Natural Sciences


Christ's College is a great place to study Natural Sciences. We have an illustrious past, with many top scientists studying and working here. These include no less a figure than Charles Darwin, together with three Nobel Prize winners and many of today's most influential researchers. The present is no less exciting with a vibrant college science community including undergraduates, graduate students and fellows.

Overall Director of Studies: Dr Tom Monie  

Biological Sciences
Parts 1B, II, III Dr Helena Browne

Physical Sciences 
Parts 1B, II, III Dr Gareth Rees

Subject Directors of Studies

Christ's appoints a specialist Director of Studies for each subject in the Tripos.  
Individual information can be found in the list of Teaching and Research Staff
or for those who are Fellows of the College, please see the list below:

Fellows in Natural Sciences

Professor Chris Abell (Chemistry)
Dr Richard Batley (DoS Physics)
Dr Helena Browne (DoS in Pathology)
Professor Michael Edwardson (Pharmacology)
Professor Gerard Evan (Biochemistry)
Professor Nicholas Gay (Biochemistry)
Professor Jonathan Gillard (Anatomy)
Dr Mike Housden (DoS in Chemistry)
Professor Martin Johnson (Physiology)
Dr Susan Jones (Physiology)
Professor David Klenerman (Chemistry)
Dr Petra Klepac (Biological Mathematics)
Professor Ian Leslie (DoS in Computer Science)
Dr Ben Longdon (Parasitology)
Dr Tom Matthams (DoS in Materials Science)
Dr Tom Monie (DoS in Biology of Cells)
Dr David Norman (Earth Sciences, Evolution)
Dr Anup Patel (Physics)
Dr Gareth Rees (Physics)
Dr Jason Sanders (Astrophysics)
Dr Valentina Pugliano (History & Philosophy of Science)
Professor Margaret Stanley (Pathology)
Professor Simon Tavaré (Cancer Research)
Dr Christopher Thomas (DoS in Mathematical Biology and Mathematics A & B)
Dr David Thomas (DoS in Physiology)

University Website

University Admissions Website

Why study Natural Sciences at Christ's?

Christ’s accepts about twenty four to thirty students each year to read Natural Sciences.  We provide our students with the support needed to adapt to University life and to flourish. Students have the pastoral support of a Tutor in a subject different from their own. They also have a fellow in a Natural Science subject as their Director of Studies, who guides them through decisions about subject choices, provides advice and monitors their progress. In addition to the lectures, practical classes and field trips provided by the University, our students are taught within college in small groups of one, two or three by active scientists, who research subjects as diverse as particle physics, vertebrate evolution, glacier dynamics and the malaria parasite. There is also the chance to put science into practice by working in a real research laboratory and maybe making exciting new discoveries of your own! Our students are academically successful and move into a diverse range of careers after graduation.

The Darwin Society holds a garden party every year. Christ's has an active undergraduate science society, the Darwin Society, which arranges both social and scientific events. Recently, in addition to putting on their annual dinner and garden party, they have written a website about Charles Darwin and evolution, held a day to help local six-form students to understand evolution, and arranged a number of fascinating talks.

Christ's also provides a modern library, a theatre, sporting facilities, playing fields, social activities and clubs and societies open to all.  We are able to offer College-owned accommodation throughout the course.  Please see other parts of this web site for more information.

Who is the Natural Sciences course for?

The Cambridge Natural Sciences Tripos provides the opportunity to study a wide range of subjects, while specialising in a single subject in later years. It therefore allows students to maintain a broad range of interests while still becoming an expert in one aspect of science. It is a busy, intense course and moves quickly. If you are fascinated by science, and want to study a number of areas of science at University level before specialising, then Natural Sciences is for you and we would love to meet you.

How do I win a place at Christ's?

We are looking for enthusiastic, motivated, gifted science students from all backgrounds. The admissions process is therefore designed to provide all applicants with a level playing field. While we do expect you to have a good understanding of the syllabus you are studying, we are more interested in your enthusiasm and your ability to reason and think for yourselves.

What our students say about Natural Sciences at Christ's

Here are a few quotes from some of our current or recent students

"Natural Sciences is an enjoyable, interesting and well run course and it is great to have the opportunity to take such a wide variety of subjects."

"There are a large number of Natural Scientists in each year, so there's a lot of support and advice available from your peers."

"You can be sure that your supervisors will be excellent, giving interesting supervisions and useful feedback on work (and some even provide tea and biscuits!)."

"Supervisions take place for an hour a week (one in each unit) and tend to be in small groups of typically 2-4. However, it’s comforting to know that should you struggle a lot on a particular lecture series there is the possibility that extra supervisions may be arranged. Supervisor changes are minimized too.  Trivial though this may seem, it allows a good rapport and working relationship to form, crucial to when it comes to revision and tackling more complex concepts. "

"The two Directors of Studies that I have had during my course have both been extremely helpful and always there for advice when needed."

"Christ’s is one of the colleges to hold mock exams in the first year. Scary as this may sound, they prepare you really well, giving you a Cambridge ‘exam experience’ before the summer."

"If you are deliberating over where you would like to apply for NatSci: apply here. Not only is the college fantastic, but the standard with which the Natural Sciences course is delivered, organised, and supported, at Christ’s is exemplary."

The University Course

The University of Cambridge is internationally recognised for the quality of research carried out in the physical and biological sciences, making this one of the most exciting places in the world to study science with leaders in the field carrying out cutting-edge research. The course is very flexible: in the first year (Part 1A) Natural Sciences students with an interest in either physical or biological sciences take three experimental sciences from a choice of eight, plus one mathematics option (from two): Biology of Cells, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Evolution and Behaviour, Materials Science, Physics, Physiology of Organisms; and either Mathematics or Mathematical Biology. All students must take one course in Mathematics (offered with an emphasis either for Biological or Physical Sciences). Successful Biological Sciences offer holders who have not studied A level Mathematics will be required to complete 20-40 hours of preparatory work before they arrive in Cambridge, and are given alternative teaching and support during the first term in order to develop necessary mathematical skills.

In the second year (Part 1B), students can take more specialised courses according to their interests, choosing from a large number of options in both physical and biological sciences. To complete the BA, students normally read one subject in more detail in the third year (Part 2). The third year offers students the opportunity to carry out research projects and to write a dissertation on their work. Some subjects offer a fourth year with further specialisation.

How to Apply

In addition to nominating Cambridge as one of your selected universities on the UCAS application form, it is also desirable to choose a College of preference (the alternative is to submit an Open Application and allow a College preference to be chosen for you by computer). This can appear to add to the complexity of applying to Cambridge, but in reality the option of stating your particular College preference increases the control which you have over your own application. Many criteria can be used for choosing a College of preference, including such factors as the size of the student body, location, architecture and accommodation, and academic, musical or sporting reputation. If you are able to visit Cambridge (preferably on a College Open Day) you may get a better idea of the location, atmosphere and facilities of various Colleges.

All those applying to the University of Cambridge applying for Natural Sciences;will be asked to sit a pre-interview written assessment which will take place in their school, college or local testing centre in November. The same assessment will be used regardless of the College to which you have applied. These assessments will examine your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and will form part of our holistic admissions process. Further information, including example papers and subject content, can be found on the University website from March onwards.

If you are invited for interview you will have two 20-30 minute interviews with different subject specialists, in which you are likely to be asked one or more problem solving questions in addition to more general questions. The aim of the interviews is to determine applicants' potential to benefit from the Natural Sciences Tripos. This is not the same as factual knowledge, or even necessarily past scholastic achievement: interviewers are more concerned to identify motivation and intellectual potential. The interviews have no fixed format but might include, for example, discussion of aspects of school coursework, or being presented with a science question in an unfamiliar guise and being encouraged to think it through. Written questions are not normally used. Most interviews last between 20 and 30 minutes. If you are the best scientist in your class, and are keen to study Natural Sciences, why not have a go at applying?

Offers are likely to be minimum A*A*A at A-level, 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in relevant Higher Level subjects, or equivalent in other qualifications, although the precise terms of each offer are assessed individually. 

Almost all successful applicants for Biological Natural Sciences at Christ's have three Science/Maths A-levels, including Mathematics and Chemistry. We will in principle consider applicants without A-level Chemistry, and applicants offering only two Science/Maths A-levels, but would expect such applicants to provide a clear rationale for their A-level subject choices. We have not in recent years accepted an applicant without A-level Maths. Note that A-level Biology is not a pre-requisite for the study of Biological Natural Sciences, and that students intending to specialize in Chemistry can follow either this pathway or the Physical Natural Sciences pathway on entry.

In recent years, all successful applicants for Physical Natural Sciences at Christ's have had three Science/Maths A-levels, including Mathematics and either Chemistry or Physics. Whilst we do not require any formal qualification in Further Mathematics, applicants who have undertaken either AS-level Further Mathematics or some equivalent study of Mathematics beyond their A-level curriculum are likely to be more competitive than those who have not. Note that students with A-level Chemistry will have a broader choice of options during the first year of the degree programme than those offering Physics as their only experimental Science.

Prospective applicants for Natural Sciences taking qualifications other than A-levels are encouraged to contact the Admissions Office for advice on appropriate subject combinations.

Christ's College does not have fixed quotas of places for different subjects and the exact numbers admitted in any one year will depend upon the strengths of the fields of applicants in various subjects. However, Christ's aim is to admit around 24 to 30 students each year in Natural Sciences.

A final point worth making is that we only make offers that we believe candidates have a realistic chance of achieving. Our aim is to admit the best students regardless of their background.

Further Information

More details about the University course can be found on the Cambridge Admissions website and on the University Natural Sciences website. If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about the College and the course in person. If you are not able to come, we will be happy to answer any queries you may have that are not covered by the normal literature. Please address any such enquiries by e-mail to

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Maintained by Jan Marshall | Last updated Wed, 20 Sep 2017 - 10:46am