The University of Southampton

SESM1015 Professional Engineering and Functional Materials

Module Overview

This module sets out with generic content to examine professional engineering roles, creative thinking and the ability to evaluate new ideas for problem solving within the framework of the knowledge economy. The module will introduce students to functional materials and provides a specific subject to reinforce the learned skills developed in semester 1 and exposes them to critically reviewing and interpreting cutting-edge science and engineering.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module combines both training as a professional engineer and introduction to modern, functional materials. It aims to: • To provide an appreciation of the responsibilities inherent in being a Professional Engineer. • To provide students with development opportunities for key skills that will be required throughout their studies. For example, interpersonal skills which are essential for modern engineers to effectively communicate their ideas in various formats: written reports and presentations, and effective team membership. • To begin the process of reflective practise where students evaluate / reflect on their skill levels, develop learning goals and manage their learning. • To provide fundamental understanding of functional materials and materials properties, including: electrical properties, optical properties, and magnetic properties. • To provide understanding of the concept, role, types, properties and production of surface coatings for mechanical engineering applications. • To provide a systematic and coherent understanding of nanotechnology and nanomaterials. In semester 1, this module sets out with generic content to examine professional engineering roles, creative thinking and the ability to evaluate new ideas for problem solving within the framework of the knowledge economy. The module in semester 2 will introduce students to functional materials and provides a specific subject to reinforce the learned skills developed in semester 1 and exposes them to critically reviewing and interpreting cutting-edge science and engineering.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The historical development of and changing shape of Mechanical Engineering roles on the development of and changing shape of Mechanical Engineering roles.
  • Creativity and opportunity recognition in the knowledge economy and how this relates to enterprising mechanical engineering roles
  • The ethical code of conduct for professional engineers – this will include personal values as well as national and international organisations / professional bodies.
  • Fundamentals of modern, functional materials and related materials properties such as electrical, optical and magnetic properties.
  • Rudimentary electronic structure theory and quantum mechanics.
  • Properties and applications of metals and semi-conductors.
  • Fundamentals of surface coatings for mechanical engineering applications.
  • Fundamentals of nanotechnology and nanomaterials
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Problem analysis and problem solving.
  • Research and independent study.
  • Communication in a professional environment.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work effectively as a team member and identify aspects of team roles that need further development.
  • Work with others to effectively use presentation techniques for report writing and presentation using PowerPoint
  • Work with others to effectively use problem solving/decision making techniques
  • Articulate your developing skills.
  • Apply professional skills to master a new subject with minimal guidance
  • Obtain knowledge from primary scientific literature.
  • Read and apply commonly used Materials Science tools such as band structure diagrams to solve engineering tasks.
  • Recognise, select and test coatings for specific mechanical engineering applications.
  • Use nanomaterials in a responsible way by knowing the health and safety risks involved
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Relate the knowledge economy to entrepreneurial behaviour.
  • List the types of nanomaterials, their main synthesis processes, properties and applications.
  • Predict and molecular simulate on wear failure
  • Recognise, list and describe ethical issues raised in case studies and professional importance to the engineer.
  • Reflect / evaluate personal skills developed through the module and produce an effective action plan for further development of skills
  • List and describe properties of functional materials.
  • Relate atomic/electronic structure to applications of functional materials.
  • Develop design concepts for functional materials.
  • List coatings for engineering applications and describe their role and properties.
  • Explain the roots of nano and give examples of hierarchical assemblies.


Semester 1 • Introduction to the Module: - Assignment introduction. • Future Perspectives in Mechanical Engineering. • Communication skills: writing, log book, poster and presentations. • Personal Development Planning. • Ethics in Engineering. • Creativity and Entrepreneurial Behaviour. Semester 2 • Introduction to Functional Materials: - Examples of Functional Materials in Everyday Life (Laser, Diodes, Transistor, …) • Introduction to electronic structure and bonding of solids: - Review of the classical picture of matter. - Quantisation and electronic states. • Functional materials in an electric field: - Conductivity in the solid state (metals and semi-conductors) - Dielectrics. • Optical properties of functional materials: - Refractive index and apparent speed of light. - Optical excitations of semi-conductors. • Magnetic solids - Ising model. - Types of magnetism. - Magnetic coupling. • Introduction to coatings for mechanical engineering applications: - Concept. - Role. - Types. - Properties for specific applications. • Processes for the productions of coatings: - Coatings deposited onto the substrate. - Deposited in the solid state. - Deposited in the liquid. - From solution by reduction of ions. - From a vapour. - Coatings formed by the reaction involving the substrate material: anodizing, plasma electrolytic deposition, phosphating, boronizing, nitrocarburizing. •Coating process compatibility with substrate and component size. • The roots of Nano in materials science. • What is hierarchical assembly. • Main types of nanomaterials and their synthesis processes. • Applications of nanomaterials in engineering.

Special Features


Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: The core material in the course is taught through lectures. The lecture material is also supported through problem-based learning. Students will participate in individual and group-work activities that will develop a range of skills necessary for a Professional Engineer and explore the relevance of navigating scientific literature to arrive at educated engineering judgements. Semester 1 – 1.1 Individual assignment (1500 words): • Critically evaluate your professional skills, practice and development. • Discuss / reflect on what general principles regarding being a professional engineer might be derived from your experiences in taking part in this module and how you might apply these principles later in your career. • Discuss / reflect on whether and how your experience of taking part in this module has influenced your assumptions on the meaning of being a professional engineer and the implications this might have for your own future practice and development. Semester 1 – 1.2 Group assignment (problem-based learning - 5000 words): • ‘What are the Complexities and Context of being an Engineer in the 21 st Century?’ • Students working in groups will develop an appropriate strategy to evaluate and discuss the above statement. This may be achieved by means of (not exclusively): a research survey of academic staff, postgraduate researchers and/or alumni. assessment of the engineering infrastructure / societies (IMechE, RAEng, etc.). a report on the implications of sustainable development in engineering. • Tutorial support will be provided to gauge group assignment progress and for feedback on progress. In addition, the effectiveness of the group dynamics will be reviewed and feedback given. Semester 2 – 2.1 Group assignment (4000 words): • (Functional Materials Applications – Apply skills in a consultancy exercise) Review applications of functional materials and develop a consultancy report for one potential application of a functional material. • Semester 2 – 2.2 Individual assignment (1500 words): • (Optical properties – Explore primary scientific sources beyond the module reading list) • Discuss optical properties due to the electronic structure of semi-conductors. Research and contrast primary scientific literature (2-3 provided review papers) and discuss the evolution of functional materials for optical applications. (1500 words) Semester 2 – 2.3 Individual assignment (1500 words): • Nanomaterials - select a nanomaterial for an engineering applications and review its properties, synthesis, mechanism of action and advantages/disadvantages in comparison with standard materials Learning Activities • Lectures. • Problem-based learning. • Tutorials. • Individual assignments on case studies / mini-projects. • Case study analysis. • Giving a presentation. • Interactive classroom work. • Private research and study.

Completion of assessment task61
Wider reading or practice50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

J.R. Lowe (2003). Ethics in Engineering Design. 

D. Chung (2010). Functional Materials - Electrical, Dielectric, Electromagnetic, Optical and Magnetic Applications, Vol 2. 

F. Caruso (2003). Colloids and Colloid Assemblies -Synthesis, Modification. 

G. Cao (2004). Nanostructures and Nanomaterials - Synthesis, Properties and Applications. 

A. Azapagic, S. Perdan, R. Clift (2004). Sustainable Development in Practice: Case Studies for Engineersand Scientists. 

W.D. Callister (2011). Materials Science and Engineering. 

The Henley Report – Educating Engineers for the 21st Century.

C. Kittel (2004). Solid State Physics. 

A. Sutton (1993). Electronic Structure of Materials. 

B.G. Mellor (2006). Surface Coatings for Protection against Wear. 

G.O. Ozin (2009). Nanochemistry - A Chemical Approach to Nanomaterials. 

J. van Emden (2001). Effective Communication for Science and Technology. 

M. Cartier (2003). Handbook of Surface Treatments and Coatings. 

E. Payne and L. Whittaker (2000). Developing Essential Study Skills. 

G.D. Baura (2006). Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective. 


Assessment Strategy

The referral will be 100% coursework. In this instance, as a result of incomplete submission of module assignments, there will be a need to identify a specific referral task on an individual basis. The referral will consist of: Submission of a report with (significant and substantial) new contributions by the student, which covers an aspect of either the original group or individual assignments.


MethodPercentage contribution
Group Assignment 25%
Group Assignment 12.5%
Individual assignment 25%
Individual assignment 25%
Individual assignment 12.5%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework assignment(s) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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