Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences is the framework within which most science subjects are taught at Cambridge. If you want to study any of the biological and physical sciences, this is the course for you. The Natural Sciences course offers a wide range of physical and biological science subjects from 16 departments in a unique and demanding course. The flexibility of the course makes it possible to take purely biological sciences, purely physical sciences or a combination of both, according to your interests.

 


 

Course Structure

The Natural Sciences course (or Tripos as we call it here), is a broad-based and flexible course that allows students a tremendous degree of choice in the subjects they study. The aim is to produce scientists and not merely ‘physicists’, ‘biologists’ or ‘chemists’.

In the first year students study three subjects, choosing from Biology of Cells, Chemistry, Computer Science, Evolution and Behaviour, Earth Sciences, Materials and Mineral Sciences, Physics, and Physiology of Organisms; and students will also study Mathematics (one of two courses at different levels). In the second year there are twenty subjects to choose from, with students usually studying three, and in the third year there are seventeen possible subjects to study, with most students focusing on one. Students who specialise in this way, even only in their third year, will get a superb education in their chosen subject, reaching a level as high, or higher, than at any equivalent University. For some subjects there is also the option of a fourth year, leading to an M.Sci. degree.

All experimental subjects have associated practical classes in the relevant departments, and there are supervisions for each subject every week in College for the first two years, and thereafter in the departments.

Natural Sciences at King's

The Fellowship at King’s is strong in Natural Sciences, with several members of the Royal Society. The large number of Fellows in the Sciences combined with a thriving graduate community make King’s a vibrant place for undergraduates.

Many of the Fellows are actively involved in teaching both in the College and in the various departments. They also organise various other activities for ‘NatScis’ such as the Seminars for Biologists or the King's Maths-Physics Colloquium, both of which occur twice a week, and involve all levels of King’s scientists coming together for an intellectually stimulating and sociable evening.

There is also a King's Undergraduate Maths and Physics Society, which was set up by students to encourage undergraduate research. Each event has three fifteen-minute talks by current undergraduates. They present work to other students and academics, followed by discussion over drinks. The events are chaired by a member of the teaching staff, and the atmosphere is supportive and not too formal, with most of the audience being undergraduates who share interests and a similar level of knowledge. The society is also very helpful to students who want to do internships, putting them in contact with others who already have experience of how to find places and funding.

Fellows in Natural Sciences at King's:

Professor SarahLummis
Professorial Fellow

Biochemistry; neurotransmission-gated ion channels; chemical transmission of nerve impulses at synapses; neuronal disorders.

DrSebastianAhnert
Ordinary Fellow

Theoretical physics; theory of condensed matter; biological evolution; algorithmic complexity; network analysis.

DrDavidAl-Attar
Ordinary Fellow

Solid earth geophysics; geodesy; seismology; continuum mechanics of planetary bodies; inverse theory; rotational dynamics.

ProfessorGillianGriffiths
Professorial Fellow

Cell biology; immunology; genetic disease; cytotoxic T-cells; lymphocyte secretion; molecular biology; 3D live imaging.

ProfessorBenGripaios
Professorial Fellow

Theoretical physics; particle physics;  mathematical modelling; astrophysical observation; Large Hadron Collider.

DrDavidMunday
Emeritus Fellow

Elementary and experimental particle physics; high energy physics; antimatter differences in kaon particles; Large Hadron Collider.

DrAndreasBender
Ordinary Fellow

Molecular informatics; prediction of small molecule properties; virtual screening; integration of biological and chemical data.

DrSebastianEves-van den Akker
Junior Research Fellow

Genetics; molecular biology; bioinformatics; plant organ development; animal sex determination; human food security.

DrCicelyMarshall
Junior Research Fellow

Plant sciences; biodiversity; environmental protection; climate change; environmental policy; regeneration ecology.

ProfessorMichaelBate
Life Fellow

Developmental neurobiology; neuromuscular development; embryonic development; neuronal circuitry; genetics.

ProfessorGeorgeEfstathiou
Professorial Fellow

Astrophysics; cosmology; large-scale structure in the Universe; galaxy formation; dark energy; cosmic microwave background radiation.

ProfessorChristopherGilligan
Professorial Fellow,

Mathematical biology; epidemiology; soil-borne plant disease; non-linear estimation; agricultural epidemics.

DrRobWallach
Life Fellow

Materials science; metallurgical engineering; joining of materials; potential applications of new materials; environmental sustainability.

DrAnnaAlexandrova
Director of Studies

Philosophy of science; nature of scientific expertise; automation and artificial intelligence; economic models; measurement of well-being.

ProfessorBarryKeverne
Life Fellow

Behavioural neuroscience; mammalian brain evolution and function; genomic imprinting; epigenetics; animal behaviour.

ProfessorRichardLambert
Life Fellow

Physical chemistry; surface science; photocatalysis; molecular assembly; heterogeneous chemistry of tropospheric mineral aerosols.

ProfessorDanMcKenzie
Life Fellow

Earth sciences; geodynamics, geophysics and tectonics; igneous, metamorphic and volcanic studies; planetary lithospheres.

DrTomWhite
Life Fellow

Experimental high-energy particle physics; nuclear, quantum, particle and atomic physics; proton-anti-proton collisions.

Applying for Natural Sciences at King’s

We welcome candidates from all backgrounds, from all over the world. All candidates applying for Natural Sciences will be asked to choose between Natural Sciences (Biological) and Natural Sciences (Physical). We usually take fifteen to twenty students per year, broadly divided between those with ‘biological’ and ‘physical’ interests.

Subject Requirements

You must have at least two A-Levels (or equivalent) in science or maths subjects and most applicants have at least three of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics to A Level. If you have only two science / mathematics A-Levels (or equivalent), your choice of Part IA subject options will be restricted. In these circumstances, you will normally be expected to achieve an A* grade in one or two of the two science / mathematics subjects. If you will be applying for Biological Natural Sciences without Maths at A-level, IB Higher or equivalent, there will be some maths work to do over the summer before you start the course. More information can be found on the departmental website.

Pre-Interview Assessment

All candidates for Natural Sciences are required to take the pre-interview admissions assessment for Natural Sciences, which will take place in schools and other assessment centres. You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment.

Written Work

You will not be asked to submit any written work as part of your application.

Interviews

Most (but not all) candidates are invited for interviews in Cambridge, which take place in early December. Candidates have two interviews, each with two members of the teaching staff in either Biological Natural Sciences or Physical Natural Sciences. The interviews may include discussion of some of your own experimental work in science. If you are applying for Biological Natural Sciences, you will be asked to bring to the interview a note book detailing some recent experimental work you have undertaken, or an account of project work or of a field trip (this is not needed for Physical Natural Sciences).

The subject choices that you make at school can have a significant impact on the course options available to you at University - find out more.
Find out about how to register for your pre-interview assessment and see specimen papers from previous years.
Candidates for some subjects are required to submit written work as part of the application process - see more here.
It's completely normal to be nervous about coming to interview, but here's some practical advice about how to prepare for the process.

Student Perspectives

Joanna and Mie have written about their experiences studying Natural Sciences, including what they have enjoyed, the transition from school and how to prepare. These accounts are well worth reading to get a sense of what it is really like to be a 'NatSci' at King's.

Mie is from Madrid, where she took both the IB and Spanish Titulo de Bachiller. She studied Natural Sciences at King's from 2014-18.
Joanna is from Oxford, and took A-levels in Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths. She studied Natural Sciences at King's from 2015-18.

Reading, Resources and Events

There is no required reading material for applicants, but you may find the faculty's introductory reading suggestions below useful. Many universities have admissions tests and interviews that involve solving problems. In the area of physics and mathematics the Isaac Physics website provides an opportunity to practise the necessary skills for such problems.

The ability to link Physics and Mathematics knowledge in developing mathematical models or descriptions of physical situations is fundamental to the study of Physics at Cambridge. This skill is often underdeveloped at school but there are excellent resources available on the NRICH website. See in particular the article about mathematical issues and physNRICH. NRICH also has excellent resources to support and enhance the study of Biology and Chemistry.

A-level Mathematics is essential for some first year options if you choose them. If you are studying in a different qualification system and wish to consult an A-level textbook, we suggest L. Bostock and S. Chandler (2013) Core Maths for Advanced Level, 3rd edition. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes. If your school does not offer Further Maths, you may be able to get support through the Further Mathematics Support Network. See the flowchart below.

Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply include Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, CU Masterclasses, Cambridge Science Festival, Physics lectures, Headstart, CU Senior Physics Challenge, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

Recent News

Studentship awarded for MPhil in Advanced Computer Science

Funded by The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), the Alan Turing Studentship has been awarded to Maja Trębacz.

Contributions to College life rewarded with the Provost’s Prize

The Provost's Prize has been awarded to four students who have made a significant contribution to the College community

History of Art student hired by Dallas Museum of Art

King's PhD student Julien Domercq (KC 2007) has been appointed as the new Assistant Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas.