Natural Sciences (NST) is the framework within which most science ‘subjects’ are taught at Cambridge.

Natural Sciences offers both physical and biological scientists a unique and demanding course that combines a broad first year with increasing specialisation in the second year and total specialisation in the third and, in some disciplines, fourth years. The breadth and flexibility of the Natural Sciences Tripos reflect the blurring of boundaries between the different sciences: biological problems are increasingly being solved using techniques which require an understanding of Physics and Chemistry, whilst many of the most pressing problems being addressed by physicists, chemists and materials scientists require a knowledge of Biology. You are not admitted to Cambridge to read a single subject but select three subject options plus Maths in the first year. After this, you go on to specialize during the last year or two of your three or four degree course.

Full details are provided on the Natural Sciences Tripos website, and summarised in the University Undergraduate Prospectus

Natural Sciences at Churchill

Churchill has a mission in science and technology. As such, we have a large community of natural scientists, admitting approximately 35 students each year. The College has over 30 Fellows across the Natural Sciences and our Library is extremely well resourced. Teaching arrangements at Churchill follow the University-wide supervision system, to make sure you receive expert guidance and encouragement throughout your time here.

At Churchill, we emphasise the diverse range of options available to natural scientists from the outset. In the first week of your first term, you’ll hear presentations from our Directors of Studies about the range of seven subjects available to you, before you select your preferred three. You might come to this meeting with a very clear idea about the subjects you want to take, but you might equally have not fully made up your mind (although it’s fair to say that most natural scientists think of themselves as being predominantly physical scientists or biological scientists).

Biological Sciences

Over the years, Churchill has had many eminent biologists in the Fellowship, such as Watson and Crick, Edwards, Gurdon, Ashburner, HE Huxley, and Keynes. This close association with the most exciting developments in Biology continues, as our Fellows provide teaching across the three broad themes of Biology, namely: (a) Whole-organism Biology, (b) Cellular and Molecular Biology, and (c) Human Biology. If you want to take biological subjects within Natural Sciences, you will likely take a three-year degree course; the exceptions are Biochemistry, which now offers Part II and Part III courses (in the third and fourth years, respectively), and Systems Biology (which now has a Part III option).

Physical Sciences

If you want to study the physical sciences – Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science and Metallurgy and Geology (Earth Sciences) – you will likely go on to take a four-year course, leading to a Master’s after a Bachelor’s degree. As a physical sciences student, we’d recommend you to register for a four-year degree. Physical sciences has a healthy presence in Churchill and the College has some famous alumni, leading to a strong tradition of excellence.


For more information and for all admissions enquiries, please contact the Admissions Office.

Admissions Office

Photograph: © University of Cambridge
Credit: Nathan Pitt