What our students say
Current students and recent graduates share their experiences of studying Natural Sciences at the University of Exeter.
Exeter has allowed me to push myself to my limits, and my confidence in my own abilities has grown hugely since the start of my degree! It is fantastic to have such a focused and supportive group of people around you, and over the past couple of years, I have found that the encouragement of course mates is often just as helpful as the support from professors. I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to go to university to do it; I have loved my time here so far, the learning curve has been massive, and I have had opportunities that I doubt I could have found anywhere else!
My main reason for choosing the Exeter Natural Sciences course was the flexibility that it allows. By choosing modules from any area of science, you can build a degree based around your interests; this could mean keeping your options open and studying a broad range of modules, or narrowing down to a specific topic. The breadth of modules to choose between is fantastic, and from the second year onwards, very few Natural Scientists have the same timetable! As scientific research becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, scientists who can bridge the gap between different subjects are hugely important, and a degree in Natural Sciences reflects this perfectly.
I have also been fortunate enough to work as a paid intern in the university's Nano-photonics department over the summer, where I had the chance to contribute to cutting-edge research in a group of scientists ranging from interns to professors! The internship has been a fantastic opportunity for me to get a flavour of real research, my supervisor has been incredibly supportive, and the work has been tailored around me to suit my interests.
The positivity of the lecturers in relation to Natural Sciences and the potential progression at the university caused me to choose Exeter over other institutions. Some other universities seemed to view Natural Sciences as an inferior degree for indecisive people over a valid option to become an exceptional scientist or other professional.
In first year, you experience a range of styles of teaching; people tend to identify with and prefer the methods of some lecturers over others, but which lecturers tends to vary by student. Overall, the lecturers for Natural Sciences seem to genuinely want to teach us, and want to learn from us in the discussion that inevitably develops in lectures. It is not uncommon for your lecturers and other faculty to know you by name and be personally interested in your progress.
Don't worry about having not previously studied one or two of Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Most people are missing at least one subject and their progress doesn't seem to be influenced by their knowledge on entry.
I chose this course because the Natural Sciences programme at the University of Exeter is unique; it has an excellent range of module choices that really suited my interests. When I visited it also felt incredibly welcoming; there was a really nice student/staff community. It’s a friendly place to study and live. There is plenty of support from all the staff and other students which really helps you to get the best out of your programme and ability.
Upon graduation I will be undertaking an integrated Masters degree here at Exeter, to continue my Natural Science studies!
MSci Natural Sciences, 2018
I picked this university as it runs the best Natural Sciences course. I didn't want to limit myself to studying one science when I went to university, because in research you need knowledge from lots of different areas. You can still specialise later on, with the wide variety of modules to choose from.
The teaching varies from subject to subject, so for example in Mathematics there will be lectures and going through the theory and then workshops to help you practice, but in Biology instead of workshops there will be practical work in the labs. Generally, there is a mixture of group and independent learning, but we are all quite close on the course so even with independent work we can help each other out if there's something confusing. The lecturers are also really friendly and helpful if you ever have questions.
My advice to new students would be to manage your time well. Even though this is quite a demanding course in terms of contact hours, if you organise your time and get your work done, there's still plenty of time to partake in societies and other fun things!
I've done two summer internships with an insurance company now, so I'm hoping to apply for graduate schemes in financial services.
Natural Sciences spans the multitude of subjects, which has allowed me to understand a variety of concepts and also how all the sciences link together. My favourite thing about the programme is getting to study genetics - I love the idea of genetic engineering and altering and using trails elsewhere. It’s essentially programming but with life and I find that really exciting. Generally speaking, the Bioinformatics area of my programme really inspired me and made me realise that this was the area that I want to start a career in – I got a real hit of motivation!
Exeter is such a lovely place. It’s large enough to have a good variety, but not too big to be daunting. The campus is really beautiful and peaceful… and it’s very, very, very green!
The reason I picked the University of Exeter to study was because there are many options and pathways compared to the other universities that offer Natural Sciences as a degree. When you start your degree you cover a broad range of topics, and then in the later years once you have ‘tried’ everything, you can choose to specialise or keep your options open. Both of these choices are viable and well supported.
Throughout your studies you have constant support from inspiring staff who want you to do well. On top of interesting and useful lectures and lab work, you can set up one-to-one sessions with tutors and discuss topics in further detail. We also have access to high-quality resources and study spaces such as the new Living Systems Institute.
My advice to future students would be to learn how and when you learn best. Try to revise content throughout the year. Once I have graduated I want to continue my studies and transfer onto a Masters programme, and I also want to carry out some research that is relevant to my research interests.
To summarise, Exeter is a beautiful city with a brilliant nightlife and I have enjoyed every moment studying and living here.
BSc Natural Sciences, 2016
I am currently on the Risk, Conduct and Restructuring Graduate Scheme at RBS. My roles to date have been in Learning & Development, Business and Private Banking Conduct and Operational Risk Economic Capital.
How has your degree programme helped with your career?
Going from a science degree to banking is not an obvious choice but the skills I gained with NatSci are really transferable and I had lots of unusual/different things to talk about at the interview, such as working with the Met Office. My degree was also really varied and that’s definitely helped prepare me for the 3 completely different roles I’ve had over the last year.
What advice would you give to future students looking to study at the University of Exeter?
My advice would be to get involved in as much as you can. Not only will you meet more people and have lots of different experiences but also you will have so much more to talk about and set you apart when it comes to applying for jobs.
What was your favourite thing about studying at the University of Exeter?
I really enjoyed the flexibility in my degree and being in such a small cohort as we got to know each other and our lecturers really well. The campus is great and I made some amazing friends.
What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
I have been a member of and now lead the Graduate CSR Council who organise (amongst other events) the Anniversary Challenge where graduate teams have 24 hours to raise as much money as possible for charity. In 2017 we raised over £26,000 which is an incredible achievement.
Where do you aspire to be in 10 years’ time?
In leadership position with a role that’s interesting and has a real impact. Starting work has made me realise that you do not need to stick to one thing forever so where this will be I am not sure!
Before coming to Exeter I studied Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Business at A level. There were three main reasons I picked to study Natural Sciences here: Natural Sciences is a high quality course, the campus is incredible and Exeter is a really enjoyable city. My degree makes me passionate because I love science, the content is current and interesting and I know that I can achieve my ambition of studying for a PhD, then going into academia. I receive excellent career advice and support from the Career Zone, and the students and staff in Natural Sciences are great to work alongside.
Study abroad semester
Home university: ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Why did you pick the University of Exeter to complete your study abroad?
An older student warmly recommended Exeter because of its campus and its student life but also because of its good reputation in atmospheric and climate sciences. Never had regrets about my choice!
What was your favourite thing about studying and living here?
The people. From the beginning everybody was extremely open and happy to meet someone new. This made it incredibly easy to integrate! I joined the volleyball club in my second week and could play my first game for Exeter in the third. After that I spent most of my time with the “volley-family” – be it for lunch on campus, on a night out in town or just for a cup of tea at someone’s place.
What was the best thing that happened while studying here?
Hard to pin down only one thing. Probably it was at one point during the last week. After having said goodbye to most of the people I’ve met, I realized how close they grew to my heart.
How does it differ to your home university?
There are two major differences: the location and the teaching. In Exeter students are the dominant group. You also feel that if you’re not on campus. Large parts of the town are tailored to fit students' needs. This is different in Zurich where the financial sector dominates the inner city.
The other difference is the teaching style. At ETH you have more traditional teaching with exams where you need to reflect on what the Professor said during lectures. In Exeter you write assignments in the form of essays that force you to think for yourself. At ETH you learn more overall, while in Exeter you learn to think more independently; I guess the optimum lies somewhere in the middle.
What advice would you give students considering study abroad at Exeter?
Do it! Join a society or a sports club and enjoy the time in Exeter!
MSci Natural Sciences, 2017
I studied Mathematics, Geography, Biology and Chemistry before coming to Exeter, and studying Natural Sciences means that I can continue to study interdisciplinary sciences. There have been many opportunities for relevant experience both within the programme and also for internships and work placements. In the future I aspire to become a researcher!
The diverse types of lectures, ranging disciplines and the research prospects make me excited about my career. The university is a great place to study; you’ve got everything in once place, it’s easy to get around (you’ll get used to the hills!) and the facilities are brand new. I am gaining lots of relevant experience such as programming training, which means I am confident that I can go into a career into Biotechnology and Astrophysics, or not, as Natural Sciences will allow me to go into a range of careers.
If I could offer some wisdom it would be firstly: try things (there are lots of societies to choose from), secondly: you’ll be busy as it is a step up from A levels but don’t worry, it’s achievable, and thirdly: be prepared for a lot of walking.
Before studying here, I studied Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Latin. I picked this university because of the innovative outlook in Natural Sciences, the cohesive unit of the degree and also the option to study a semester abroad. It is great being able to study many different subjects, and also getting to meet loads of different people across the subject areas. In your second year, depending on your choice you get integrated into different disciplines which is really cool. In addition to all of this, living in Exeter means you have access to multiple beaches and you can go down to the quayside really quickly.
The lines between sciences are becoming increasingly blurred, and we are now turning to interdisciplinary approaches and solutions, particularly in healthcare which I find very exciting. This shift in practice inspired me to undertake a degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Exeter. The programme showed great promise for both extensive practical and varied theoretical background.
Studying at Exeter is interpersonal and it has a chilled vibe to it. There is a great selection of clubs and societies – there is something for everyone! Staff are always available for support or on hand if you have any questions. There are also plenty of opportunities go out there, practice and experience what you want to end up doing as a career. If you choose an area you are passionate about you’ll be surprised how easy studying can be, even when it’s challenging! In the future I aspire to become a researcher in Biophysics.
What has been the highlight of your time at Exeter?
A highlight of my time at Exeter has been the opportunity to try out new things, both academically and socially.
What did you enjoy about your particular programme?
The reason I picked Natural Sciences at Exeter was the unique way in which the course is taught. Exeter offered me the opportunity to study both physical and biological sciences, which is otherwise rare. The research-driven approach to my degree has made my masters project feel valuable, rather than just a series of assessments. Natural Sciences was also great for promoting a communal feel, and with exceptionally supportive staff, both enhanced my experience.
What advice would you give to current and future students?
Make sure to pick a course you enjoy as it requires a lot of dedication and motivation to do well. Getting involved in activities is important to provide a relief from your work life, but it is also important to balance this with working hard, especially in the first years to provide that safety net for the final years.
What are your plans now that you have graduated?
I am going to undertake a PhD at the College of Doctoral Training in Medical Imaging at King’s College London, specifically looking at improving dementia diagnostics.
BSc Natural Sciences, 2018
What will you miss the most about University?
I will miss living close to campus and being surrounded by so many people of a similar age because it meant there was always something to do. The convenience of having friends, the town centre, lectures, the gym and the library within a 15-minute walk made life much easier.
What did you enjoy about your particular programme?
I enjoyed the flexibility that studying Natural Sciences gave me; I could pick modules from a range of different disciplines, which allowed me to tailor the degree to my interests. I also liked that the cohort was smaller than other subjects because it meant that I could build good relationships with a lot of other students and staff, meaning that there was always someone there to offer support if I had any concerns.
What advice would you give to current and future students?
During my time at Exeter I tried to enjoy all aspects of university life. At quieter times I made sure I kept on top of work but also got involved in the social and sporting side of university. During busier periods, when I had upcoming deadlines or exams, I would focus on studying. This allowed me to make the most of my time at Exeter, both academically and socially.
What are your plans now that you have graduated?
I’m going to work and save so that I can travel from January; I plan to go to Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. In September 2019 I will be starting on Deloitte’s 2-year graduate programme.
Natural Sciences Society
Our close-knit society aims to support you as much as possible in your academic work across all years. We run buddy schemes, career talks and open advice platforms via our Facebook group.
Outside of academics, regular socials, including nights out and formal dinners, give you a chance to get to know your coursemates, and perhaps even your lecturers, that little bit better!