Ryan - Natural Sciences, Second Year
Ryan studies Natural Sciences (Biological) and has just completed his second year here at Christ's College, Cambridge. He comes from Coventry in central England and did A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths.
Why did you choose your College and course?
I applied to Christ's because of the good central location, and partly because Darwin went here - but my College choice was a very last minute decision as I decided on applying to Cambridge quite late.
The biggest thing that attracted me to the Cambridge Natural Sciences course was the breadth of sciences I could continue studying. Being able to take Chemistry alongside Biology and Physics was very appealing. The supervision system of small-group teaching is particularly unique and has been especially important.
What advice would you give sixth formers considering an application in Natural Sciences?
When I was doing the application process, I found it all to be clear and straightforward. My advice would be not to worry about your personal statement too much, as performance at interview, the Admissions Assessment and the other parts of the application process matter just as much. For example, try to get used to talking about your subject in an interview-style situation – explaining concepts and analysing experiments, graphs etc. out loud to whoever will listen!
There aren't any books in particular that I would recommend, but in general you should read around scientific topics that you enjoy. You could then potentially bring extra material up in your interview if you get an appropriate question. It's also worth thinking about what you enjoy or find interesting about particular topics.
What papers did you study this year?
Pathology: I chose this because of its relevance to clinical medicine and public health – a strong interest of mine.
History and Philosophy of Science: I took this paper because it offered some variety to what I was studying this year. This was nice as it offered a new way of academic thought and study at university. Furthermore, the questions posed by the course were extremely interesting.
Neuroscience: Another strong personal interest: this is what I want to continue studying into third year.
What has your timetable been like this year?
I've definitely preferred the less busy schedule I had this year, compared to first year. I have roughly three supervisions a week and I try to attend all the lectures. We have lab sessions for Neurobiology and Pathology, averaging about four hours each over the week. The amount of time spent in labs has decreased for me, though, as History and Philosophy of Science has none! On the other hand, I have probably spent more time focussing on supervision work, due to the reading and essay-writing involved in History and Philosophy of Science.
How have you managed your time?
I have become organised with timetables and deadlines, ensuring work is completed on time. Over the year I mostly worked in my room, moving to the College library as exam term approached in order to separate my work space from my 'chill out' space. Being better organised means that I have managed to socialise and play music alongside my studies. Whenever I'm not working, I play guitar, jam with the band and hang out with friends. I also used to play a lot of sports before I injured my back. Overall, I have found this year better than first year since I personally enjoy my subjects more and I am now more used to the typical Cambridge term.
I also found it really helpful to use the shorter holidays to do some work in preparation for exams as well as time to relax and reset. I use the longer holidays to relax, recuperate, read and gain more relevant medical work experience where possible.
What was the most interesting thing that you worked on this year?
Having a lab session for Neurobiology at Addenbrookes hospital, where we were taught about functional brain imaging. We got to take a look at many forms of imaging instruments such as MRI!
What have you most enjoyed so far about your time at Christ’s?
The friends I have made and the people I have been surrounded by. Specifically playing in my band (formed at Christ’s) with close mates, has been amazing. We have regularly played at balls and College gigs. It has given me an opportunity to pursue my passion alongside my academics.
Also, this year I lived in the Jesus Lane houses and they have been great. It’s nice in a way to experience the more typical uni situation of living in houses while also still being really close for all the College facilities.
Have you received any particular support from College?
Yes, I received tremendous pastoral care after injuring my back in first year. I can’t fault the support delivered by my personal tutor and Christ’s in general.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming years?
Continuing with my music in Cambridge. Hopefully the recovery of my back so I can get back into more sport. I am also really looking forward to my third year papers and the chance to do a lab research project. Next year, I will be taking mostly neuroscience modules and one module on Cancer - I chose them because they are my favourite subjects - what I enjoyed the most this year - while also being very relevant to a medical career in the future.
Do you know what you want to do after Cambridge?
Yes - I'm planning on going to medical school and doing a post-grad course in Medicine!