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MSc Polymers for Advanced Technologies

Polymer CentrePolymer chemists are specially trained to build complex molecules that do very specific jobs. They turn the building blocks of life into useful products for business, healthcare and society at large. These range from oils, paints and coatings, to food, cleaning agents and cosmetics, to medical, agricultural and aerospace technologies. This means polymer chemists are qualified for careers in a huge number of industries.

This specialist course in polymer science and engineering is our most applied masters course. You'll learn how polymers are made and behave, how important products like polystyrene are constructed and how to use cutting-edge techniques to create new advanced materials.

The course is led by the experts behind the Polymer Centre. It's the UK's largest polymer research network within a single institution, made up of 48 research groups at the University of Sheffield. The centre has fostered many collaborations with businesses, so this course has been designed to give you the skills and expertise to work in the polymer industry.


To apply for this course, complete the University of Sheffield's postgraduate online application form.

Postgraduate online application form

You can find more information about the application process on the University's postgraduate webpages.

How to apply: applying essentials


If you would like to know anything else about this course, contact our postgraduate admissions office:

Telephone: +44 (0)114 222 9500

You can also visit us throughout the year:

Postgraduate open days, visit afternoons and online chats

About the course

At the start of this one-year course, you will study the fundamental science of how polymers are structured and synthesised, and how they behave. You will also learn about the techniques that chemists use to identify, characterise and analyse polymers. Laboratory training covers a range of polymer synthesis methods and analytical techniques including size-exclusion chromatography, viscosity analysis, and IR and NMR spectroscopy.

Other modules highlight how polymer chemistry overlaps with other areas of science, by focussing on concepts from physics that explain polymers' unique physical properties, and engineering principles to look at the effects that polymer microstructures have on polymer performance. You will also take part in a research training programme that teaches you how to interpret and evaluate scientific literature, and communicate scientific topics in presentations and posters.

All of this training gets put into practice when you start your main research project, which will take up around a third of your course. You will choose your own topic within polymer science, be assigned an academic supervisor who specialises in your area and work in their laboratory as part of a team of scientists. There, you will be taught advanced lab techniques and be trained to use state-of-the-art chemistry equipment.

Example project titles include:

  • Comparative life cycle assessment of fossil based PET and bio-based PEF bottles
  • Pressure swing approach towards carbon dioxide sequestration using hypercrosslinked polymers
  • Synthesis of block copolymer nanoparticles via living polymerisation methods
After your degree

Graduates from this course apply their polymer chemistry expertise in lots of different industries – from oils, paints and coatings, to food, cleaning agents and cosmetics, to medical, agricultural and aerospace technologies. Below are some examples of the kinds of roles and organisations our students end up in.

Example roles:

  • Analytical scientist
  • Chemical engineer
  • Industrial chemist
  • Pilot plant chemist
  • Research scientist

Example employers:

  • Croda (chemical industry)
  • Novartis (biopharmaceutical industry)
  • PPG Industries (chemical industry)
  • Synthomer (polymer industry)
  • Trelleborg Sealing Solutions (polymer engineering)

This course is is also great preparation for a PhD and a career in chemistry research: PhD opportunities

The University of Sheffield's Careers Service runs workshops on CV and application writing, job hunting and preparing for interviews. They offer events where you can meet employers, and opportunities to get work experience while you study. The Careers Service will even continue to support you for three years after you graduate.

Entry requirements

For this course, we usually ask for an upper second class (2:1) BSc honours degree, or equivalent, in chemistry, chemical physics, chemical engineering, materials or a related subject. We can also accept qualifications from other countries. You can find out which qualifications we accept from your country on the University's webpages for international students.

Prospective international students: Your country

International pathway programmes

If you are an international student who does not meet our entry requirements, the University of Sheffield International College offers a Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering programme. This programme is designed to develop your academic level in your chosen subject, introduce you to the study skills that will be vital to success and help with language if you need it.

Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at the University of Sheffield.

Pre-Masters in Science and Engineering

English Language Requirements

If you have not already studied in a country where English is the majority language, it is likely that you will need to have an English language qualification. We usually ask for:

  • International English Language Testing Service (IELTS): Overall grade of 6.5 with 6.0 in each component

You can find out whether you need to have an english language qualification, and which other English language qualifications we accept, on the University's webpages for international students.

English language requirements

The English Language Teaching Centre offers English language courses for students who are preparing to study at the University of Sheffield.

English Language Teaching Centre

Funding and scholarships

Funding is available, depending on your fee status, where you live and the course you plan to study. You could also qualify for a repayable postgraduate masters loan to help fund your studies.

Funding your postgraduate course

UK/EU scholarships

100+ scholarships image

We're offering 100+ scholarships worth £10,000 each for home students starting a taught postgraduate course in 2019 that can be used towards fees or living expenses.

Find out more

International scholarships

International scholarships image

We're offering 100 International Postgraduate Taught Merit Scholarships, each worth 25% of the original tuition fee for a postgraduate taught programme starting in September 2019.

Find out more

Alumni rewards

Alumni rewards

If you’ve previously graduated from the University and intend to pursue further studies with us then you may be eligible to receive a 10% discount on your tuition fees.

Find out more

Up-to-date fees can be found on the University of Sheffield's webpages for postgraduate students:

Tuition fees

Pengcheng Yang

Polymer chemistry arguably is one of the most important aspects of the modern chemical industry.

I was also drawn to the programme because it has been well designed. It offered me comprehensive coverage of modern polymer science and thorough training in the laboratory.

Pengcheng Yang – READ MORE

Graduate role: Senior Chemist

Alaa Kadhim

Having done a six-month lab project supervised by an academic and been mentored by PhD students, the course has strengthened my interest and confidence in pursing research.

I have really enjoyed my course at the University of Sheffield while meeting a lot of people from different countries.

Alaa Kadhim – READ MORE

Graduate role: PhD student

Current modules

The modules listed below are examples from the current academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course.

Current modules:

Fundamental Polymer Chemistry (15 credits)

Module leader: Professor Steve Armes and Dr Sebastian Spain

This module introduces you the essential fundamentals of polymer structure, polymer synthesis and the chemical behaviours of polymers, both natural and synthetic. Topics covered include polymer microstructure, chain-reaction and step-reaction routes to polymers, living polymerizations, copolymerization, molecular weight distributions, chemical reactions on polymers, and polymer degradation and stability.

Design and Synthesis of Polymers of Controlled Structure (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Lance Twyman and Dr Sebastian Spain

This research-led module gives students insights into the latest developments in synthesising polymers with highly specific structures, both in terms of their architechture (shapes) and their repeat unit distributions. Modern controlled/living polymerisations methods will be introduced, as well as the effect of polymer structure on behaviour, and the design of polymers for advanced applications

Polymer Characterization and Analysis (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Colin CrookProfessor Graham Leggett and Dr Oleksandr Mykhaylyk

This module covers the major instrumental methods for identifying polymers and determining polymer molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, stereochemistry, sequence distribution in copolymers, transition temperatures, surface features, etc. The unit includes examples of the use of chemical analysis, colligative properties, chromatographic techniques, nuclear magnetic resonance, vibrational and electronic spectroscopy, microscopy, thermal and dynamic mechanical methods, scattering techniques and surface analysis.

Polymer Materials Science and Engineering (15 credits)

The aim of the course is to demonstrate the relationship between chemical structure, molecular organisation, microstructure and physical properties of polymers in the solid state, to draw parallels between synthetic polymers and biopolymers, to introduce the types of high-strength high-modulus polymers, their processing, properties and application, and to introduce liquid crystals and LC polymers.

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate the relationship between chemical structure, molecular organisation, microstructure and physical properties of polymers in the solid state, indicate the different methods of microstructural investigation;
  • Explain the problems and solutions in obtaining high modulus / high strength polymers and fibres, and introduce liquid crystals and liquid crystal polymers and their optical properties and applications.
Smart Polymers and Polymeric Materials (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Colin Crook and Dr Ahmed Iraqi

This module focuses on the syntheses, structures, behaviours of polymers and polymeric materials that are responsive to external stimuli such as heat, light, electric potential, pH and ionic strength. The unit will examine polymers with applications, potential and real, in such areas as sensors, auxetics, viscous couplings, vibration damping, optical amplifiers, and nano-machines. The module also gives an overview of the design, preparation and uses of organic conjugated polymers and oligomers in the electronics industry with a focus on the factors governing their physical properties and their structure-property relationships in electronic device applications.

The Physics of Polymers (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Xiangbing Zeng

This module covers the fundamentals of polymer physics and physical chemistry, including the properties of individual polymer chains, of assemblies of such chains, and of materials based upon them. Topics covered include conformations of polymer chains, polymer glasses and the glass transition, rubber elasticity, viscoelasticity, time-temperature superposition, yield mechanisms, crystallinity in polymers, organisation of polymers at surfaces and interfaces, and the consequences of the above for various physical and mechanical properties.

Polymer Laboratory (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Colin Crook

Polymer chemistry is a practical subject, and this module covers the fundamentals of experimental polymer synthesis and analysis. Topics covered include polymer synthesis via a number of methods (including chain- and step-reaction routes). A range of analytical techniques will also be introduced. These will include size-exclusion chromatography, viscosity analysis, and spectroscopy (IR and NMR). Experiments involving the modification and application of polymers will also be studied.

Research and Presentation Skills (15 credits)

Module leader: Dr Lance Twyman

This module aims to introduce you to a range of transferable skills important for successful communication in science, research and in other professional areas. You will develop a wider understanding of the context in which research takes place through critical reading and evaluation of a wide range of literature. You will be required to read and assimilate, and will produce a critical report of the literature in a specific research area. In addition, the course will develop your oral and poster presentation skills.

Polymer Research Project (60 credits)

The following members of staff usually supervise projects:

All the skills and knowledge you have developed in the programme will be brought into use when you undertake this extended research project in your preferred area of polymer science under the guidance of a member of academic staff. You will join one of our polymer-focussed research groups at the University of Sheffield to produce real cutting edge progress in the field. You will produce a dissertation and an oral presentation based on your findings towards the end of the summer over which the project is undertaken.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in a student’s home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.