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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Science at Cambridge: Studying Physical Natural Sciences

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    14 Oct

    Hello everyone! My name is Jess and I’m a Physical Natural Sciences student at Murray Edwards College. I am currently heading into my second year of studies, focusing on Chemistry and Materials science, after studying both of these in first year along with Physics and Maths. Although one year of my degree is already complete – a terrifying prospect in itself! – I still am yet to decide on my path beyond second year. This highlights the beauty of the Natural Sciences course at Cambridge: the flexibility and variety of disciplines available to study allows students to explore several areas at once, and to understand links between them. 

    I was originally attracted to the course because I had not yet decided which area to specialise in. Studying Natural Sciences allowed me to continue with both Chemistry and Physics beyond A-Level, as well as try something new, like Materials Science, which I otherwise may never have discovered. Now, I am extremely grateful I had this opportunity, since I am particularly excited to delve deeper into the intersection between Chemistry and Materials in the coming year.

    Many of the topics that spark my interest the most actually indicate the connection between the two subjects. Some examples include the chemistry which explains the properties of essential materials of the modern day, like semi-conductors, which, due to their varying conductivity levels, can be useful in a range of different electronic devices. Or perhaps the study of how, and why, different materials corrode at varying rates. For me, both Chemistry and Materials act like puzzles: a variety of methods and perspectives are required to understand exactly what a substance is, how it works and why it behaves the way it does. As a scientist, I think there is no greater feeling than the thrill of solving a problem or understanding an idea following hours of thinking, and I have no doubt my curiosity will continue to be stretched further in the coming years. 

    I have found that studying natural sciences has helped build secure foundations in several areas right from the start, which has developed my confidence to explore more specific interests. Not only have I been given the opportunity to acquire a wealth of subject-specific knowledge, I have also automatically been welcomed into a community of inspiring people – students and fellows alike – who are all passionate about science. In the modern day, as so many companies and institutions strive towards becoming more cost effective and eco-friendly, the opportunities to contribute towards solving some of the most pressing issues on the planet are endless. I feel that a STEM degree is an invaluable tool to carry into the future, whether aiming to continue further in academia or entering the corporate world. As a woman in science, I feel not only prepared but empowered to seize opportunities when they arise, and I am confident that regardless of path beyond graduation, my science degree will prepare me well.


    Jess O’Neill

    Undergraduate student