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Undergraduate Study


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Years 3 and 4 (Parts II and III)

Students can retain a broad study of science, though most pursue a single subject to a depth matching that of single science degrees elsewhere.

In Parts II and III, lecturers are actively researching the topics being covered and many are world leaders in their field. Practical work is open-ended and most students carry out a significant research project which is assessed as part of the final examination.

Specialising in Part II is appropriate for continuation to a fourth year (Part III) and progression to Part III is dependent on a satisfactory level of performance.

Some Part II subjects have a competitive entry due to limited space.

Choose to study a broad curriculum:

Or pursue a specialism:

1 These subjects offer a fourth year/Part III option, leading to an MSci degree.

A broad curriculum

Biological and Biomedical Sciences

  • Maintain a breadth of study by taking a major subject in a biological option and a minor subject from options in biology, biological anthropology,¬†sociology and the history and philosophy of science.
  • A dissertation replaces the practical laboratory-based research project.

Physical Sciences

  • This option allows you to continue your studies in a chosen discipline together with another subject.
  • You essentially take half of one of Part II Chemistry, Earth Sciences or Physics, alongside a further Part IB subject and write a dissertation.

Pursue a specialism


  • Part II Astrophysics introduces a range of contemporary astrophysics topics, such as relativity theory, physical cosmology and stellar dynamics.
  • Part III students choose from options offered in Part III of the Mathematics course and by the Department of Physics, and undertake a substantial project.


  • Part II Biochemistry covers macromolecule structure and function, gene expression, and molecular cell structure and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms, and includes a practical project.
  • Part III features a two-term research project carried out alongside a research team directed by a leading scientist, and discussion of advanced topical papers.


  • Part II Chemistry offers various options in which to specialise, ranging from synthetic organic chemistry to atmospheric science, and from theoretical chemistry to chemical biology.
  • In Part III, you join a research group in the Department and work on your own project for two terms.

Earth Sciences

  • Some specialisation is possible within tectonics and geophysics, petrology, climate science and surface processes, palaeobiology and mineral sciences.
  • Part II features an independent mapping project and a field course in Greece (both compulsory trips).
  • Part III involves a major research project and a compulsory field course in Spain.


  • Part II Genetics covers how genetic information is passed from generation to generation, how genes work and control organism development and behaviour, and processes that give rise to genetic change.
  • More informal sessions explore the social aspects, and implications, of genetic knowledge.

History and Philosophy of Science

  • Part II offers a broad range of papers concerning the historical development of science, medicine and technology, the methods of scientific enquiry and the social and political dimensions of scientific knowledge.
  • Part III students have the opportunity to carry out focused research on the topics that interest them.

Materials Science

  • Part II builds on the topics covered in previous years, advancing your understanding of the links between the processing, structure and properties of materials such as modern alloys, composites and devices.
  • Part III features a range of optional modules and concentrates on recent developments, modern experimental techniques and cutting-edge research.
  • Part III students carry out an in-depth research project in one of the department's research groups.


  • Pathology combines numerous biological disciplines and in Part II you choose two from: Cancer and Genetic Diseases, Dynamics of Infectious Diseases, Immunology, Microbiology and Parasitology, and Virology.
  • An important element of the course is a project in which you join a research group.


  • Part II Pharmacology covers contemporary topics taken to the level of current research.
  • Subjects covered include intracellular messengers, ion channels and transporters, anti-cancer drugs, strategies for drug discovery, and the control of neurodegenerative disease.
  • A research project enables you to join an active research group.


  • Part II encompasses the core areas of electrodynamics, relativity, advanced quantum theory and statistical physics.
  • Part III options include astrophysics, particle physics, and soft matter and biological physics.
  • You also undertake a substantial project within a research group.

Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN)

  • Physiology, Development and Neuroscience are broad but interlinked subjects.
  • In Part II, you focus on Development and Reproductive Biology, Integrative Physiology or Neuroscience, or combine topics from all three.
  • You take part in cutting-edge research during a two-term research project.

Plant Sciences

  • Plants are increasingly the focus of key global issues: maintaining food, fuel and biodiversity despite climate change.
  • You specialise in areas of your choice. Lecture modules include workshops and discussion groups, and you conduct a research project embedded within one of our labs.
  • It is possible to focus on Ecology in Year 3. You will choose four modules and conduct a research project to address the challenges we face in understanding and guarding our natural environment.


  • Part II Psychology enables you to pursue interests within biological, comparative and evolutionary psychology or human psychology.
  • You choose from various options and work with leading scientists on an original research project.

Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour

  • This option covers developmental neurobiology, molecular neurobiology, sensory transduction, central mechanisms of sensation and behaviour, neural circuits, control of action, memory and higher functions, and neural degeneration and regeneration.
  • Technical workshops and an experimental research project of your choice provide practical training.

Systems Biology (Part III only)

  • Systems Biology determines how parts interact to make a working organism, using computer models to describe the interaction networks and predict their performance.
  • The option comprises lectures, computer-based practicals, seminars and a research project working alongside leaders in the field.
  • You will need to have studied Mathematics or Mathematical Biology at IA or Mathematics at IB to take Systems Biology at Part III.


  • Zoology encompasses cell and developmental biology, behaviour and behavioural ecology, molecular approaches to evolution, palaeontology, population biology and conservation science.
  • You choose options from these areas and some other Part II subjects and carry out research projects, working with leading scientists in these fields.
  • It is possible to focus on Ecology in Year 3. You will choose four modules and conduct a research project to address the challenges we face in understanding and guarding our natural environment.

Further information about the options and teaching and assessment methods can be found at:

Return to the Natural Sciences course overview