I'm new to blender and trying to fiddle with materials. However, in the materials panel, the volume section is missing.
I'm using Cycles. Is there something more to enable somewhere ?
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if you are using cycles you need to check the "use nodes" button in the screenshot above. once you have done that i suggest using the node editor to work with your materials instead of the properties panel shown in the image. if you need help using the node editor ask and i can help. i do not know much about volume shading in particular but i can help with nodes.