Can Materials Research solve the energy problem?
Materials are substances or things from which something is or can be made. Materials science is at the core of our society and technological development is often based on the development of new materials. Materials research plays an important part in solving challenging problems relating to energy, food, water, health and well-being, the environment, sustainable use of resources, and urbanization. Studying in Master’s Degree Programme in Materials Research gives you tools to tackle global challenges.
Goal of the programme
Materials are substances or things from which something is or can be made. Technological development is often based on the development of new materials. Materials research plays an important part in solving challenging problems relating to energy, food, water, health and well-being, the environment, sustainable use of resources, and urbanisation.
An expert in materials research studies the chemical and physical bases of existing and new materials; their synthesis and processing, composition and structure, properties and performance. As an expert in materials research, your skills will be needed in research institutions, the technology industry (electronics and electrotechnical industry, information technology, mechanical engineering, metal industry, consulting), chemical industry, forest industry, energy industry, medical technology and pharmaceuticals.
This programme combines expertise from the areas of chemistry, physics and materials research at the University of Helsinki, which are ranked high in international evaluations. In the programme, you will focus on the fundamental physical and chemical problems in synthesising and characterising materials, developing new materials and improving existing ones. Your studies will concentrate on materials science rather than materials engineering.
Upon graduating from the programme you will have a solid understanding of the essential concepts, theories, and experimental methods of materials research. You will learn the different types of materials and will be able to apply and adapt theories and experimental methods to new problems in the field and assess critically other scientists’ work. You will also be able to communicate information in your field to both colleagues and laymen.
Depending on the study line you choose you will gain in-depth understanding of
- The synthesis, processing, structure and properties of inorganic materials
- Modelling methods in materials research
- The structure and dynamics of biomolecular systems
- The synthesis, structure and properties of polymers
- Applications of materials research in industrial applications
- The use of methods of physics in medicine
Information on the languages of instruction
All teaching is in English. You can also take exams in Finnish or Swedish, and you can write your Master’s thesis in Finnish or Swedish, as well as in English. The only exceptions are certain courses related to medical physics education and part of the education for radiation protection experts (RPE) and radiation protection officers (RPO). In these cases, the teaching is in Finnish.
In the programme, all teaching is based on the teachers’ solid expertise in the fundamental chemistry and physics of materials. All teachers also use their own current research in the field in their teaching.
Your studies will include a variety of teaching methods such as lectures, exercises, laboratory work, projects and summer schools.
In addition to your specialisation, you can include studies in minor subjects from other programmes in chemistry, physics and computer science.
Selection of the study track
At the beginning of your studies, you will make a personal study plan, with the help of teaching staff, where you choose your study line. This programme has the following six study lines representing different branches of materials research.
Experimental materials physics
Here you will study the properties and processing of a wide variety of materials using experimental methods of physics to characterise and process them. In this programme, the materials range from the thin films used in electronics components, future fusion reactor materials, and energy materials for biological and medical materials. The methods are based on different radiation species, mostly X-rays and ion beams.
Computational materials physics
In this study line, you will use computer simulations to model the structures, properties and processes of materials, both inorganic materials such as metals and semiconductors, and biological materials such as cell membranes and proteins. You will also study various nanostructures. The methods are mostly atomistic ones where information is obtained with atomic-level precision. Supercomputers are often needed for the calculations. Modelling research is closely connected with the experimental work related to the other study lines.
Medical physics is a branch of applied physics encompassing the concepts, principles and methodology of the physical sciences to medicine in clinics. Primarily, medical physics seeks to develop safe and efficient diagnosis and treatment methods for human diseases with the highest quality assurance protocols. In Finland, most medical physicists have licensed hospital physicists (PhD or Phil.Lic).
Polymer materials chemistry
In this line, you will study polymer synthesis and characterisation methods. One of the central questions in polymer chemistry is how the properties of large molecules depend on the chemical structure and on the size and shape of the polymer. The number of applications of synthetic polymers is constantly increasing, due to the development of polymerisation processes as well as to better comprehension of the physical properties of polymers.
Inorganic materials chemistry
Thin films form the most important research topic in inorganic materials chemistry. Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) is the most widely studied deposition method. The ALD research covers virtually all areas related to ALD: precursor synthesis and characterisation, film growth and characterisation, reaction mechanism studies, and the first steps of taking the processes toward applications. The emphasis has been on thin film materials needed in future generation integrated circuits, but applications of ALD in energy technologies, optics, surface engineering and biomaterials are also being studied. Other thin film deposition techniques studied include electrodeposition, SILAR (successive ionic layer adsorption and reaction) and sol-gel. Nanostructured materials are prepared either directly (fibres by electrospinning and porous materials by anodisation) or by combining these or other templates with thin film deposition techniques.
Electronics and industrial applications
Sound and light are used both to sense and to actuate across a broad spectrum of disciplines employing samples ranging from red-hot steel to smooth muscle fibres. Particular interest is in exploiting the link between the structure and mechanics of the samples. The main emphasis is on developing quantitative methods suitable for the needs of industry. To support these goals, research concentrates on several applied physics disciplines, the main areas being ultrasonics, photoacoustics, fibre optics and confocal microscopy.
The programme consists of 120 credits (ECTS) and can be completed in two academic years. The studies cover:
- Personal study plan
- Common courses for all students in the programme (10-20 credits)
- Advanced studies in your chosen study line and studies from other lines or programmes (70-80 credits)
- Master’s thesis (30 credits)
Studies in the programme include a Master’s thesis worth 30 credits. In your thesis you will focus on a particular problem in materials research, applying the knowledge and skills you have acquired during your studies to solve the problem. Your thesis is a written work that demonstrates your ability to think scientifically, your command of research methods, your familiarity with your area of research, and your aptitude for written scientific communication. Your thesis should contain a definition of the research questions, a review of the relevant literature, and a theoretical, computational and/or experimental section pursuing your solution to the research questions.
You will have a supervisor who will have regular meetings with you to ensure that your thesis work is progressing smoothly and on schedule. You will be expected to complete your thesis in one semester.
Although the thesis is an independent project, you will often work as a part of a research group in the field. You can also write the thesis while working in a company on a topic defined by the company, assuming the topic matches the requirements. This is an issue you will need to discuss with your supervisor.
With an MSc or PhD in materials research, you will be in a good position to find rewarding jobs in research institutions and industry. As a graduate in materials research, you will have many potential career paths inside and outside universities. Many MSc graduates have continued their studies in doctoral programmes in Finland and abroad. Employers of our graduates include the technology industry (electronics and electrotechnical industry, information technology, mechanical engineering, metal industry, consulting), chemical industry, forest industry, energy industry, medical technology and pharmaceuticals.
Within the programme, it is possible to obtain qualification as a radiation protection expert (RPE) and radiation protection officer (RPO). RPE and RPO are the official EU-wide names for personnel responsible for radiation protection in working environments. The education and examination are regulated by radiation authorities such as STUK. Note that teaching for RPE and RPO is given in Finnish. The requirements for RPE and RPO will be defined before the end of 2017.
The programme is international: students from outside Finland are free to apply.
Within the programme, you have the possibility to spend time as an international exchange student within the university’s exchange programmes, such as Erasmus within the EU. Materials research at the University of Helsinki is very international and many research programmes involve use of international research laboratories such as CERN (particle accelerator in Switzerland/France), ITER (fusion reactor in France), ESRF (European synchrotron light source in France), MAX-IV Laboratory (synchrotron light source in Sweden), and EuXFEL (European x-ray free electron laser in Germany). If you become involved in research programmes that use those facilities, you will have opportunities to participate in internship programmes at them.
The programme combines the expertise of the departments of Chemistry and Physics. Some of the teachers of the programme are doing materials research at the Helsinki Institute of Physics (HIP).
During your MSc studies, you will have the opportunity to take courses at other universities in Finland if they fit into your study plan, within the JOO (Joustava opinto-oikeus or Flexible Study Right) agreement. In the medical physics study line you can perform some laboratory exercises in a hospital environment.
Studies in the programme are integrated with research performed by the teachers. A broad spectrum of characterisation, modification and growth methods is used for a large variety of materials. Examples of lines of materials research within the programme are:
- Biological materials
- Computer simulation of materials
- Fusion reactor materials
- Materials from synthetic polymers and natural polymers
- Radiation effects on materials, including radiation protection aspects
- Thin film materials
After completing the MSc degree you can apply to continue your studies in the Materials Research Doctoral Programme (MATRENA), in the Doctoral Programme in Chemistry and Molecular Sciences (CHEMS) or in the Doctoral Programme in Atmospheric Sciences (ATM-DP) at Helsinki University or in many similar programmes at other universities.
More information on doctoral programmes in the University of Helsinki.
Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries, who do not have a permanent residence status in the area and pursue their studies in English, are liable to pay tuition fees. You can check from FAQ at the Studyinfo website whether or not you are required to pay tuition fees.