstart course photograph
Headstart course photograph
Thursday morning saw a frantic rush to complete the design project, which was very demanding in terms of time management, design-and-making skills, financial management, report-writing and teamwork. This culminated in the testing of the protoype satellite recovery systems, carried out to schedule despite the inclement weather conditions. The afternoon was spent on an industrial visit to ISIS, the world's leading pulsed neutron and muon source situated at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford. A fascinating series of short presentations on the work carried out at the facility was followed by a tour which included a look inside the £140 million Target 2 station which was under construction at the time.
red dividing line

Headstart course photograph
Headstart course photograph
Upon returning to Oxford, there was just time to spruce up and don "posh frocks" ready for the formal course dinner. The guest speaker was Mike O'Brien from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy who delivered a very stimulating talk on the challenges involved in generating electricity from nuclear fusion. The discussion that followed was probably the most lively and thought-provoking of the course, with most of the course members participating.
The final morning saw the culmination of the Team design project. Each of the teams had to present their ideas to adjudicators who were tasked with selecting the team most likely to be awarded the contract to build a satellite recovery system. All of the competing teams made very professional presentations, but the clear winners on points were Team A4, all of whom received a memory stick as a prize.
red dividing line

Our thanks as organisers go to all of the people who made this such an enjoyable and informative course: the lecturers, post-grads and support staff of the department, the staff at ISIS and St. Catherine's College and last but certainly not least the course participants whose hard work and enthusiasm made it all worthwhile.

red dividing line