Student Stories

A good way to understand Natural Sciences is to find out about some of the unique combinations of science subjects that our students have chosen.

Charlotte

MSci Hons Natural Sciences

Having the combined knowledge from studying three different subjects on the Natural Sciences degree programme at Lancaster has given Charlotte the edge over other students when applying for PhDs.

Charlotte chose to study Natural Sciences at Lancaster because of the open nature of the course. “The idea of being able to study a variety of subjects throughout my first year was appealing and gave the opportunity to explore my interests further, before narrowing down my academic pursuits.”

Open course

Charlotte has been very well supported during her time at Lancaster. She tells us: “I was able to get help both from the individual departments I was studying with and Natural Sciences as a whole.”

Throughout her degree, Charlotte has favoured Chemistry, in particular, inorganic and coordination chemistry. However, her PhD offer combines not only organic, inorganic and polymeric chemistry but biology as well. “This degree has given me an advantage over straight chemists as I have more practical knowledge of biology.”

Amazing facilities

Charlotte has been impressed with the facilities in both the chemistry and biology labs, in particular, the synthetic labs for organic and inorganic chemistry. “I enjoyed learning how to use the spectroscopic machines, such as the NMR machines.”

A future in academic research

Charlotte was inspired to look into research as a career after receiving a bursary from the Royal Society of Chemistry to study in the chemistry research labs for seven weeks, during the summer of her second year. “This experience opened my eyes to the possibility of research, and caused me to pursue it as a career.” Charlotte also believes the Masters project, in particular, has helped her prepare for this, adding: “I enjoyed the independent research and having the opportunity to work on my own.”

For anyone interested in studying natural sciences, Charlotte is keen to advise students to “have fun with their choices in the first year, take subjects that sound interesting and enjoy it. You often find yourself enjoying areas of science you never thought you would.”

“I have loved my time at Lancaster because it has the uncanny ability to become home.”

Jake

MSci Hons Natural Sciences

Being unsure about what to do, the flexibility of the Lancaster Natural Sciences degree has allowed Jake to finally find his passion for physics - which has led him to study it as a single subject in his final year.

Jake chose to study Natural Sciences at Lancaster as, compared to other universities, the course was by far the most flexible. “This degree appealed to me as I was not originally sure what I wanted to specialise in before I had experienced all three subjects at a university level. Natural Sciences at Lancaster allowed me to effectively pick and change (multiple times throughout my course) which modules I was most interested in,” he says.

During his degree, Jake has also greatly appreciated the help and support he has received from the approachable and friendly staff. “My departments operate an open-door policy, so if the lecturer is in their office and you have a problem, they are more than happy to help.”

Developing important skills

Jake is grateful for the skills that he has gained during his degree, which he feels will be invaluable for his future career. “Astrophysics and Cosmology are definitely my favourite topics; learning about how the universe works from the smallest to the largest scales is not only existentially interesting, but also brings together and applies many other areas of mathematics and physics, from linear algebra and quantum mechanics, to tensor calculus and general relativity,” he comments. “Studying these topics has developed my numeracy and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to apply appropriate independent techniques to the bigger picture and communicate complex concepts effectively, all of which are key transferable skills in many careers.”y

Excellent facilities

Jake is also impressed with the facilities that have been available to him at Lancaster. He says: “The main facilities that I use on a regular basis on campus are the many computer labs. Their large number and variation are great as it means that I can always find a computer or loan a laptop on campus and mix up where I study, which keeps my environments fresh, something that I find helps my focus and learning.”

For Jake, Lancaster is an ever-developing university, constantly adapting to modern demand. “The environment strikes the perfect balance between high academic attainment and a relaxed atmosphere,” he says. “The facilities, such as the new library and Engineering building, are fantastic and constantly modernising and improving.”

Career opportunities

Time spent at Lancaster has encouraged Jake to broaden his career options and to look at teaching as a career. “This year, after graduating, I am going into teaching. Studying at Lancaster has not only given me the key transferable skills outlined above but has also given me the opportunity to volunteer and work in schools and with young people via a variety of optional placements as part of my degree, as well as part-time work opportunities.”

Jake has also made the most of the opportunities to enhance his career prospects, saying: “Through the Maths Department, I was able to take a linked pair of modules named Mathematical Education - which explored the theory behind teaching and learning - and Placement, which I undertook in a local primary school. The placement allowed me to set the theory I had learnt into context, and apply and refine teaching techniques that I had learnt in seminars in the field, as it were.” He also adds: “This was a fantastic experience and not only furthered my confidence in the classroom but also cemented my passion for teaching, picking up numerous tips of the trade from experienced teacher mentors along the way.”

Important advice

For students looking to study natural sciences, Jake advises them not to be scared of academics and to use the help provided. “In my experience, the academics are passionate about teaching and are there to help, not catch you out.”

Jake is also very complimentary about his time spent at Lancaster and leaves with no regrets. “I firmly believe that Lancaster has the best of both worlds; it is a high achieving academic institution, but also places equal emphasis on the social and personal development side of student life too.

“I have loved my time at Lancaster because it has offered me a seemingly endless variety of opportunities, from participating in cutting-edge academic research, to meeting and working with people from a myriad of backgrounds and disciplines across social, voluntary and part-time work settings. I will definitely miss Lancaster!”

Pete

MSci Hons Natural Sciences

Pete chose Lancaster as it offered a degree with flexibility, which he didn’t see in other universities, with the opportunity to put together a truly unique programme of study to suit his interests.

Pete was very impressed with the campus and the friendliness of the staff. He says, “I didn’t get to see the campus until the Applicant Visit Day, but I fell in love with it as soon as I arrived. All the departmental staff are incredibly friendly and the whole affair was so much more relaxed than other universities’ more corporate approach.”

Of the support offered at Lancaster, Pete is very complimentary. “There’s lots of help available in the Natural Sciences office, as well as an academic advisor in each of the major science departments.”

Flexible delivery

Pete has benefited from the flexible style of the degree, which has allowed him to change his focus. “Through physics, I got particularly interested in computer modelling – even though when I was applying to university I expected to take a more theoretical/mathematical approach. I’m beginning a PhD in Astrobiology, which will combine some of the physics and chemistry I’ve studied, as well as introducing biology to the mix!” Pete believes that being able to study multiple subjects at undergraduate level has given him a solid foundation as he continues his career.

Fantastic opportunity

During his degree, Pete took advantage of the Study Aboard year. “I spent my second year abroad in the USA, before transferring onto the MSci. It was a fantastic opportunity to explore another country and to take some different courses. The experience introduced me to teaching and research techniques used across the pond, which I’m hoping to be able to apply moving forward.”

Pete’s advice for new applicants is to enjoy the flexibility a Lancaster degree offers. “You can pursue so many things through Natural Sciences, so experiment! If there’s a subject you’re unsure of, take it as one of your three choices in the first year and see where it takes you. I originally saw myself heading down a physics and maths route and took chemistry on a whim. I’ve ended up following it through to my final year.”

Pete will miss his time at Lancaster as “it is perfectly placed near to the bustle of big cities, the freedom of the seaside, and the peace of the Lake District - all within an hour’s drive! There’s everything you could possibly need – both academically and otherwise, and all the departmental staff are incredibly friendly!”

Sam

MSci Hons Natural Sciences

After looking at other universities, it was the flexibility of Lancaster’s Natural Sciences programme and the Study Abroad options that stood out when compared to others and made Sam choose Lancaster.

Sam enjoyed how friendly and welcoming the atmosphere was at Lancaster, saying: “It was both laid-back yet hard-working.” He also liked the fact it was a “modern campus in a beautiful area."

Degree flexibility

Sam made use of the flexible opportunities the degree provides, to tailor his own programme, especially as he’d enjoyed studying Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths at secondary school, and wanted to continue with a combination for his degree. “The Lancaster Natural Sciences programme offered the flexibility and ability to customise and tailor my degree that I desired.”

World exploration

Looking to study abroad, Sam was keen to “explore a different country and immerse myself in its culture.” As Sam had not been fortunate enough to travel much before coming to the university, he jumped at the chance to spend 10 months abroad. “I was very lucky to have been placed at the University of Boulder, Colorado. There were too many highlights to write about – but memorable events were hiking trips to Arches National Park and up 14,000ft mountains in the Rockies; a road trip to Yellowstone; learning to snowboard; waking up to sun or snow nearly every day; and going on a month-long tour of cities across the country, to name but a few.”

Great career opportunities

Through studying such an interdisciplinary degree as Natural Sciences, San believes that this has enabled him to develop a broad scientific knowledge and skill set, which he can apply in a diverse range of roles. He has also found Lancaster’s connections with local businesses, such as EDF, have helped him find employment post-graduation. “After completing my degree I will be starting a 12-month placement within the Chemistry team at EDF Energy’s nuclear power station at Heysham.”

For any students looking to apply for natural sciences, Sam advises to pick the subjects you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to ‘evolve’. “I took Biology, Chemistry and Maths in the first year, but shifted towards Environmental Science, Environmental Chemistry and Biology over the subsequent years.”

Lucy

MSci Hons Natural Sciences (Study Abroad) 

Studying Natural Sciences allowed Lucy to continue studying all the subjects she loved at A level while still specialising and learning in a world-class environment.

Lucy looked at a number of other natural sciences degrees, but it was Lancaster's that stood out for its flexibility. She says of the other degrees, “They would allow certain combinations or demanded you drop subjects at a certain time. After making the journey for an Open Day I knew Lancaster was right for me. I can't explain it, it just felt right!”

Excellent support

Lucy is very impressed with the support she has received at Lancaster from both the individual departments and Natural Sciences. “Through support from the Science and Technology Faculty, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I now receive extra support and funding. I also have academic advisors in each department who make sure you make all the right choices during your studies.”

Superb range of modules

Lucy has enjoyed the flexibility of choosing modules from an impressive range. She tells us:  “Lancaster is brilliant for providing lots of different types of modules and ways to study. Knowing I did well in my labs, I took as many as I could, including Experimental Principles of Particle Detection.” She has also been impressed at having the opportunity to work alongside active researchers from organisations such as CERN and Fermi Labs. She says, “This has confirmed that I would like a career in particle research.”

Internship and Study Abroad opportunities

Of work placement opportunities, Lucy has nothing but praise for the University, saying: “The departments at Lancaster are brilliant for updating you about work opportunities and internships. I’ve worked with young people on a number of internships, including maths skills with Lancaster University's Student Union (LUSU); a company called Mad Science, where I presented science demonstrations; and Teach First, where I shadowed teachers and delivered my own lesson.” She also adds: “I'm currently participating in an internship called Teach Physics, run by the Ogden Trust. This is another opportunity to develop my skills, to work with people from different backgrounds, to help me be more prepared for the world of work, as well as finding out if I want to pursue a career in teaching.”

Lucy has also taken advantage of the Study Abroad programme and is excited about her placement in the US next year. “I can’t wait to experience a new culture, which could help my confidence in the working environment but also experience new ways of studying.”

Lucy’s advice for students is, “You get out what you put in at Lancaster!” She advises taking all the opportunities that Lancaster offers as “I can’t imagine being offered such a range elsewhere. Research these when looking at different universities and you will see just how flexible Lancaster's Natural Science programme is!”

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