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Nikolaus Krall - Natural Sciences (Physical)

Nikolaus is from Vienna, Austria. He studied Natural Sciences at St John's from 2006 to 2010 graduating with a 1st Class MSc in Chemistry. In summer 2008 he took part in an exchange program with California Institute of Technology, USA. Besides his curricular commitments, Nikolaus found time to row for Lady Margaret Boat Club and was an active member of Cambridge University Yacht Club. He is currently studying for a PhD at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

As strange as it may sound, my application to Cambridge sort of happened by accident. Throughout my late high school years I was convinced that I would apply to ETH Zurich to study Engineering or Physics but things obviously did not work out as planned.

I got hold of a Cambridge Undergraduate Prospectus and what I read made me very excited. I decided to apply but to which college? Of all the Colleges I contacted, St John's was the quickest and most helpful to reply. I was impressed.

The interview turned out to be friendly and challenging in a very good way. Continental high school curricula can differ significantly from what is taught in A-Level courses. My Chemistry course, for example, had covered far less material than my British peers. I tried to answer as well as I could by using logical thinking and asking questions. In the end, I think that is what counts!

Only when I joined St John’s in autumn 2006 did I fully realise that I had made an excellent choice. St John's is a large College so you will almost certainly find people with matching interests. There is also lots of support from tutors, supervisors and college personnel. When I wanted to study, I hid in the well-equipped library. I worked very hard but also had a great time.

During the first two years I rowed for LMBC (Lady Margaret Boat Club). After my second year the College gave me the chance to participate in an exchange with Caltech (California Institute of Technology) - only very few colleges offer this opportunity. In my third and fourth year I started sailing with Cambridge University Yacht Club. Although some of my supervisors seemed to be worried at times that I might get lost on the seas, it worked out extremely well and I even managed to pass my Yacht Master Offshore Skipper's exam at the end of my degree. I spent most of the fourth year in the Department of Chemistry working for my Part III project and studying for the final year exams. The hard work paid off in the end and I achieved a 1st class degree, as well as two prizes from the department and one from College.

At the moment I am pursuing PhD studies at ETH Zurich, which is also a great place to study science. The intense but deeply satisfying lifestyle I had experienced at St John's, however, has so far been unmatched. I found a lot of great friends there, learned a lot and will always remember those years as some of the best of my life.

Nikolaus Krall, May 2013