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Biological Sciences - Jana Riederer

I’ve always been enthusiastic about Sciences in general and Biology in particular, but my time in Cambridge has certainly allowed me to confirm that studying Natural Sciences was the right decision.

The Natural Science syllabus presents an ideal combination of providing a broad basis and encouraging specialisation. The first year starts with a very wide range of exciting subjects, giving you the opportunity to explore topics of interest and to discover your passions. There is a lot of flexibility, allowing you to try subjects that you might not be familiar with, and getting a taste of a huge variety of what science has to offer. For example, some of my friends combined subjects as seemingly far apart as “Evolution and Behaviour” and “Physics”.

The syllabus for the second and third year are increasingly specialised, focusing on a depth of knowledge in relatively few subjects and giving you more and more control over the direction in which your course is heading.

One of the best aspects of studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge is certainly the high level teaching. The lecturers and supervisors are inspiring and enthusiastic about their subject, and it is thrilling to get some insight into the forefront of exciting research.

My favourite experience were the supervisions. They allow you to consolidate and broaden your knowledge from the lectures and independent reading, exploring the most exciting topics in more depth. Supervisions are a wonderful mixture of various learning methods, ranging from teaching to usually very lively discussions, which I found highly stimulating and inspiring. Finally, supervisions are also the perfect opportunity to ask questions, encouraging you to really engage in a topic, making them the perfect learning experience.

In addition to lectures and supervisions, the course also includes practical work, ranging from regular laboratory work to various exciting fieldtrips which are offered throughout the course.

St. John’s is a fantastic place to study Natural Sciences. The college is great at organising supervisions, they provide a lot of exam preparation, and the library is well-stocked.

Furthermore, St. John’s has a great Science community. The students from higher years are always happy to offer advice, and especially your college parents – at least one of whom will be a NatSci – are a never-ending source of support. Since the college has a large number of NatScis, there will likely be other students interested in the same questions or specialising in the same areas, which can lead to very stimulating discussions. On the other hand, there are also a lot of students who are interested in other areas, encouraging interdisciplinary discussions which will broaden your horizon. During exam time, there are usually a lot of people using the library, and a wonderful little community develops: study groups form, students from higher years give improvised emergency supervisions and somehow, you end up having a calculus-and-juggling revision session at 3am…

Finally, the college has its own science society, the Larmor society. They organise weekly science talks by a variety of amazing speakers, which I found extremely interesting. They also provide a platform for science students of all years to exchange, which allows younger students to get plenty of advice on subject choice, exam preparation, summer internships, career decisions, etc.

Overall, I immensely enjoy studying Natural Sciences at St. John’s. I’ve spent a fantastic two years here so far, and I already know that when I leave at the end of this academic year, I will miss St. John’s very much. For me, St. John’s has become an inspiring place to study as well as a home, and I will never forget my wonderful time here!