Day in the life of a Natural Scientist

9am – morning lecture

I’ll try and be as honest as I can here. As a natural scientist student, you’ll get used to early mornings!! Studying multiple subjects means that your timetable is always pretty busy, so lie-ins are few and far between.

A 9am lecture over in chemistry starts the day. We share all our lectures with single-subject students (except for a few first year mathematics lectures). This means there’s plenty of opportunities to make friends other than the NatSci cohort. However, as a course, we do tend to congregate in a group within the lecture theatre. The small size of the course means that you will end up knowing everyone really well. Plus, sitting near each other also ensures you remember to go to your lectures held in other subject’s departments!

10am – workshop

Straight after the lecture, there’s a workshop over in the biology building (right on the other side of the campus). Natural Sciences at York also provides a sort of “gym” service free of charge. You’ll be walking/half running between different departments all over Campus West most days (you learn all the shortcuts quite quickly!).

Workshops are normally held just after the end of a lecture course. They help check your understanding of the content. Beforehand, a few questions are posted on the VLE (virtual learning environment) to complete. Then, on the day, everyone is given a sheet of questions to work through. Again, within every workshop is a small conglomeration of Natural Scientists- we all sit and work through the questions together. This is one area where studying multiple subjects certainly is an advantage. For example: in chemistry modules this year, we’ve studied thermodynamics, where those who also study physics and/or maths help those who don’t.

Noon – lunch

The Natural Sciences common room is usually the place for studying/relaxing between lectures, and more importantly at this moment in time- lunch. Although lectures may be finished for the day, a fair number of people tend to stay in the common room (or computer room next door) and use the time to complete assignments. Essays are normally a rare occurrence for science students. But they become fairly common-place for those studying neuroscience or archaeology. Whereas physics students are often seen completing practise questions that are set most weeks.

As a chemical natural scientist, my assessments usually revolve around laboratory experiments. Pre-labs are online exercises and calculations that prepare you for any new techniques or equipment that you may use. Many of us will work through these together a few days beforehand. This way we can familiarise ourselves with any procedure that we will have to undertake in labs. Similar exercises are also common before physics and biology practicals.

Afternoon – NatSci room

Some of the great friends on my course who always “support” me

The common room is the hub of student life for natural sciences at York. From day-long (or late night) revision sessions around exam time, to just a place to go to see friends on different pathways between lectures. You will spend a great deal of your time here.

The room is always at its most lively on Thursdays at 5pm for Natural Sciences hour. This is the one timetabled event that all students within the course (and over multiple years) share. So naturally, it becomes an ideal event to catch up with friends over a slice of pizza. Each week, a guest speaker (either academic or from industry) is invited to talk about their field of expertise. These talks are always really interesting and are always completely different every week.

Within the last term, we’ve had a visit from an editor at the Lancet medical journal talk to us about scientific writing and publishing. Plus, a visit from the legendary Sir John Holman (ex-head of the Royal Society of Chemistry, past governmental science advisor and a former University of York lecturer) who spoke about the bridge between science and policy making. After a few minutes after the Q & A, the pizza arrives!! A few slices of free pizza is a great incentive for any university student, and so attendance at these weekly meeting is usually pretty high.

Evening – societies

Thursday nights are a common night for socials. So straight from NatSci hour, I head off to Courtyard (one of the Students’ Union bars on Campus West). I meet up with the surfing society (yes, York the landlocked city has a surf society, believe it or not). Joining societies at university is so important. Whether it’s a sport you’ve done since you could walk or a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try, you will make some of your best friends and have some of your most memorable moments because of them.

Joining societies leads to incredible opportunities – like surfing in Morocco

I am currently part of YUSurf (the surf society), the gymnastics club and Natural Sciences society here at York. Most people attend one or two “co-curricular” societies as well as their academic society for their course.

The rest of my time (when not studying, or attending society events) is taken up by my part-time job. The general level of work and time required for a natural sciences degree means that I’m in the minority of students who work during term time. But with a little bit of planning, (and the odd late night study session) it is possible to fit so much into your time at university!!


I’ve now been at York for two and a half years. I can genuinely say that I’m still so glad I picked this university. The staff and students within Natural Sciences are incredible and provide so much support to make your time here the best it can be. I’ve still got another year and a half left in this incredible city, and I can’t wait to have even more adventures here!!

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Katie

Hello! My name’s Katie and I’m a third year Natural Sciences student at York. I’ve had the most incredible time over the last three years here, from the amazing opportunities in so many different societies, to the great friends I’ve made on my course. York is the most incredible city, with so much going on all the time; and two years on, I can’t imagine studying anywhere else.