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Louise Connell - Natural Sciences (Physical)

Louise Connell

Louise joined St John's in 2006 having studied A-level chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics at Headington School, Oxford. She read Natural Sciences, specialising in Materials Science in her fourth year, graduating with a first class MSci in 2010. Louise is now pursuing a PhD in Biomaterials at Imperial College London.

'When I was looking around Cambridge trying to decide which college to apply to I fell instantly in love with St John's the moment I walked through the front gate. I really felt at home in the beautiful courts and cloisters and along with the fantastic grounds, including many sports facilities and the very central location, I knew that this was where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life.

The Natural Sciences tripos was the perfect course for me because while I knew that I was passionate about science, I couldn't decide which subject to specialise in. In my first year, I was able to read a broad variety of subjects covering cell biology, chemistry, materials science and mathematics with many more to choose from. I originally chose materials science as a bit of a wild card having not come across the subject at school and it was the best decision I ever made. In second year I specialised in chemistry, materials and minerals, with my third year dedicated to materials science. Materials science combines chemistry, physics and engineering to cover fundamental topics such as the origin of materials’ properties, materials’ synthesis and processing. The course then moved on to more advanced topics such as superalloys for jet engines, biomaterials, carbon nanotubes, super bright LEDs, and much more. Choosing materials science gave me the option of taking a fourth year and graduating with an MSci. A considerable part of the course is dedicated to carring out an individual research project within the world renowned materials department. I chose to carry my project out under the guidance of Prof Serena Best, a fellow at St John's, looking into composites that are able to regenerate bone.

The Natural Sciences course is intensive, with two or three hours of lectures each day, plus 12 hours of labs a week and weekly supervisions on each paper you take, but it is engaging, stimulating and inspiring. Supervisions are an hour each week with another student and an academic from your college, often the World expert in your field, where you have the opportunity to work through problem questions or essays set the previous week and for you to explore your subject in more depth, testing your understanding. These supervisions are what set Cambridge apart from other universities and they provide you with invaluable problem solving and communication skills. St John’s has a really fantastic network of supervisors in Natural Sciences and I can honestly say that their guidance has been instrumental in my success and has inspired me to push myself further than I thought possible.

As one of the oldest and largest colleges in Cambridge, St John’s is able to provide considerable financial support. Grants are available to undertake research projects during the vacations and to buy the textbooks you will need for the course. The College Nurse, Maggie, was always available to provide health advice or for a friendly chat over tea and my tutor, Miss Tomaselli, provided me with the pastoral support and guidance I needed. I also had a Director of Studies who followed my academic progress, giving advice when choosing subjects, and arranging my supervisors for each paper.

Aside from the academic life at St John’s, I found time to join a number of societies including the College and University boat clubs, earning a Blue. The people I met in my short time at St John’s are like a family and I have met some amazing people that I hope will remain my life-long friends.'

- Louise Connell, 2013

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