The structure of the Natural Sciences Tripos is unique among science courses in British universities. It provides a very broad training in the first year (Part IA), in which you have to take three experimental subjects and one of the Maths options. The second year (Part IB) allows some degree of specialisation, but the third (Part II) and possibly fourth (Part III) years are usually devoted to a single area of science, sometimes one that the student may not even have met before coming to Cambridge, such as Astrophysics for example. With seven sciences available in Part IA, and nineteen (plus Mathematics) in Part IB, the range of possibilities is huge.
Trinity has a very strong tradition in Natural Sciences. From Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton onwards, many famous scientists have studied or taught here, among them 29 winners of Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, or Medicine. The traditions of the past are reflected today in the size of Trinity’s teaching staff and its breadth of scientific interests. Those currently teaching Natural Sciences in the College are listed below, together with the subjects for which they are responsible.
If you apply for Natural Sciences at Cambridge you are asked to classify yourself as “biological” or “physical”. So far as Trinity is concerned the distinction is merely an organisational one and does not commit you to any specific course of study within the Natural Sciences Tripos. All applications are assessed in the same way and offers are made to those whom we think most likely to do well here irrespective of the subjects in which they hope to specialise.
Each applicant is asked in advance of their interview about their subject interests. This is done only to guide us in arranging which interviewers you will meet. Everyone who comes for interview will be seen by at least two members of the teaching staff in Natural Sciences. Before the interview, you will sit two short papers. The first is a short test of fluency in mathematics. This is to check that you have the necessary skills to be able to cope with the compulsory mathematical part of the Tripos. The second is the Natural Sciences interview preparation paper, with questions on your main subject interest and further questions in areas which match your school subject background. This will be used as a basis for discussion at interview.
You should familiarise yourself with the rubric and style of questions by attempting typical questions available below:
(Updated July 2019)
(Updated July 2019)
Although the interview is likely to focus on your declared particular interests you must be prepared to talk about any of your A-level subjects. As in other subjects at Trinity, the interview is strongly academic in character.
The typical conditional offer for Natural Sciences is A*A*A; we may also ask for a high grade in a relevant subject being taken only at AS-level; comparable conditions are set for those taking the IB and other school-leaving examinations. We expect to admit roughly 30 people for Natural Sciences each year.
All applicants should take Maths A-level (or equivalent). Those intending to take subjects in their first years that are primarily drawn from the Physical Sciences should ideally take Physics and Further Maths A-levels, but may if necessary take Physics and either Biology or Chemistry as well as AS Further Maths. Those intending to study subjects in the first year that are primarily on the Biological Sciences side should ideally take two out of Chemistry, Biology and Physics, although applications from those with only one of these three are not discouraged. To study Physics at Trinity you will need either A-level Physics, or Mechanics modules in Further Mathematics. To study Chemistry, you will need Chemistry A-level (or equivalent). If in doubt about the suitability of your choice of A-level subjects you should seek advice from the Admissions Office before submitting an application.