Faculty of Natural Sciences and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change icon

Faculty of Natural Sciences and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change

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Strategic Intent

The College’s vision and intent is to:

Continue to be a world-leading institution for scientific research and education,

To harness the quality, breadth and depth of our research capabilities to address the difficult challenges of today and the future,

To develop the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics,

To provide an education for students from around the world that equips them with the knowledge and skills they require to pursue their ambitions,

To make a demonstrable economic and social impact through the translation of our work into practice worldwide,

To engage with the world and communicate the importance and benefits of science to society.

Formation and History

Imperial College was established in 1907 in London’s scientific and cultural heartland in South Kensington, as a merger of the Royal College of Science, the City and Guilds College and the Royal School of Mines. The Faculty of Medicine has its origins in the merger of St Mary’s Hospital Medical School and the National Heart and Lung Institute with the College in 1988 and 1995 respectively, followed by several subsequent mergers and culminating with the formation of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in 2007.

All teaching and research activity is divided into three faculties, and the Business School. The Faculties of Engineering, Natural Sciences, Medicine and the Business School are headed by Principals.

Staff and Students

The academic and research staff of 3,184 includes 68 Fellows of the Royal Society, 68 Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering, 78 Fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences, one Fellow of the British Academy, four Crafoord Prize winners and two Fields Medalists. Fourteen Nobel Laureates have been members of the College either as staff or students.

The College has 13,473 students, of whom 36 percent are postgraduate. Twenty nine percent of students come from outside the European Union. External assessment of the College’s teaching quality in many different subject areas has been judged to be of high standard. The proportion of women students has increased to 36 percent of the total.


The quality of the College’s research has been judged consistently to be of the highest international standard and the proportion of income from research grants and contracts is one of the highest of any UK university. The concentration and strength of research in science, engineering and medicine gives the College a unique and internationally distinctive research presence.

Generous support for the College’s work comes from a wide variety of sources. From industry there are donations towards certain senior academic posts, advanced courses, bursaries and scholarships. The single largest contribution to the College from industrial concerns is in the form of contracts to carry out research. The College also gains considerable support from research councils and charities to undertake research.

Teaching and Learning

The College’s overall educational aim is to ensure a stretching and exhilarating learning experience and, while maintaining its traditional emphasis on single honours degree courses, it also aims to give students the opportunity to broaden their experience through courses relevant to student and employer needs.

In its MSc course provision, the College seeks to provide a wide range of specialist courses in areas in which it has particular expertise. Many of those offered by non-medicine departments of the College emphasise the valuable interaction between scientific/technological training and industrial experience, whilst those offered by the medical divisions focus on subjects at the interface between basic science and medicine and on specialist education for doctors and other health professionals in training. In addition, the College’s wide range of PhD programmes reflect its aim of pursuing research at the frontiers of scientific, engineering, management and medical knowledge and the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of this research.

The Centre for Educational Development has been established to raise and consolidate the profile of learning, teaching and educational development through-out the College. Newly-appointed non-clinical lecturers must enroll upon the Faculty of Natural Sciences Learning and Teaching Development Programme and there are many learning and teaching activities for more experienced staff.

The Graduate School of Life Sciences and Medicine is the focus of postgraduate education and research in these areas. It maintains, enhances and monitors quality, and disseminates best practice, whilst initiating and developing new programmes, particularly those with an interdisciplinary slant.

The Graduate School of Engineering and Physical Sciences (GSEPS) is the focus for postgraduate education and research in the Engineering and Natural Science faculties and has quality assurance responsibilities for the two non-faculty departments; Humanities and the Business School.

The College’s teaching quality is audited regularly, both internally and externally. Recent external audit was very complimentary.


The College now has one of the largest operational estates of any UK University. It includes six central London campuses, the main South Kensington campus, the Charring Cross campus, the Chelsea and Westminster campus, the Hammersmith campus, the Royal Brompton campus and St Mary’s campus.

Silwood Park, a postgraduate campus at Ascot in Berkshire, houses the Ecology and Evolution Section of the Biology Division, in the Department of Life Sciences. The successful Master’s courses in Crop Protection, Forest Protection and Ecology, Evolution and Conservation are run at Silwood together with the newly created Master’s course in Conservation Science, and there is a thriving postgraduate community. The campus houses excellent research facilities and a wide range of natural environments. The NERC funded Centre for Population Biology is also based at Silwood, together with a Business Centre.

  1. ^ The Faculty of Natural Sciences

The Faculty of Natural Sciences is dedicated to delivering the highest possible quality teaching and research at the heart of Imperial College London and fosters excellence in a diverse and supportive community. The Faculty fully embraces teaching and research activities across the core scientific disciplines of Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Life Sciences. The Faculty also hosts the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, the Centre for Environmental Policy, the Institute for Systems Biology, the Porter Institute and the Institute for Security, Science and Technology.

The Faculty’s academics enjoy the highest standing and the research volume, the quality of publications and the number of citations are enviable. The Faculty is committed to interdisciplinary and inter-Faculty activities and strives to provide the kind of environment where these collaborations can flourish. The Faculty benefits from national and international alliances and collaborations with industry and other institutions and organisations.


The Faculty is committed to continuing to attract and develop the highest quality students and staff for its successful undergraduate and postgraduate courses.


The Faculty is led by the Principal, Professor Maggie Dallman, and employs over 1,200 staff, teaches 3,000 undergraduates and 1,200 postgraduate students and has a research income totalling £57 million (2008-09 figures).

Further information about the Faculty’s structure and activities can be found on its web site: www.imperial.ac.uk/naturalsciences

  1. ^ The Department of Physics

The Department is led by the Head of Department Professor Joanna D Haigh and is one of the largest and most prestigious Physics departments in the UK. It has an outstanding reputation for excellence in research, undergraduate education and postgraduate training. We have a vibrant and internationally leading research programme that provides a broad-based coverage of fundamental and applied physics, that strongly supports multidisciplinary collaborations and that actively fosters the development of new fields.

Current fields of research include astrophysics; condensed matter theory; experimental solid state physics; high energy physics; photonics; plasma physics; quantum optics and laser science; space and atmospheric physics, and theoretical physics. There are also interdisciplinary centres where researchers from different groups or from different departments collaborate closely to benefit from each other's expertise. Research groups from the Department also enjoy a number of international and industrial collaborations.

We are committed to providing a positive environment that supports everyone in reaching their potential and are active supporters of the Institute of Physics Juno Code of Practice and Athena Swan Charter. The College offers a range of benefits including professional development, family friendly policies e.g. flexible working, daycare provided by the College's Early Years Education Centre, and membership of the College’s flagship sports centre ETHOS. The Department is located on the South Kensington campus in Central London and is surrounded by cultural activities.

Further information about the Department can be found at:


Undergraduate courses

The Department offers three four-year undergraduate MSci programmes: one in Physics, in Physics with Theoretical Physics and in Physics with a Year in Europe, as well as two three-year programmes leading to a BSc in Physics, and in Physics with Theoretical Physics. We also offer a four-year BSc in Physics with Studies in Musical Performance, run jointly with the neighbouring Royal College of Music. Apart from the last mentioned, the first two years of all degree programmes are very similar, allowing appropriate student transfers between courses during the early stages. The third and fourth years of the MSci and the third year of the BSc contain a wide range of specialized options including Environmental Physics and Atmospheric Physics, and all students undertake a major project, usually in their final year.

Further details are available on the Department’s Undergraduate Admissions webpage: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/physics/admissions/ug.

Postgraduate courses

The Department currently offers 9 one-year advanced courses leading to an MSc or MRes. Additionally, it hosts three Doctoral Training Centres which, together with a range of opportunities in other subjects, lead to PhD-level research degrees in all the fields of research undertaken within the department.

Further details are available on the Department's Postgraduate Admissions webpage: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/physics/admissions/pg.

  1. The Department of Life Sciences

The Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London is one of the largest groups of its kind in Europe and embraces the full breadth of modern life sciences activity from atomic biology to global biosphere models.

The Department is made up of approximately 100 academic staff and independent fellows, 180 postdoctoral researchers, 45 support staff, 200 PhD students, 180 Masters-level students, and over 800 undergraduate students. The Department has long standing strengths in structural biology; gene function and regulation; cell and neuronal signaling; pathogen biology, immunity and infection; population biology; and biodiversity. The Department is also involved in substantial initiatives in a series or areas including mathematical and computation biology; systems and synthetic biology; pathogenesis and infectious disease; bioenergy; and environmental change.

We are consistently ranked as one of the strongest groupings of life scientists in the world. Internationally, life sciences and biomedicine at Imperial was recently ranked in the top three in Europe and the top ten in the world. Within the UK, The Department is typically ranked in the top three among life sciences groups, with over 90% of our activity being judged to be of international importance in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise.

Our activities are housed largely at Imperial’s main campus in South Kensington, where we have over 10,000m2 of modern laboratories and associated facilities. We also have substantial bases at the College’s Silwood Park Campus approximately 20 miles South West of central London, where our Ecology and Evolution group is based, and the Diamond Synchrotron on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in South Oxfordshire, where our Membrane Protein Laboratory is based.

The Department plays a leading role in a number of inter-disciplinary activities both within the College and outside. These include the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Energy Futures Laboratory; Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection; Institute for Systems and Synthetic Biology; The Porter Institute; the Lifelong Health Project; the Imaging Science Facility; and the Drug Discovery Centre. Outside the College, the Department has close links with a number of institutions, such as the National Institute for Medical Research, the Sanger Centre, Rothamsted Research and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and has joint appointments with the Natural History Museum, The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and a number of leading overseas Universities.

For more information on the Department please use the following link,


Undergraduate courses

The Department teaches three major undergraduate degrees in 'Biology', 'Biochemistry’, and 'Biomedical Sciences' (the latter jointly with the Faculty of Medicine). Each Undergraduate degree programme comprises core modules in the first/second years, followed by the opportunity of more specialist training in later years. During the more advanced stages of training, we also encourage students to take modules from other degree streams and there are extensive opportunities to undertake joint degrees with other programmes, such as business management. We also provide degree programmes that allow students to study overseas, to spend a year working in industry, or learn a foreign language as part of their degree.

Our undergraduate teaching is typically through a mixture of traditional lectures, small group tutorials, problem classes, and practical classes. In some modules there are also substantial project components or field excursions. Most undergraduate teaching takes place at the College’s main campus in South Kensington but students also have the opportunity to take part in activities such as industrial placements, international student competitions, and fieldwork in tropical rainforests.

For more information on our Undergraduate programmes, please use the following link,


^ Masters-level Training

The Department delivers a wide range of Masters-level courses aligned to the Divisional research strengths. These courses are extremely diverse, including a mixture of MSc and MRes degrees and often involve inter-disciplinary training involving other Departments in the College, or external bodies.

Current Masters-level courses include the following: Advanced methods in taxonomy and biodiversity (joint with the Natural History Museum); Biochemical research; Bioinformatics and theoretical systems biology; Biomedical physical chemistry (joint with the Chemistry Department); Biosystematics (joint with the Natural History Museum); Conservation science (joint with the Institute of Zoology, Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and the Durrell Institute); Conservation and forest protection; Crop protection; Ecological applications; Ecology, evolution and conservation; Entomology; Integrated crop pest and disease management; Integrated pest management; Molecular plant biology and biotechnology; Quantitative biology (joint with the Mathematics Department); Structural molecular biology; Systems and synthetic biology (joint with the Faculty of Engineering).

A large proportion of our Masters-level students go on to successfully gain a place to study for a PhD degree.

For more information on our Masters courses please use the following link,


PhD Training

The Department’s research laboratories provide training to a large number of PhD students, many of whom also have links to our interdisciplinary Centres and Institutes, other Departments in the College, or external bodies. With such a broad research base we are able to support training across a huge range of scientific activity. PhD training is largely based in Divisions and is strongly aligned with the research activities of our academic staff. In many cases students take advantage of our Masters-level training to enroll on doctoral training programmes that include a combination of taught material, a number of smaller projects followed by a substantial PhD research project.

Reflecting this broad range of activity, funding sources for PhD study is also very diverse, including a mixture of government, charity, industrial and private sources. The Department holds Doctoral training awards from the BBSRC, the NERC, and the Wellcome Trust. We have a substantial proportion of students from outside the UK, many of which hold prestigious fellowships from their home countries or international funders.

In addition to research training, our postgraduate students receive transferable skills training through the comprehensive, award winning programme run by the Graduate Schools for Life Sciences and Medicine (GSLSM), which was awarded the Times Higher Award for Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers in 2006 and 2008.

For more information about our PhD training please use the Divisional web pages (see Research above) or the GSLSM web page,


  1. The Grantham Institute for Climate Change

The Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London was founded in 2007 thanks to a 10-year grant of £12.8 million from the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. It is directed by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins with a team of three institute staff. Seven academics/fellows are funded by the Institute, together with 9 PDRAs and 32 PhD students. The Institute draws on 56 members from various faculties and departments.

The Grantham Institute’s mission is to drive climate-related research and translate it into real-world impact. Harnessing the tremendous research strengths across all the four main areas of the College – engineering, natural sciences, medicine and business – the Institute focuses on the whole range of climate-related issues, from fundamental understanding of climate processes to climate impacts and mitigation technologies and policies.

The Institute leverages and builds on Imperial's collaborative research from an unprecedented array of disciplines, including the earth sciences, ecology and the other life sciences, engineering, medicine, physics, mathematics, economics and finance.

The Institute also benefits from strong ties with the University of Reading's world-leading Department of Meteorology, and is a strategic partner with the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. In addition, the Grantham Institute is forging links with key international institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

Further information about the Institute can be found at:


The Grantham Institute played a leading role at Imperial College in the successful bid to establish a European Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) in Climate, along with leading research, business and regional partners across Europe. The Climate KIC, leveraging the EIT’s direct investments, will help drive a step-change in Europe’s innovation capacity to respond to climate change through mitigation and adaptation. Climate science and earth observation will be an important component of the KIC’s planned research and innovation programmes. More information on the Climate KIC can be found at http://www.climate-kic.org/.

  1. ^ The Space and Atmospheric Physics Research Group

The Space and Atmospheric Physics Group has a long and distinguished heritage across a range of subjects from solar and interplanetary physics through planetary magnetospheres and atmospheres to atmospheric and oceanic studies which include satellite, aircraft-borne and ground-level sensor operations, data analysis, and confrontation with both idealised and detailed modelling work at global and regional levels. The Group is part of the Department of Physics and is affiliated to the Grantham Institute for Climate Change. It is responsible for the climate science and Earth-observation elements of Imperial College's participation in the Climate-KIC.

The Group is comprised of 14 academic staff, 32 research assistants and technical staff, and 28 post-graduate students who are distributed roughly equally between the space and atmospheric physics interests and projects.

The Atmospheric Physics component has active theoretical, modelling and Earth Observation activity. It is one of only a handful of recognised UK centres of expertise in experimental Earth Observation. This gives it a strong heritage and competitive advantage with NERC (as the primary research council) and European funders. The group has a demonstrated long record of successful NERC funding. In 2008-9 it achieved the highest NERC grant success rate of all the major NERC-funded groups in the College. NERC has set up a virtual National Centre of Earth Observation and is supporting a new ESA UK facility. The climate change expert unit within this facility is expected to play an essential role in the implementation of the ESA Earthwatch programme. Experimental Earth Observation has strong links to the space industrial sector with numerous opportunities of direct industrial technology funding in support of ESA missions. Continuing Earth Observation-driven industrial activity will allow access to the growing knowledge exchange funding of the research councils.

The Group is the PI for Global Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) experiment on Meteosat. GERB-4 is due to launch in 2014 with data expected to 2017. We also participated in the NASA climate CLARREO mission concept and are pursuing potential spin-off projects.

Other existing projects include the Tropospheric Airborne Fourier Transform Spectrometer (TAFTS) that forms part of aircraft studies of the atmosphere such as the CAVIAR project. Terrestrial projects include monitoring of urban pollution and carbon together with cloud physics. These experimental activities are complemented by modelling efforts including studies of the impact of solar variability on climate, stratospheric processes and radiative transfer, ocean circulation and ocean-atmospheric coupling.

Space projects include principal investigator roles for the Cluster (ESA), Cassini (NASA/ESA), and Solar Orbiter missions, magnetometer provision for the CINEMA Cubesat project led by the University of Berkeley, and Co-Investigator roles on several other space plasma missions. Research interests include the structure and processes occurring within the solar corona and solar wind, turbulence, collisionless shocks, planetary magnetospheres and planetary atmospheres. These are supported by a portfolio of research grants primarily from the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Further information about the Group can be found at www.imperial.ac.uk/spat

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