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Course content

A higher degree by research involves training in research methods and systematic, high level study of a research project. The nature of the work and the time it takes to finish the research means a research degree is demanding and needs great commitment.

You must present your results in a thesis, explain the methods used in your research and defend them in an oral examination.

To get an MPhil you must critically investigate and evaluate an approved topic and display an understanding of suitable research methods.

Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI)

MERI is a multi-disciplinary research institute encompassing four research centres each with their own specialist groups operating within them. We undertake high quality academic research across a range of disciplines and apply this research knowledge in a commercial and industrial context. Research areas include • polymers and composites • solar energy • structural integrity and corrosion • functional coatings • simulation and modelling • robotics.

In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise we were the leading post–92 university in metallurgy and materials (UoA29). 75 per cent of our staff were judged to be internationally leading and we obtained a Times Higher Education average score of 2.15 reflecting the quality of our work and world class staff.

Our staff include • chemists • materials scientists • physicists • computer scientists • mechanical, electronic and electrical engineers, all working on individual or collaborative projects shared between research centres. Supported by a £6m equipment base, which will shortly undergo a £4m refurbishment, this inter-disciplinary approach enables us to solve complex problems ranging from fracture of artificial implants through to designing surfaces that can withstand frictional temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees centigrade. Solutions to these kinds of problems put MERI at the top in terms of industrial collaboration.

The Materials Research and Analysis Service (MARS) is also a key strength in the research institute, established to provide regional business with access to research facilities and analysis, which enhances the capability of companies in terms of new and improved products.

Evidence of MERI’s research strength is reflected in the patent portfolio that currently consists of 22 granted patents with another 17 applications in progress.

MERI is made up of five centres of excellence

  1. The Thin Films Research Centre
  2. The Centre for Automation and Robotics Research
  3. The Polymers Nanocomposites and Modelling Research Centre
  4. The Structural Materials and Integrity Research Centre
  5. Materials Analysis and Research Services, Centre for Industrial Collaboration (MARS) (CIC)

Course structure

Training and development

An extensive range of training and development opportunities are available to doctoral researchers through the doctoral skills training series and MERI-based training.

MERI training:

Skills training for postgraduate research

This course will comprise 4 main sessions:

  • getting the most out of supervision
  • development needs analysis and personal development plans
  • research integrity and intellectual property
  • getting the most out of conferences

All of the sessions are mandatory for all MERI research students.

Weekly seminar programme

Speakers are invited weekly to discuss their latest research with our staff and students.

Research ethics

This session introduces you to the principle of research ethics and the Sheffield Hallam procedures for ethical clearance. It will also involve you doing an initial ethic checklist for your research project and introduce the online EPIGIUM module ethics 1, which all Sheffield Hallam research students must complete.


RefWorks is a web-based bibliographic system with which you can build up a database of all of your reference material. It is flexible and very powerful, particularly when it comes to outputting reference lists for papers and thesis.

Introduction to bibliographic databases

As a researcher it is vital to be able to access relevant high level information. Here you learn more sophisticated information retrieval skills and see how to use subject specific databases relevant to your research area.

Health and safety for postgraduate research

The session aims to provide clear health and safety guidelines for new postgraduate researchers around personal safety and safety of others within the university environment, including and laboratories & workshops.

Advanced measurement techniques

This module aims to equip you with the skills and knowledge to make informed decisions on experimental materials analysis techniques. A number of techniques are demonstrated, the emphasis being on what each can achieve and the potentials for synergy from combining results obtained using from different techniques. This promotes effective decision making in research planning and operation, as well as a broad understanding of what different approaches can be used for.


MATLAB is a powerful programming language for numerical computations. It is employed in a range of industrial and academic environments. MATLAB has numerous built-in functions for engineering, physical, graphical, mathematical and computing applications. Besides this it has a variety of specialised toolboxes for specific applications, such as control systems, machine vision, signal processing and many others. MATLAB also has the symbolic toolbox that allows operating on symbolic expressions. In the first sessions we will cover MATLAB fundamentals, and the following sessions will be tailored to the specific research needs of attendees.

MERI research symposium event

The MERI Research Symposium is an excellent opportunity for both staff and students who are either active researchers, or who are interested in engaging in research, to meet with colleagues from across the faculty, to raise awareness of current research projects. The event will incorporate talks from academic staff and second year MERI PhD students, with poster presentations from final year undergraduate engineering students and first year MERI students.

Poster preparation

This course is aimed at first year students to give tips and techniques on how to prepare for the MERI Research Symposium Event, at which they will present a poster.

Talk preparation

All second year students are required to give a talk at the MERI Research Symposium Event.


Thesis followed by oral examination


Research degrees are a vital qualification for most academic careers, and for professional specialisation and development in an existing or planned career. The rigorous analytical thinking they involve also demonstrates ability to potential employers in all areas of work.

Visit the Materials and Engineering Research Institute MPhil Research Degree page on the Sheffield Hallam University website for more details!




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