Number of students per year
Typical offer

A*A*A at A-level, or 7 7 6 (42+ overall) in the IB. For other qualifications, please see the University entrance requirements page.


Essential subjects

A-level/IB Higher Level or equivalent in Mathematics and two of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. If available, Further Mathematics is desirable for Physical Natural Sciences.

All applicants for Natural Sciences are also required to take the Natural Sciences Admission Assessment (NSAA).

Useful subjects

None beyond those listed as essential. 

Natural Sciences at Clare

The Natural Sciences (NST) course acts as a wide-ranging introduction to the majority of courses integrating biology, chemistry and physics taught at Cambridge. In principle, those applying are asked to nominate Biological NST (NSTB) or Physical (NSTP) preferences. In practice, the breadth of choice allows you to sample subjects and become inspired by interdisciplinary areas, such as materials, earth sciences or evolution and behaviour.

Many Clare Fellows contribute by lecturing on these courses, as well as providing support to the Clare cohort as Directors of Studies, Supervisors and through other College activities and engagements.

In the first year, you choose any three courses from Biology of Cells, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Evolution and Behaviour, Materials Science, Physics and Physiology of Organisms. In addition, everybody does a mathematics course. People who choose two or three biological options are usually assigned to Natural Sciences (Biological). Second and subsequent year courses offer an unparalleled combination of subjects and progressive specialisation. Some new subjects are introduced in the second year, including experimental psychology and the history and philosophy of science.

Amongst the biological sciences, Fellows of Clare represent molecular biology, biochemistry, chemistry, ecology, oncology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, plant sciences and zoology. The biological sciences IA Director of Studies at Clare, Dr Andrew Carter, captures this integrative biology with his work on molecular motors.

In the physical sciences, Clare has Fellows in Physics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Materials, Astrophysics and Chemical Engineering, with interests ranging from sustainable energy to life on other planets. The IA Director of Studies, Professor Cathie Clarke, is an award-winning expert on astrophysical fluid dynamics.

At Clare College, the Whiston Society organises events for natural scientists, and we maintain our association with Sir David Attenborough. We also organise summer placement schemes which help complement the lecture courses. Taught practical components make up a major part of each year and will ensure you are exposed to the latest theoretical and practical insights in your field.

Visit the University's subject page for more information.

Professor Jason Carroll's advice for prospective applicants: For those aged 16-18 aspiring to study Biological Natural Sciences at Clare, there are several steps you can take to strengthen your application and interview prospects. First and foremost, it's essential to establish a solid foundation in the basics of biology. Ensure you have a thorough understanding of metabolic pathways, the workings of amino acids, and the fundamental concepts of DNA and RNA, as these principles serve as the building blocks upon which your future biological knowledge will rest. Don't confine your learning solely to textbooks and classroom lectures; instead, explore the realm of biology by delving into general science literature, which offers a more comprehensive view of the subject. Gaining a broader perspective will enable you to connect the dots and fully appreciate the intricate beauty of biological sciences. Moreover, take advantage of the free introductory lectures provided by MIT, such as "Biology 101" by Eric Lander and "Cancer Biology" by Bob Weinberg. These resources are invaluable for those deeply passionate about biology, as they offer a pathway to connect various aspects of the subject. Finally, go beyond traditional academic texts and immerse yourself in popular science books related to biology. These resources are designed to simplify complex biological processes, making them accessible and engaging. By following these steps, you can strengthen your foundation and passion for biology, which will undoubtedly enhance your application and interview performance at Clare

Professor Heike Laman's advice for prospective applicants: I used to give a workshop talk to 16-18 year olds about the history of cancer, and recommended the book The Emperor of All Maladies as reading. It is pretty accessible and puts disease in a social and political context. Although I don’t know any popular books on this topic, I am still fascinated by limb regeneration and think that understanding this would be both interesting and potentially beneficial for humans. I also think the next generation of scientists should be equipping themselves to understand systems biology, i.e., the emergent properties of complex systems. This is an important, growing area. “More is Different” by Anderson in 1972 outlined this idea in physics, and it needs to be understood in a biological setting too.

Professor Oli Shorttle's advice for prospective applicants: Go outside, look around, and around and start thinking about why the environment I find myself in is the way it is. Why is there a hill over there and why is the atmosphere I’m breathing mostly made of nitrogen? I’d look up at the night sky and ask why is the solar system ordered, with the giant planets far from the sun and the rocky planets close in? Wonder why our moon is white and why I can’t see any such large craters on Earth? I would read the news on climate change and wonder what Earth’s climate has been in the past. Has it been this warm before? How does the planet decide how much carbon is in its atmosphere? The subjects covered by Earth Sciences are all around us, so just by observing and questioning how the world I live in came to be the way it is I am doing Earth Sciences.

Jason Carroll

Jason is currently a Professor of Molecular Oncology at the University of Cambridge, a Senior Group Leader at Cancer Research UK, and was elected an EMBO member in 2016 and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2017. His lab is interested in understanding mechanisms of hormone-dependent cancer.

JASON CARROLL Natural Sciences
Director of Studies in Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, and Systems Biology
Rosana Collepardo image

Rosana's main research interests lie in understanding the molecular mechanisms that determine the packaging of DNA insides cells, DNA structure, epigenetic phenomena, and the relationship between the structure of the genome and gene expression regulation. Her technical expertise is on molecular modelling, coarse-grained model development, atomistic simulations, multiscale modelling, and high-performance scientific computing. 

ROSANA COLLEPARDO Chemistry & Genetics
Director of Studies in Physical Natural Sciences
Oliver Shorttle

I presently hold a joint position between the Institute of Astronomy and Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge.  I study the chemical and dynamic processes occurring in planetary interiors and crusts through a combination of fieldwork, geochemical analysis and modelling.

Director of Studies in Earth Sciences
Heike Laman image

Research in my lab focuses on the study of ubiquitin ligases. Ubiquitin signalling is fundamentally important for normal development and regulation of the cell cycle to adaptive responses like regulation of cellular responses to stresses and infections. Their malfunctioning is linked with many diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, male sterility and anaemia. Our goal is to understand and target ubiquitin signalling to develop novel treatments for these different diseases.

HEIKE LAMAN Natural Sciences
Director of Studies in Natural Sciences
Professor Julija Krupic

Place cells, grid cells, border cells and head direction cells are the main spatial cells in the hippocampal formation and provide the basic units for the hippocampal cognitive map. However, their interrelationship and roles they play in navigation are still not well understood. We are interested in finding the causal relationship between the spatial cells in the hippocampus and parahippocampal formation and their role in navigation. 

JULIJA KRUPIC Natural Sciences
Director of Studies in Neurobiology
Ed Turner image

I am a conservation scientist, who researches strategies that can be employed to conserve species diversity and healthy ecosystem functioning both in the UK and abroad. In particular, I am interested in understanding how landscapes can be managed to maintain biodiversity and healthy functioning ecosystems, while still allowing agricultural development to take place.

Outside of my research, I enjoy science communication, particularly about the natural world and conservation. As part of this, I am Tutor for Access and Outreach at Clare College, manage the Public Engagement Team at the University Museum of Zoology, and am chairman of the Cambridge Local Group of the Wildlife Trust.

Director of Studies in Natural Sciences
Professor Jonathan Goodman

I study chemistry, combining experimental and computational data to understand how molecules react and how their structures affect their properties. This information can be used to design new processes for making complex molecules, and to predict the behaviour of molecules that no one has yet made. The results can help design new pharmaceuticals, by suggesting what to make, how to make it, and to pre-empt possible problems. The same understanding of molecular phenomena also has implications for making soup.

Director of Studies in Chemistry
Cathie Clarke image

Professor Clarke is Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics at the Institute of Astronomy and Director of Studies for Physical Natural Sciences.

CATHIE CLARKE Theoretical Physics & Astronomy
Director of Studies in Physical Sciences and Astrophysics