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Ed, third year, Natural Sciences, St. Catharine’s College

I originally applied to study the Chemical Engineering Tripos (CET) via Natural Sciences, which starts with the first year (Part IA) of the Natural Sciences Tripos (NST) in first year and switches to the CET from second year onwards. With this in mind, I chose to take Physics, Chemistry and Maths in first year, which I thought would be relevant for the CET and were subjects I had taken for my A-Levels. As Materials Science seemed to be the most related to these, I chose it as my fourth subject, which turned out to be the one I enjoyed the most. For me, it was the ideal balance between theory and application, and was the reason I chose to continue in the NST, instead of switching to the CET. 

In first year, the college plays a large role in helping students get settled in and at St Catharine’s, I found no shortage of different societies to join and people to meet from different year groups and different subjects. In terms of academics, the prospect of tutorials (supervisions) initially seemed daunting, but proved to be immensely useful when you ask questions about the topics you don’t understand - it’s far easier to clarify things then, rather than to struggle with it yourself.

In my second year, I chose Materials Science, Chemistry A and History and Philosophy of Science. The latter option was one which I had been considering taking because I wanted to try something different, both in terms of content and learning, as it involved weekly essays and reading. During my second year (Part IB), I was also one of the subject representatives for Part IB Materials Science, who help to collect and relay student feedback from each term’s courses to the Department’s Staff-Student Consultative Committee. The feedback is then used to further support the students through the teaching and labs. The Department also runs a summer placement programme (CaMPUS), which offers opportunities for Materials Science students to conduct research over the summer within the Department, at a European institution, or in industry. Through the CaMPUS scheme, I spent two months of my summer in Switzerland, at the Laboratory for Nanometallurgy at ETH Zürich, which was a fantastic opportunity to try research first-hand, as well as to travel and explore.

In third year (Part II), students choose to specialise in a single subject. For Part II Materials Science students, there is an alloy design project and also an elective course, which could be a language course, a Raspberry Pi project, or a science education placement. The Department itself feels like a close-knit community, especially with only 40 Part II students, and as one of the ‘social reps’ for the year, it also makes it easier to organise our social events. For me, the quality of teaching, support and range of opportunities offered by the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy have formed an integral part of my Cambridge experience and I look forward to starting my fourth year here.  

(Course-specific content correct at time of writing – April 2020)