Computer Science

Computer Science is the study of information and computation. It asks questions about the nature of information and the operations which can be performed on it. The Cambridge course roams widely across the field of computing. It considers information acquisition, handling, retrieval and presentation. It looks at the design of machines on which these operations can be performed, the facilities required by these machines, and the myriad uses to which they can be put. It investigates the mathematical underpinnings of the whole edifice and the practical problems faced in getting the machines to do what you want them to.

Computer Science in its current form has developed since the 1940s when the stored program electronic computer was invented. It is a broad subject: when concerned with hardware design it can overlap with electrical and electronic engineering. The development of circuits made directly on silicon chips gives a link to solid state physics. Formal methods for the construction, analysis and validation of software can on the other hand involve much mathematics. Between these extremes there is a large body of challenging material relating to both theoretical and practical aspects of computer systems and applications.

The Cambridge course provides full and balanced coverage of the various aspects of Computer Science. It provides opportunities for hands-on practical experience of both advanced hardware and software, while providing a thorough coverage of theory. Graduates emerge with an understanding of principles that will outlast today’s technology.

Please see the Computer Laboratory’s Web pages and the University prospectus for details of the course.

Computer Science at Caius

Caius normally admits about six students a year in Computer Science. We have four Fellows in the subject and many others in cognate disciplines. Peter Robinson is Professor of Computer Technology and one of our Directors of Studies. The other Director of Studies is Dr Graham Titmus, a College Lecturer with particular interests in speech synthesis. Dr Richard Gibbens is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Laboratory with research interests in mathematical modelling of networks. Dr Paula Buttery is Lecturer in Computational Linguistics. We also have a teaching associate, Dr Kathryn Gray.

The terms at Cambridge are fairly short (8 weeks of lectures during 9 or 10 weeks of residence) but intensive. A typical week will include 12 one-hour lectures plus as much again for personal study to assimilate the material, a couple of two-hour practicals and two to four one-hour supervisions each requiring four hours of preparation. Supervisions provide Cambridge's tutorials in small groups of two or three students. In the first year, these are usually conducted by fellows in the College, in the second year they are with graduate students in the Computer Laboratory and in the final year the Laboratory organises specialist supervision.

Informal discussions with other students form an important part of learning and this is encouraged in Caius by weekly meetings over tea where students can discuss problems and listen to presentations about project work from students in later parts of the course. We also have an annual dinner in February and a lunch party just before the exams in Summer.

Admissions

Applicants for Computer Science at Caius ordinarily have two subject based interviews with the Directors of Studies and other Fellows with relevant academic interests. The subject interviews last for 30 minutes, and often include discussion of prepared reading and a mathematical problem. Candidates also sit the Thinking Skills Assessment.

The main prerequisite for Computer Science at Cambridge is a good A level (or equivalent) qualification in Mathematics. Further Maths at A2 level is a significant advantage. Physical science subjects such as Physics, Chemistry or Geology are also desirable. Some exam boards offer a Computing syllabus which can be helpful but vocational subjects like Information and Communications Technology are not. Applicants with other qualifications (such as Scottish Highers or the International Baccalaureate) are also very welcome.

Any questions about application can be directed to either of the Directors of Studies or the Admissions Tutor.