Mark Smith is a materials design engineer working at a vehicle technical centre. He loves cars and spends his time at work analysing and checking many of the plastic and rubber components used during their assembly.
What does your job involve?
I provide technical support for design engineers in the company. These include those who design the interior and exterior plastic trim as well as the engine and chassis of cars.
I carry out assessments of the parts we use and liaise with the engineers from all the company suppliers. Also, I need to organise and check the worth of any new part in development.
What equipment do you use?
I use a lot of equipment for the various tests on materials that we use in production. These include tensile, abrasion and scratch resistance tests. I also use optical microscopes with digital cameras and we sometimes use knives and saws for cutting up samples.
What was your route to your job as a Materials scientist?
After leaving university with a degree in polymer engineering, I worked for a cable manufacturer before joining my current employer.
What training do you receive?
I receive training on new equipment as it is introduced, and awareness training occasionally when we introduce new models. Compulsory Health and Safety training is a regular feature.
What hours do you work?
We start at 8am and finish at 5pm from Monday to Thursday but finish at 1.20 p.m on Friday. I regularly work a bit longer than this when under pressure.
What do you like best about your working as a Materials scientist?
Finding out about new technologies, being involved in their development and applying them to a new vehicle. I also enjoy meeting lots of people. The downside is that we sometimes have to work longer hours to meet a deadline.
What are the skills and qualities needed?
Be open-minded and able to talk to people from different backgrounds. Don't forget what you learn every day as sometimes you'll need to remember something when you least expect it. You have to be organised and able to put your scientific mind to good use in practical situations.
Mark's route to becoming a Materials scientist
- S Grades (Scottish GCSE equivalents).
- SCE Highers (Scottish A Levels).
- BEng (Hons) Polymer Engineering.
- Work with something you are naturally interested in if possible.
- Learn a language other than your native tongue if you have the opportunity, it always comes in useful.
- Take any opportunities that come your way and listen to what other people have to say.
Materials scientist related jobs
Salary of a Materials scientist
- New entrants can expect to earn about £16,000.
- Experienced materials engineers will earn an average of £35,000, which may rise to £50,000.
Materials scientist training
- Although it is possible to begin training for craft or technician-level jobs straight from school with GCSEs or S grades in English, maths and science, the normal entry route for training as a materials engineer is a full-time university or college course to get a first degree.
- There are a limited number of courses specifically aimed at materials engineers – usually materials engineering, materials science and materials technology. There may be more specialist courses such as metallurgy, polymer science, aerospace engineering, biomaterials and sports and materials science.
- Graduate Apprenticeships (Skillseekers in Scotland) in engineering may be available.
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