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Natural Sciences Biological

What is the Natural Sciences Tripos?

The Natural Sciences Tripos is the framework within which most of the science is taught in Cambridge. There are eight experimental subjects in the first year (IA), of which three must be taken. Some biologists choose the three biological modules - Biology of Cells, Physiology of Organisms and Evolution & Behaviour. However, the flexibility of the Natural Sciences Tripos offers the opportunity for students to avoid narrowing their options too early, and many students choose to study at least one of the five remaining subjects - Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Materials Sciences or Physics, plus one or two of the biological courses. This not only maintains a broad scientific training, but also widens the choice of subjects that can be taken in the following years.

In addition to the experimental subjects, students must take either Mathematical Biology or Mathematics. For Mathematical Biology, different streams are available for those who have studied A-level maths (or equivalent) and those who have not; the Mathematics course is suited to those with a particularly strong background and interest in maths.

In later years the Natural Sciences course allows students to pick and chose the papers that most interest them, allowing specialization, while retaining flexibility. Further details of all the courses available are available on the Natural Sciences Tripos pages.

Why study Biological Natural Sciences at Corpus?

Corpus has had no shortage of biologists associated with it, from Stephen Hales, the seventeenth century pioneering physiologist, to the ecologist and former Master of the College, Oliver Rackham OBE, who was well known for his  book "The History of the Countryside". "There are at present a large number of Corpus Fellows conducting research in biological subjects ranging from Biochemistry, Plant Sciences and Neurobiology to Biological Physics; Honorary Fellow Dr Richard Henderson, based at the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing methods to determine the structure of biomolecules. Having approximately a dozen Fellows in this area means students will have close attention and excellent teaching throughout their degree. It also means undergraduates have a chance to get to know and interact with leading researchers in many diverse fields. Our graduates in biological sciences go off to careers in research, consulting, the pharmaceutical industry amongst many others. In addition we run social events throughout the year, such as a subject dinner, a pizza quiz night and an end of year barbecue.

What do we look for?

Candidates for the biological side of Natural Sciences should specify this on the Supplementary Application Questionnaire. Applicants should have A Levels/IB Higher Levels in at least two science/mathematics subjects, although three is considered an advantage. See the NST Part IA paper descriptions for specific subject requirements for the Year 1 options. There is no absolute requirement for Biology at A2 Level (or the equivalent), but candidates should have at least one of Chemistry or Biology, and at least one other science A-Level or equivalent. All applicants will have to register for the pre-interview Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA). Interviews usually take the form of going through some biological problem solving exercises, but will be catered to the subjects that individual applicants are taking. On the basis of the interview conditional offers will be made to successful candidates, a typical offer would be A*A*A at A-Level or equivalent. Candidates wishing to learn more about the life sciences at Corpus are invited to attend an an Open Day at the College.

What careers are available for Natural Scientist Graduates?

Many students graduating with a degree in biological Natural Sciences go on to do further study, either taking a PTIII course, such as Systems Biology or Biochemistry, or proceeding directly to a Masters or PhD programme to begin their careers as independent scientific researchers. For those entering the workplace directly after graduating, in recent years, students have taken up jobs teaching in the UK and abroad, industry including biotechnology, finance, university administration, the NHS, and various branches of the civil service.