New international Master’s degree program will provide comprehensive knowledge and skills in the fields of soft matter and soft materials

Rhine-Main Universities Mainz and Darmstadt jointly offer new research-focused Soft Matter and Materials degree course program with increasing practical components starting in the coming winter semester

3 April 2023


Starting from the 2023/2024 winter semester, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Technical University of Darmstadt, both members of the Rhine-Main Universities alliance, will offer a new international Master's degree program on Soft Matter and Materials. Participants in this English-language program will learn in depth about so-called soft matter. The term covers a wide range of materials as diverse as polymers and plastics, detergents and surfactants as well as colloids and suspensions – all of which may appear to be completely unrelated at first glance. "However, when we consider them in more detail, certain basic similarities become apparent that characterize the property profiles of the underlying systems and materials. All these substances can be readily shaped and deformed – one reason why life itself is based on soft matter," explained Professor Sebastian Seiffert of the Department of Chemistry of JGU, who is one of the initiators and coordinators of the course. "The study of soft matter and soft materials requires a comprehensive understanding of physics and chemistry in this field. The aim of our new interdisciplinary Master's degree program is to provide participants with technical knowledge and conceptual competence with regard to the production of building blocks – such as polymers, supramolecular units, and colloids – and the structure-dynamics-property relationship of soft matter and materials," added Professor Regine von Klitzing, who contributed to devising the course and will be coordinating it at TU Darmstadt.

The degree course is designed for students who hold a Bachelor's degree in chemistry, chemical engineering, physics, or materials science and who would like to obtain more insight into an interdisciplinary and international field of study. The research-oriented Master's degree program will extend over four semesters, with a progressive increase in practical components. Students will attend Mainz University and the Mainz-based Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research for the first semester and then TU Darmstadt for the second semester or vice versa, if they prefer. During the next two semesters, students are flexible to determine their individual specializations at either site as well as at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz.

Traditional polymer research meets engineering sciences

The Soft Matter and Materials degree course is one of the first of its kind in the world. Many universities, including some in Germany, offer polymer science Master's degree programs to date, but not one covers the realm of soft matter in its intricate entirety. The collaboration of TU Darmstadt and Mainz University provides the ideal nucleus for this. "Mainz has been an established hub of polymer science for decades and has attracted worldwide public attention thanks to its on-going cutting-edge research in the field of biomedicine. The TU Darmstadt, on the other hand, provides for links to the engineering sciences and has recently been focusing extensively on aspects of sustainability", emphasized Professor Sebastian Seiffert of JGU.

The two universities already offer related courses in the field of soft matter. Those studying chemistry at JGU can, for example, opt to take a major in macromolecular chemistry providing for a crossover into the field of medicine. The existing curriculum at TU Darmstadt lists various courses on the design of new hybrid and composite materials, on the technical chemistry of polymer materials, and on polymer technology. The physics of soft matter is dealt with by the two universities as an interdisciplinary topic with an emphasis more on the theoretical side at JGU, while at TU Darmstadt more attention is paid to offering a wide range of practical, experimental programs in the subject. The two partners, members of the Rhine-Main Universities alliance, will be continue combining their expertise and capacities for the new Master's degree program.

The Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) alliance

As outstanding research universities in the Rhine-Main area, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the Technical University of Darmstadt, and Goethe University Frankfurt have joined together to form the Rhine-Main Universities alliance. They are all located in the metropolitan region of Frankfurt-Rhine-Main and offer a wide variety of subjects, ranging from medicine and the natural sciences to the humanities and social sciences to the engineering sciences. The universities have a combined total of more than 100,000 students and 1,440 professors. They cooperate closely in the fields of research, learning, and teaching as well as the promotion of early-career researchers and the transfer of knowledge to the world of commerce and society in general.

It is through this strategic alliance that the universities jointly increase their academic potential. They take advantage of their complementary strengths to form dynamic research associations. They collaborate to improve their range of courses and to reinforce networking and the dissemination of knowledge within society. This enables them to shape the Rhine-Main region as an integrated and internationally attractive academic hub.