Ruth interviews Kate from Caius about studying bio-natsci at Cambridge:
Q. So the usual, what’s your name, what college are you at, and what are you studying?
A. My name’s Kate Bramall, I’m at Caius, and I’m studying biological natural sciences.
Q. How different is it to a-level? Did it take much time, was it difficult to adjust?
A. I found that the jump from A-level was not necessarily in content, which obviously does get harder and more complex, but in the way learning occurs. It is up to you to attend the lectures and make sure you understand it and ask the questions in the supervisions which it took me a while to do. If you enjoy science at A-level, its better at university with more interesting and in-depth topics and you will find it easy to motivate yourself. There was a lot of A-level biology I didn’t enjoy, but as you can pick your own modules, I was able to do the parts I enjoyed. I also found that as we do four modules in our first year, it was similar to doing four A-levels in workload and I was able to organise my time similarly.
Q. Do you have a balance between work and extra curricular stuff?
A. I think I have a pretty good balance between academic and extra-curricular and I think it is important to have one. I definitely could not cope with working all the time. I am a member of the university trampolining and gymnastics clubs and not only is it an escape from work, but it is a really good social outlet as well. When you do go out, most people will be out as well as the best club nights are only on a few nights of the week, which means you see a lot of your friends and can have a great night.
Q. What are the class, or lab, or supervision sizes like?
A. The lecture sizes get smaller as you move from 1st year to 2nd year. It really depends on which options you take, so last year we had a small evolution and behaviour lecture of about 100, but a chemistry class of 400. This year is the same and since some modules are shared with medics or the social and political scientists, it is really variable. The practical sizes
are small enough so that you have enough space and assistance when needed but they can still fill a lab. Supervision sizes are very small with a maximum of 4 people.
Q. What are the facilities like at Cambridge? Easily available books/labs?
A. The facilities are excellent with well-equipped labs and all the latest technology. The college library is really good for books (although extra reading is not as vital as in arts subjects) and if the book isn’t in the college library each department has its own library which you can rent from in your second year.
Q. What about the supervisors/lecturers? Any famous ones?
A. Supervisors can be PhD students to director of studies. Most are really friendly and approachable, although some can be stricter than others. The lecturers tend to be heads of laboratories and departments. It can be quite strange when the
accompanying reading material to a lecture series is written by the lecturer himself. My experimental psychology supervisor discovered an illusion called the Mollon- Polden effect which is amazing and we were lectured by Sasha Baron-Cohen’s cousin, also a leading expert in his field!