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Natural Sciences (Physical and Biological)

Girton has a strong tradition of excellence in Natural Sciences.

Why choose Natural Sciences at Girton?

Girton has a strong tradition of excellence in Natural Sciences. The expertise of Girton Teaching Fellows covers a wide range of Natural Science disciplines including astrophysics, biochemistry, cancer research, crystallography, ecology, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, earth sciences, mathematics, molecular biology, palaeontology, particle physics, plant science, psychology, quantum electronics, theoretical chemistry and semiconductor physics. This encourages students to explore the full range of opportunities offered by the Natural Sciences Tripos, with strong support available.  Three Girton Natural Science Fellows have been the recipient of a university Pilkington Prize for excellence in teaching.

Girton has a large number of undergraduate students studying Natural Sciences at any one time. This ensures a diverse group with a range of interests providing an intellectually stimulating peer group and a supportive environment for study. Our graduate students are also a valuable part of the Girton Natural Sciences Community.  Fellows and students work together to provide academic support across all years, but especially in the important transition from school to university. The distinctive layout of the college and the social hub and cafeteria provide many opportunities for informal meetings and discussions.

Girtonians are a short cycle ride away from the West Cambridge site where the Physics, Materials Science and Mathematics Departments are based. Between Girton and the West Cambridge site lies the North West Cambridge (Eddington) site, where Girton has accommodation with ensuite rooms and good self catering facilities available for those who prefer this in their 2nd year onwards, space permitting.

Girton’s wonderful grounds are an excellent resource for students taking ecological and related subjects. Within the grounds can be found examples of most of the plant groups chosen to illustrate principles of plant evolution in first year lectures, including several scientifically interesting tree species. Our resident black squirrels provoke scientific debate as to whether they are simple mutants or a new sub-species. Currently some of our students are running a moth survey on the grounds, examining changes since this was last done and liaising with the University Botanic Gardens.

The student-run Natural Sciences Society organises both academic and social events throughout the year, including talks by invited speakers, including current PhD students; an evening on sharing experiences of vacation placements and how to find them, and guided walks through the grounds led by Fellows, plus picnics, barbeques and dinners just for fun.  Natural scientists are frequently successful in the Travel Awards competition and many take part in activities such as college sport, drama and music. NST students have found time to be elected representatives on the student JCR and MCR committees

A highlight of the year is the competition for the Phil Hammond Science Communication Prize, which is open to all Girton undergraduate students. NST students are frequently finalists in this competition.

Girton Natural Science students have been active and influential in University-wide science-related activities including:

Astronomical Society; Biological Society; Physics Society; Science Society and the International Triple Helix.

Girtonians have also been fully involved in writing for and editing the Cambridge Science magazine BlueSci and in science outreach activities: teaching support in local schools through the Stimulus scheme; educational science activities for children such as CHaOs and helping in the Cambridge Science Festival, and in schemes to encourage applications to Cambridge from under-represented groups, such as Cambassadors.

Natural scientists are also key members of the Girton College Student Ambassadors team.

Undergraduate Natural Sciences

  • No. of students admitted per year:

Natural Sciences –Biological: 10

Natural Sciences –Physical: 10

  • Entry requirements (A-Level or equivalent)

Natural Sciences –Biological: At least two A levels from Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. A level Chemistry is an advantage and students are encouraged to take Mathematics to at least AS level.

Natural Sciences –Physical: A levels in Mathematics and either Chemistry or Physics are essential; A or AS level Further Mathematics is very helpful but definitely not essential.

  • Typical offer: A*A*A
  • Assessment arrangements: All Cambridge candidates are required to take a written assessment prior to interview. Candidates will sit the assessment in their school or college and must register by 15 October 2020. Further information about the written assessment can be found here 
  • Interview arrangements:

Natural Sciences –Biological: Two interviews of between 20 and 30 minutes, concentrating on testing the candidate’s ability in and enthusiasm for science.

Natural Sciences –Physical: Two interviews. All interviews are with Fellows in Physical Sciences and aim to investigate the candidate’s ability in and enthusiasm for science. One interview concentrates on Mathematics, whilst in the other the topics chosen for discussion are drawn from a subject being studied at A level.

Natural Sciences undergraduate information

The Cambridge Natural Sciences course allows you to sample several scientific disciplines in the first one or two years, and to specialise fully in one discipline for the third, and in some cases fourth, year of the degree.

Natural Sciences postgraduate information

PhD and Masters students are welcome across all the scientific disciplines and are encouraged to take part in subject-organised events and to share their experience with undergraduate students. They are encouraged to take part in college teaching provided that their research supervisor agrees.

Research and postgraduate students are admitted to the University by the Board of Graduate Studies. You must therefore apply centrally and not to the College, however you must be admitted to a College to be able to study at the University. To ensure that this is Girton you need to indicate this on your application form.

Career destinations

Many students proceed to postgraduate study in various scientific disciplines. Many of these continue in the specialist area of their BA or MSci degree, and go on to gain a PhD; others may choose an MPhil or MSc course to broaden or change their area of expertise first.

However, Girton Natural Scientists have a wide range of interests and career aims, and recent destinations include careers as diverse as the management consultancy, TeachFirst, graduate medicine, finance and law.

Girton stories

Dr Stelios Tofaris

Brenda Hale Official Fellow and Director of Studies in Law

I am proud to be the Brenda Hale Fellow in Law at Girton College. I am immensely grateful for being afforded this opportunity through generous donations. These have enabled me to continue to work towards making the law more accessible to students and the wider public, and towards contributing to the improvement of the law in order to better serve the needs of our society