What is Genetics?
Genetics is the science of heredity: why you resemble your parents and other members of the human race, but also why you are recognisably different from them in many respects. Genetics attempts to understand not only how like begets like within a species, but also how and why differences between individuals and between species arise.
The scope of Genetics
Genes carry the information which largely determines what you are and how you function in the environment. As we learn more about how genes work in different organisms, we find that this knowledge and understanding is fundamental to each and every area of biological study. Our increasing knowledge of the organisation and function of the human genome is having profound effects on the understanding and treatment of disease. Genetics helps us to understand evolution and speciation, and genetically engineered micro-organisms have the potential to be the industrial units of the future. Finally, genetics underpins most programmes in animal and plant breeding for agriculture, even the production of the much-maligned genetically-manipulated plants!
Genetics at Cambridge
Genetics forms an integral part of many first and second year courses in the Natural Sciences Tripos in Cambridge. Genetics is taught in the first year courses and Evolution and Behaviour, and the basic knowledge required in these courses can be extended in the second year courses on Cell and Developmental Biology and Ecology. The Department also contributes to the teaching of the Molecules in Medical Science course in the Medical and Veterinary Science Tripos.
In the third year the Part II course in Genetics gives a broad education in all aspects of genetics, and how these relate not only to biological problems but also to many areas of human experience.
What this means in practice is that in order to study for an Undergraduate Degree in Genetics at the University of Cambridge, you should apply to a College to undertake the Natural Sciences Tripos, and ideally study some or all of the courses mentioned above in the first and second years, specialising in Genetics in your third year [Part II]. However, it is possible to approach the study of Genetics in Part II via other routes. Medical and Veterinary Sciences students can also elect to study Genetics in their third year.
Because applying to Cambridge is rather different than applying to most other universities, it is essential that you are well-informed about the procedures and deadline dates. More information can be found on the following web pages:
- University of Cambridge Undergraduate Admissions
This comprehensive website has links to all the information that you will need
- Natural Sciences Tripos website
All you need to know about the components of the NST course
- The Medical and Veterinary Sciences Tripos
All you need to know about the MVST
Part II Genetics
More detailed information about the third year undergraduate Genetics course can be found HERE
What subjects do I need at A Level?
Biology teaching in Cambridge is arranged to cope with students who have little or no previous experience of biology during their school career, and although it is obviously an advantage if you have A Level Biology, many students who have not done biology before university end up specialising in one or other of the biological sciences.
As for other A Level subjects, Chemistry is the most useful, and Maths and Physics are also recommended subjects. Entry to Cambridge is obviously highly competitive, and applicants taking three or more science or mathematics A levels will normally be asked by colleges for grades at A*A A. See the NST admission requirements page [entry requirements tab] for further details.
If you are studying for qualifications other than A Levels, the relevant pages of the undergraduate prospectus, available to view on the web at http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying/entrance-requirements should help.