Course Guide

Natural Sciences

The Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry is conveniently located on Lensfield Road, which is very close to the city centre. It is one of the largest science departments, and many first and second year NatSci lectures are held here. First and second year chemistry explores the different aspects of chemistry: organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, thermodynamics, kinetics, symmetry, etc.. The breadth of the subject goes well with many other physical and biological Natural Sciences subjects. The depth also suits those who would like to dive deep into the subject.

Introducing your Academic Reps

Difei Chen

Hi, I am Difei Chen, a second-year chemist from St Catharine's College. Together with Yizhe Lou, we are the presidents of Cambridge University Chemical Society. I am passionate about chemistry, and I enjoyed the 2 years here very much when I get to explore the different parts of chemistry.

Asiyah Uddin

Hey guys! My name's Asiyah and I'm a second-year Natural Sciences student at King's College. My role as Physical Natural Sciences Academic Rep is representing students to the faculties and departments so feel free to contact me with any concerns!

Key Facts

Average offer: A*A*A

3-4 years, depending on topic

Available at all colleges

Key subjects for admission: Maths and two sciences - specific first year courses may require biology/ chem/ physics

NSAA (pre-registration required)

Inclusive prayer space in department


Why did you want to study NatSci?


During sixth form, I developed a strong passion for the sciences. I took the International Baccalaureate and studied Higher Level: Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics (A&A). While my main interest at the time was in Chemistry, I also appreciated aspects of biology and mathematics. Furthermore, through super-curricular activities, I came across other areas of science which were intriguing such as Materials Science. Ultimately, this meant I was unsure which speciality to go into as many universities require you to study a single science. However, the Cambridge Natural Sciences degree allows you to read a broad range of sciences before specialising in 3rd year. This aligned with my interests as it allowed me to delay that decision of specialising, while developing a breadth of knowledge in the different areas of science.


I am always passionate about sciences. I applied for Cambridge Natural Sciences because the course allowed me to study other sciences alongside chemistry. The interdisciplinarity allows one to think across boundaries, and I enjoyed how knowledge from one subject can be transferred to another subject.

How is the NatSci course structured?


The Cambridge Natural Sciences Course lasts for 3 years and 4 if you decide to do an integrated master's. Your first year consists of taking 3 sciences and a mathematics option. As you progress through your degree, you begin to specialise and thus take fewer options. In my first year, I took Biology of Cells, Chemistry, Materials Science, and Mathematics B. For second year, I am currently studying Chemistry A, Chemistry B, and Materials Science. For 3rd year I am looking to specialise in either Chemistry or Materials Science. Like most STEM degrees, you attend lectures and practicals, some of which may be computational. The main form of teaching, however, takes place in the form of supervisions. Supervisions are small group teaching sessions consisting of 2-3 students and an academic. They're an opportunity to discuss any questions you might have on the lecture material and go through the weekly problem sheets or essay questions that they set.


Most science subjects can be divided into lectures, practicals and supervisons. In the first year, there are 3 hours of lectures and usually 1 hour of supervision each week. The contents build on A-Level chemistry with focus on both organic/inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry. Practicals take place every other week with a primary focus on organic chemistry.  In the second year, chemistry is divided into 2 subjects. Chemistry A focuses on theoretical chemistry and Chemistry B focuses on organic and inorganic chemistry. Each Chemistry subject has 3 hours of lecture, 1 hour of supervision and 1 practical/computation lab session (from 1.45pm to around 5pm) each week.

What is the faculty building like?


In your first two years of Natural Sciences, you're spanned across a few departments. As I'm taking Chemistry and Materials Science, I spend most of my time in these department and they're both great. They amazing massive libraries, cafes, lecture theaters, practical labs, and a multi-faith space.


The Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry is on Lensfield Road. Many first year and second year lectures are held at the department. There are also large laboratories and computer rooms for practicals. Alongside teaching, there is also a lot of researching going on in the department. The library and cybercafe are good places to study or rest between and after lectures.

What is the workload like?


My timetable consists of lectures, practicals, supervisions, and any free time I get to play sports, socialise with friends, etc.    Per week I have roughly 9 hours of lectures, 9 hours of practicals, and 3 hours of supervision, excluding the time taken to complete the supervision work. Depending on your subject choices these can be compact or spread out, my week is structured such that my days consist of either lectures and supervisions together or just a practical session.     I tend to be done with contact hours by 6 pm, and so during the evening I attend athletic or boxing sessions, socialise with my friends, or binge Netflix shows!

What about your course would you change?


I would like there to be an opportunity to study abroad or do a year in industry. These would be great additions to the degree, as it allows students to gain an insight into the world of work and explore academia outside of Cambridge, demonstrating all the possibilities available when students graduate.


I have enjoyed the course very much, but we may include more practical sessions in year 1.

Anything else?


Overall I've found this faculty really supportive and willing to be flexible if a student's needs change. But the degree is also difficult, and it's important to consider whether you're someone who prefers having lots of smaller deadlines throughout the week or someone who prefers bigger, more infrequent deadlines. I love studying here and would recommend it to anyone who feels inspired by the papers that are offered and the course structure.

A typical timetable

Difei's second year timetable

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
8am         Supervision (Chemistry A)  
9am   Lecture (Chemistry B) Practical (Materials Science) Lecture (Chemistry B) Supervision (Chemistry B) Lecture (Chemistry B)
10am   Lecture (Materials Science) Lecture (Materials Science) Product Analysis (Chemistry B) Lecture (Materials Science)
11am     Supervision (Materials Science)      
12pm   Lecture (Chemistry A)   Lecture (Chemistry A)   Lecture (Chemistry A)
2pm Practical Practical (Chemistry A) Practical (Chemistry B)      


Have more questions? Talk to an academic rep

Academic Reps are the voice of students in faculties, departments and schools. Reps have the power to enact changes to education, individually based on their priorities and collectively, working with other representatives across the University. Their responsibilities include taking students’ ideas and concerns to faculty and department boards, relaying important information from those boards back to students, and organising with their peers to foster a subject community.