The Department of Natural Sciences was established in 2012. Its faculty is comprised of members of the former Departments of Earth and Environmental Sciences (established in 1996) and Medico-biological Sciences (established in 1994).
The Department conducts scientific research in the fields of: geology (rotational geodynamics, hydrology and hydrogeology, mineralogy and crystallography, gemology), ecology and environmental protection (natural disaster risk assessment, quality of life, preservation of natural resources, alternative and renewable energy sources, ecological management), biology (food quality), physics (astronomy, new materials), alternative tourism.
The main scientific contacts of the Department are with the University of Ulm, the Freiburg Academy of Science and Technology, the Australian National University, the University of Nantes, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the University of Aveiro, the University of the Azores, the Space Research and Technology Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Central Laboratory for Veterinary and Sanitary Control and Ecology, the Association of Bulgarian Cities and Regions, The Institute for Local and Regional Development.
In the field of Earth Sciences the Department organizes annual summer schools for environmental evaluation in terms of components and holds exhibitions of precious gemstones and gemological samples with student participation. The Department has realized numerous research and applied projects with external financing. Members of its faculty have taken part in expeditions, co-financed by NBU, to Livingston Island (Antarctica) and the Azores for the purposes of scientific research. The expeditions in the Rodopy and Strandga Mountains, organized in order to conduct various researches in the field of geology, gemology and natural phenomena, have led to the discovery of diamonds near the village of Svetulka, an event which attracted media attention all over the world; and the decorative gem recently found near Krastova Gora was given the name NewBUlit, after the name of NBU. Another important scientific event was the discovery of emery in the Strandga Mountains. Previously emery had only been found in Greece, Turkey and the USA.
In the field of biology lecturers and students take part in research projects, financed by the Ministry of Education and Science, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), NATO, The Saxon State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts (SMWK) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Every year they present scientific outcomes at a number of prestigious national and international science conferences, such as FEBS congresses, ISME conferences, Balkan congresses, etc. The faculty collaborate with universities and institutes for scientific research in Germany, France, Portugal, etc.
The Department holds ongoing seminars, TERRA nostra and TERRA nostra – junior, where the latest scientific achievements of lecturers and students in the programs are presented. The Department is organizer of the annual science conference Ecologizing (2009-2013). In 2013 it organized the national Foods Conference for the first time, and in 2014 it was co-organizer of the International VSU science conference.
The Department has developed and supervises the following bachelor’s degree programs: “Ecology and environmental protection”, “General and applied biology”, “Ecology and environmental management” (together with the Department of Public Administration), “Earth sciences”, “Earth sciences and alternative energy”; and the master’s degree programs: “International alternative tourism”, “Ecology and sustainable development”, “Geotechnique and renewable energy sources”, “Gemology and jewellery design” (together with The Department of Fine Arts), “Aerospace methods in ecology” and “Eco management” (together with the Department of Business Administration). Also, the faculty have a long experience in distance education – the programs are offered in both regular and distance form of education.
The programs of the Department of Natural Sciences have been accredited by the National Agency for Assessment and Accreditation.
The Department has agreements under the Erasmus programme for student and teacher exchange.
The practice and research centres – the Laboratory for natural disasters and risks, the Gemology laboratory, the Biology laboratory and the specialized study room “Chemistry Laboratory” are academically managed by the Department.