Natural Sciences

Biological and Physical

Number of students per year: 25 - 35

Typical offer: A*A*A at A-level or 7 7 6 (42+ overall) in the IB or the equivalent.

Essential subjects: A-level/IB Higher Level or equivalent in at least two of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. If available, Further Mathematics is desirable for Physical Natural Sciences.

Natural Sciences at Clare

The Natural Sciences (NST) course acts as a wide-ranging introduction to the majority of courses integrating biology, chemistry and physics taught at Cambridge. In principle, those applying are asked to nominate Biological NST (NSTB) or Physical (NSTP) preferences. In practice, the breadth of choice allows you to sample subjects and become inspired by interdisciplinary areas, such as materials, earth sciences or evolution and behaviour.

Many Clare Fellows contribute by lecturing on these courses, as well as providing support to the Clare cohort as Directors of Studies, Supervisors and through other College activities and engagements.

In the first year, you choose any three courses from Biology of Cells, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Evolution and Behaviour, Materials Science, Physics and Physiology of Organisms. In addition, everybody does a mathematics course. People who choose two or three biological options are usually assigned to Natural Sciences (Biological). Second and subsequent year courses offer an unparalleled combination of subjects and progressive specialisation. Some new subjects are introduced in the second year, including experimental psychology and the history and philosophy of science.

Amongst the biological sciences, Fellows of Clare represent molecular biology, biochemistry, chemistry, ecology, oncology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, plant sciences and zoology. The biological sciences IA Director of Studies at Clare, Dr Andrew Carter, captures this integrative biology with his work on molecular motors (see below).

In the physical sciences, Clare has Fellows in Physics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry, Materials, Astrophysics and Chemical Engineering, with interests ranging from sustainable energy to life on other planets. The IA Director of Studies, Professor Cathie Clarke, is an award-winning expert on astrophysical fluid dynamics.

At Clare College, the Whiston Society organises events for natural scientists, and we maintain our association with Sir David Attenborough. We also organise summer placement schemes which help complement the lecture courses. Taught practical components make up a major part of each year and will ensure you are exposed to the latest theoretical and practical insights in your field.

Key People

Overall Directors of Studies

Information about all Natural Sciences Teaching Fellows can be found here


Dr Andrew Carter

Director of Studies ( Biological: Part IA)

I became interested in structural biology as an undergraduate at the University of Oxford. This led me to start a PhD in 1999 with Venki Ramakrishnan at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

I worked as part of the team that determined the X-ray crystal structure of the small (30S) ribosomal subunit. In addition I solved structures of the ribosome bound to antibiotics and the protein initiation factor IF1. After my PhD I spent an extra year in Cambridge as a junior research fellow at Clare College, before moving in 2003 to Ron Vale’s lab at the University of California where I started working on dynein. Together with Sam Reck Peterson I used S.cerevisiae to express a recombinant dynein motor for biophysical studies. I collaborated with the group of Ian Gibbons to solve the structure of dynein’s microtubule binding domain (2008) and together with Carol Cho produced the first crystal structure of the dynein motor domain (2010).

In 2008 I accepted a group leader position back at the MRC-LMB which I started in August 2010. My group intially focused on crystallography of the dynein motor domain, solving high resolution structures which revealed how ATP hydrolysis drives movement.  We subsequently moved to asking how dynein works together with its cofactor dynactin to transport cargos, taking advantage of advances in cryoEM technology.