Natural Sciences at Pembroke
Pembroke is ideally situated - both geographically and in terms of personnel - for those reading Natural Sciences: the back and side gates of the College lead directly into the New Museums and Downing sites where most of the University biology laboratories are located. The College has teaching Fellows in all the major science subjects, most of whom take a full part in university teaching (lecturing and laboratory work) as well as engaging in research in their own specialist fields (see below). We admit between 25-30 natural scientists each year, roughly equally divided between physical and biological interests. We have about 90 postgraduate students in the sciences in residence at any time. The Pembroke science society, the Stokes Society - named after a famous Pembroke mathematician - is run by a group of undergraduates and organises a series of informal talks from research scientists in many fields and a lot of socialising!
Pembroke Fellows in Natural Sciences
- Prof. Nigel Cooper: Theoretical physics
- Dr Sanne Cottaar: Earth Sciences
- Prof. Clare Grey: Chemistry
- Dr Stephen John: History of Medicine/Philosophy
- Dr Nick Jones: Materials Science
- Prof. Lauren Kassell: History of Medicine
- Dr Johannes (Wanne) Kromdijk: Plant Sciences
- Dr Gos Micklem: Biology
- Prof. Mike Payne: Physics
- Dr Stephanie Smith: Chemistry
- Dr Tim Weil: Developmental Biology
- Prof. Mark Wyatt: Astrophysics
- Dr Albert Cardona Neuroscience
The course can be challenging, and we would expect those applying to have a very strong background in the appropriate sciences and mathematics. Physical scientists taking Further Maths as a fourth A-level will also be asked for a grade in this subject. We do not require STEP. (For details of offers for Scottish Advanced Highers or the IB please see our Entrance Requirements page.) The most useful combinations of A-levels are:
- Physical sciences (including Chemistry) – A Level Maths is essential. For Physicists, one of either Physics or Further Mathematics (including the section on Mechanics) is essential. For Chemistry, Chemistry is essential. Further Maths is highly desirable, especially for potential physicists. For Physics, a Maths A Level including some mechanics or applied maths is useful. Chemists and Physicists will find they have more choice of course options when at Cambridge if they have both A Level Physics and Chemistry.
- Biological sciences – A Level Biology is essential. We recommend Chemistry and one of Maths or Physics.
It is possible to study Natural Sciences with only two science/maths A Levels, but it is likely you will find the first year a bit harder and we would encourage another science at AS level in addition, if your school can offer this.
Interviews and Assessment
We are looking for students who are highly motivated and enthusiastic about science and have the academic ability to learn. Interviews will be allocated based on application for either Physical or Biological Natural Sciences and candidates' subjects of study during Year 12. You will be interviewed by two or three scientists, who will discuss with you, in an informal way, some scientific problems that you have probably not thought about before. You will likely be asked about other science interests, and what topics you have learnt about outside you’re a Level (or equivalent) courses.
Applicants for the Natural Sciences will be required to take a pre-interview assessment. Please see the University Website for more details.
We are happy to offer to natural scientists who wish to take a gap year, and we encourage those who are very young (i.e. would be coming to Pembroke under 18) to defer. It is often possible to obtain sponsorship or work in industry during a gap year.
It is important to develop an enthusiasm and curiosity for science outside the confines of the AS and A2 modules. There are lots of interesting science articles, websites and books available to explore. Some suggested titles can be found on the Natural Sciences Tripos reading list for prospective students. We strongly encourage you to explore what interests you!
One of our recent undergraduate students, Coco, wrote about a day in her life as a Natural Scientist on our College blog. Please click here to read the post.