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 equally exciting with a vibrant college science community including undergraduates, graduate students and fellows.

Biological Sciences (first year): Dr Tom Monie  
Physical Sciences (first year): Dr Michael Housden

Annual events: Biological Sciences Taster Day and Open Days

This page contains the following information for prospective Natural Sciences applicants: 

Natural Sciences at Cambridge

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, 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). 

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.
 

Who is the Natural Sciences course for?

Cambridge Natural Sciences 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, something which can be a great advantage for future careers, as so much research in the sciences is interdisciplinary to some extent and you'll need to be able to talk to scientists in other areas 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.
 

Why study Natural Sciences at Christ's?

The Young Darwin sculpture in New Court. Photo credit: Sir Cam
The Young Darwin sculpture in New Court.
Photo credit: Sir Cam

Christ’s accepts at least 24 students each year to study Natural Sciences. As a student here, you'll be given the support needed to adapt to University life and to flourish: you have both the pastoral support of a Tutor (an academic in a different subject), and an academic in a Natural Science subject as your Director of Studies. The Director of Studies guides you through decisions about subject choices, provides advice and oversees your progress.

The location of Christ's is convenient for Natural Scientists, as we're in the centre of town and very close indeed to various lecture theatres you need to go to. As there are a number of different papers taught by different departments, you'll be taught in a range of lecture theatres: Biological Sciences lectures and practicals normally take place in the New Museums Site, the Downing Site and in the Chemistry Building. For Physics, you normally have lectures in the New Museums Site closeby and practicals at the Cavendish Lab on the West Cambridge Site (a slightly longer walk or a short bike ride away). You may find the University map useful to get a sense of the layout. 

In addition to the lectures, practical classes and field trips provided by the University, Christ's 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! There is even a possibility with very high quality work, that towards the end of your course, students may get their name listed on the published paper. Our students are academically successful and move into a diverse range of careers after graduation.

Christ's has an active undergraduate science society, the Darwin Society, which arranges both social and scientific events. 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 sixth-form students to understand evolution, and arranged a number of fascinating talks in College. There's also normally a good Christ's turnout at the university-wide societies such as CU Biological Society. 

Christ's 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 the facilities page and the accommodation page for more information.
 

Directors of Studies and academics in Natural Sciences at Christ's

At Christ's, we have a Director of Studies for Biological Natural Sciences (Dr Tom Monie) and a Directors of Studies for Physical Sciences (Dr Mike Housden), and we also appoint a specialist Director of Studies for each subject in the Natural Sciences course.  

Christ's Fellows in Natural Sciences:

 

Student Profiles

Current students at Christ's have written about their different experiences studying Natural Sciences in their student profiles:

If you would like to read more accounts from Christ's students, please see the student profiles page.
 

What are we looking for? 

We are looking for enthusiastic, motivated, gifted science students from all backgrounds. The admissions process is 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.
 

How to Apply

We welcome applications from all backgrounds and school types. Details and a timeline for the application process are on the how to apply page. If you will be applying from outside the UK, we recommend that you also read our dedicated section for international students. The following details supplement this with information specific to Natural Sciences applications.

Biological or Physical Sciences? 

In your UCAS application you apply for Natural Sciences (UCAS code BCF0). You will then be asked on the SAQ form (or on the COPA form if you are applying from outside the EU) which option you wish to study:

  • Biological Natural Sciences
  • Physical Natural Sciences

Further information about this choice is available on the Cambridge admissions course information (click on the link and scroll down). Note that the full range of Natural Sciences first year options is available to both Biological and Physical Sciences students, and that those intending to specialise in Chemistry can follow either the Biological or the Physical Sciences pathway.

Subject requirements

Almost all successful applicants for Biological Natural Sciences at Christ's have three Science/Maths A-levels (or equivalent), 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 specialise 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 (or equivalent), including Mathematics and either Chemistry or Physics. We would expect you to achieve an A* in A level Mathematics, or for IB students a Grade 7 in Higher Level Mathematics (or Higher Level 'Analysis and Approaches' if you've started the new IB Maths syllabus). 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.

NB. We require students taking science A-levels to complete and pass the practical assessment.

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

Pre-interview Admissions Assessment

All applicants for Natural Sciences at Cambridge must sit a pre-interview admissions assessment called the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA). For students applying in 2019, this will take place in your school, college or local testing centre on 30 October 2019. The Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment examines your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and forms part of our holistic admissions process: there is no set score that we are looking for. The same assessment is used regardless of which College you have applied to. When applying, it is important to be aware of the registration and assessment dates:

  • All Natural Sciences applicants applying in 2019 must be registered to take the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment by 18:00 UK time on 15 October 2019. See how to be registered.
    Please note that open centres may set an earlier deadline for accepting entries, and it is your responsibility to check if this applies at your centre.
     
  • All Natural Sciences applicants applying in 2019 sit the assessment on 30 October 2019.

Information about the assessment including example papers and subject content is available on the University Admissions website from March each year, and further advice is available in the resources section below.

Interviews

If you are invited for interview in Cambridge, 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 course. 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. Further, more general information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section.

We also hold interviews in a number of locations overseas. If this may be relevant for you, please see the international students section

Offers

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.

Conditional 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. If you are applying for Natural Sciences (Physical), we would normally ask you to achieve an A* in A-level Mathematics or a Grade 7 in Higher Level Mathematics if you are doing the IB. The international students section has further information about typical offers for other qualifications. Please note that we require A-level students to complete and pass the practical assessment in science subjects.

If you will have already finished school when you apply, we recommend that you read the page for post-qualification applications
 

Links and resources

Reading suggestions Book / resource suggestions for all areas of the Natural Sciences course
Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment preparation Notes to guide students preparing for the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (required for all Natural Sciences applications)
Christ's Darwin & Evolution website For Biological Sciences: a website made by Christ's students a few years ago celebrating the life, work and impact of Charles Darwin
Biology resources Resources for students who would like to explore Biology beyond the school curriculum.
IntoBiology website Science news, careers guidance, and study skills support.
Chemistry resources Resources for students who would like to explore Chemistry beyond the school curriculum.
Isaac Chemistry Website to help you develop problem-solving skills in Chemistry from GCSE to A-level through to the transition to university.
Isaac Physics  Website to help you develop problem-solving skills in Physics from GCSE to A-level through to the transition to university. See A-level resources and student support. There is also a mentoring scheme
Physics resources Resources for students who would like to explore Physics beyond the school curriculum.
Advanced Mathematics Support Programme Advanced Mathematics Support Programme
See in particular A level Mathematics resources and A level Further Mathematics resources. If you are studying independently, Integral offers an online Further Mathematics course. See studying an Advanced Maths option independently
NRICH Mathematics Free online resources to help you to develop the advanced applied mathematical skills needed to make the most of the study of sciences at university. See in particular BioNRICH, ChemNRICH, PhysNRICHAdvanced Scientific Mathematics and prepare for university, and live problems
Earth Sciences introduction Earth Sciences is one of the new sciences that you can study in first year - worth a look!
Gresham College Science lectures Free lectures online

 

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, or our annual Biological Sciences Taster Day, we will be glad to tell you more about the College and the Natural Sciences course in person. If you are not able to come, please feel free to email any queries you have to the Christ's admissions team: admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk.
 

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