MrBooflePants
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Hi everyone, and especially a material science student/graduate who has advice!!

I'm starting a course in material science this month after just having finished an access course in engineering. I am quite worried and have been manically studying over A level physics and chemistry to try and fill in gaps in my knowledge and was wondering how fundamental the knowledge taught in that period are for the first year. By this I mean are the relevant topics covered at A - level revised during the initial stages of the course. I have a pretty good understanding of the AS topics in inorganic chemistry with different types of bonding and electron shell configuration but my knowledge of organic chemistry doesn't go far beyond the nomenclature, determining an empirical and molecular formula given the substances percentage compositions. I am currently revising enthalpy diagrams and the boltzman distribution for the next 2-3 days and will look through some areas in A2 after that with a focus on polymers. Physics I am pretty good on with mechanics, thermodynamics and electronics (calculations I'm good at but not so good at drawing and naming components although not really relevant) but am going to revise over these again but have never really covered (until next week) magnetism and waves.
During my access course we did a unit on materials science that covered the understanding of material properties as well as practicals involving the charpy V notch test, focusing on analysing the fractures to determine whether its brittle/ductile, Tensile tests (samples of aluminium, brass, copper, etc..), used a program called CSedupack for determining the correct materials to use after determining the required constraints, requirements, etc... for the material to be used (e.g a children's toy will need a minimised surface area to ensure no sharp objects) and briefly touched on the crystalline structures on different tempers of steel aswell as their respective carbon contents.

Apologies for the vagueness of this post its very late and am quite tired but I am just really worried that I will be starting out a mile behind everyone else. I got the maximum amount of credits in the course (Distinctions in Maths, Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Electronics, CAD, Workshop (milling machines and lathes), Material science, and other subjects like report writing, etc... this equals 3 A's on the Ucas system) Is there anything in particular that you would suggest I focus on before starting? I am going to have a read through my old coursework to refresh my brain as its been a few months since I did the module on Material Science but would really appreciate any advice. I want to have a decent preliminary understanding of the subjects at the A - level I did not cover before I start but mainly what would you suggest a first year student focus on before beginning the course to help me hit the ground running.

Sorry for the appalling presentation and overall way I wrote this it's very late, i'm exhausted plus I just got back from my nans where I was forced to watch hollyoak's so have lost a good 10 IQ points in that time.
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artful_lounger
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You'll likely be ahead of everyone else since you'll have covered some material from the first year none of the A-level students have. The organic chemistry topics are by far the least relevant for materials science; the only area they're really likely to come up is in relation to polymers and those will probably have more of a physical than chemical approach anyway). The wave physics may be relevant to some extent in relation to quantum stuff (phonons etc), and magnetism in terms of electromagnetic properties of materials, but generally EM (and to a lesser extent waves) often seem to be the least well done topics at A-level; certainly in my engineering course (which had prospective materials engineers) those were the areas that were the most developed in first year (the EM stuff ended up almost being from scratch, which was good for me as I hadn't done A-level Physics).

Bear in mind at the vast majority of universities the first term is often spent at least partially, and sometimes wholly, re-covering A-level Material to make sure everyone is on the same grounding (since applicants will come from different qualifications that may have taught topics in different ways/levels e.g. IB vs A-level), while also usually developing them in greater mathematical sophistication (as A-level Physics is not calculus based, so no matter what the first thing any physical science/engineering course needs to do is teach students how to do all the physics they're familiar with, using calculus).

Usually the area which seems to be lacking, if any, in an Access course is the maths teaching; since this is very important in any physical science or engineering discipline, I'd probably suggest you focus more on making sure your maths is on par, and practicing it beforehand to make sure you haven't "gone rusty" before starting. At the very least you should make sure you are very comfortable with all the A-level calculus and vectors content, since you'll be doing a lot of work using those topics.
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MrBooflePants
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Oh thank god, I will definitely brush up on my maths then. I am pretty good on the calculus side of differentiation utilising it in mechanics and vectors as well as implicit differentiation, although the in depth areas of A2 integration was my weak point (the difficult questions in intergration by parts and substitution I struggled with but the basic principles I understand). I'll definitely have a revisit of that in that case. Are there any areas in statistics you think would be relevant?
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