is the scientific study of the properties and behaviour of matter. It is a
natural science that covers the elements that make up matter to the compounds
composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure,
properties, behaviour and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other
the scope of its subject, chemistry occupies an intermediate position between
physics and biology. It is sometimes called the central science because it
provides a foundation for understanding both basic and applied scientific
disciplines at a fundamental level. For example, chemistry explains aspects of
plant chemistry (botany), the formation of igneous rocks (geology), how
atmospheric ozone is formed and how environmental pollutants are degraded
(ecology), the properties of the soil on the moon (cosmochemistry), how
medications work (pharmacology), and how to collect DNA evidence at a crime
addresses topics such as how atoms and molecules interact via chemical bonds to
form new chemical compounds. There are two types of chemical bonds: 1. primary
chemical bonds e.g covalent bonds, in which atoms share one or more
electron(s); ionic bonds, in which an atom donates one or more electrons to
another atom to produce ions (cations and anions); metallic bonds and 2.
secondary chemical bonds e.g. hydrogen bonds; Van der Waals force bonds,
ion-ion interaction, ion-dipole interaction etc.
with other scientific subjects, specialization is essential due to the basic
complexity of the subject at this level. At the undergraduate level, this will
often take the form of elective modules, though specialized courses are also an
option. The graduate study will certainly involve specialization.
specializations will overlap with other science subjects. Some examples are:
engineering: like alchemy but less gold-fixated, the purpose of chemical
engineering is to convert substances into more useful ones - like medicines –
using chemical processes. The focus can be on the actual substance produced or
the process of conversation.
The study of the chemical processes within living organisms, such as those
which convert thought into action or make you feel a certain way. This is a
massive subject and it is predicted that huge strides will be made in the
chemistry: In a way, this branch of chemistry represents a coming together of
the two disciplines above, as it involves synthesizing certain chemicals
present in the human body. There will always be a demand for this sort of
research, and there’s surely a lot of satisfaction to be had in coming up with
life-saving or improving drugs
The junction between chemistry and astronomy, the goal of astrochemistry is to
discover what matters in space is composed, and how elements and molecules
behave there. You’ll be rooted on earth, so this will involve computational
chemistry, spectroscopy (using light to help identify matter), and ingenuity.
chemistry: A fairly self-explanatory discipline, nuclear chemistry is the study
of radioactive elements, how to harness them, and their effects on organisms
and matter. It has applications in medicine and energy and will involve
engineering and collaboration with engineers.
word chemistry comes from a modification of the word alchemy, which referred to
an earlier set of practices that encompassed elements of chemistry, metallurgy,
philosophy, astrology, astronomy, mysticism and medicine. Alchemy is often seen
as linked to the quest to turn lead or other base metals into gold, though
alchemists were also interested in many of the questions of modern chemistry.
definition of chemistry has changed over time, as new discoveries and theories
add to the functionality of science. The term "chymistry", in the
view of noted scientist Robert Boyle in 1661, meant the subject of the material
principles of mixed bodies. In 1663, the chemist Christopher Glaser described
"chymistry" as a scientific art, by which one learns to dissolve
bodies, and draw from them the different substances on their composition, and
how to unite them again, and exalt them to higher perfection.
1730 definition of the word "chemistry", as used by Georg Ernst
Stahl, meant the art of resolving mixed, compound, or aggregate bodies into
their principles; and of composing such bodies from those principles. In 1837,
Jean-Baptiste Dumas considered the word "chemistry" to refer to the
science concerned with the laws and effects of molecular forces. This
definition further evolved until, in 1947, it came to mean the science of
substances: their structure, their properties, and the reactions that change
them into other substances – a characterization accepted by Linus Pauling. More
recently, in 1998, Professor Raymond Chang broadened the definition of
"chemistry" to mean the study of matter and the changes it undergoes.
history of chemistry spans a period from very old times to the present. For
several millennia BC, civilizations were using technologies that would
eventually form the basis of the various branches of chemistry. Examples
include extracting metals from ores, making pottery and glazes, fermenting beer
and wine, extracting chemicals from plants for medicine and perfume, rendering
fat into soap, making glass, and making alloys like bronze. Chemistry was
preceded by its protoscience, alchemy, which is an intuitive but non-scientific
approach to understanding the constituents of matter and their interactions. It
was unsuccessful in explaining the nature of matter and its transformations,
but, by performing experiments and recording the results, alchemists set the
stage for modern chemistry. Chemistry as a body of knowledge distinct from
alchemy began to emerge when a clear differentiation was made between them by
Robert Boyle in his work The Sceptical Chymist (1661). While both alchemy and
chemistry are concerned with matter and its transformations, the crucial
difference was given by the scientific method that chemists employed in their
work. Chemistry is considered to have become an established science with the
work of Antoine Lavoisier, who developed a law of conservation of mass that
demanded careful measurement and quantitative observations of chemical
phenomena. The history of chemistry is intertwined with the history of
thermodynamics, especially through the work of Willard Gibbs.
most universities, you can either choose to do a three-year BSc (bachelor of
science) degree or a four-year MChem/MSci degree (master of chemistry/science).
The first two or three years of BSc and MChem/MSci degrees are often the same.
The fourth year of MChem/MSci courses generally consists of a large quantity of
more advanced material that isn’t studied in a BSc course. For this reason,
entry requirements for MChem/MSci courses are usually higher.
courses include a year spent working in a certain industry, which often
involves an independent research project. This can help you to decide which
area to pursue after graduation.
you’re planning to apply to the University of Cambridge, be aware that it
doesn't offer chemistry as a single honours course. Instead, it offers natural
sciences, a four-year degree that covers chemistry, biology, physics and
optional modules in a range of other sciences. However, you can choose to
specialise in chemistry after your first year.
who study chemistry go on to do many exciting things in a whole range of
industries. Notable chemistry graduates include former prime minister of the
United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher; famous novelist, Kurt Vonnegut (who wrote
Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle); NASA astronaut Story Musgrave and, Marie
Curie, the pioneering scientist behind the theory of radioactivity. Basically,
the possibilities for chemistry graduates are endless.
Chemistry careers in research
graduates have much scope to use their knowledge in a range of research
sectors, including roles within chemical engineering, chemical and related
industries, healthcare and more. Research careers are more diverse than they
might first appear, as there are many different reasons to conduct research and
many possible environments. You could be based in a university, combining
research with teaching; in a pharmaceutical company, working on developing and trialling
new drugs; or in a public-sector research centre, helping to ensure national
healthcare provision keeps pace with new discoveries.
the job of a research scientist varies, most chemistry careers in research are
based in laboratories, where research is conducted by teams following scientific
methods and standards.
examples of the diverse research done by chemistry experts include the discovery
of new medicines and vaccines, forensic analysis for criminal cases, improving
understanding of environmental issues, and development of new chemical products
and materials (e.g. cosmetics, paints, plastics, food and drink).
chemistry careers don’t begin and end in the lab; there are also many career
paths for those who want to work elsewhere. Read on for a range of non-research
careers in chemistry…
Chemistry careers in chemical engineering
engineers work across a number of sectors, including oil and gas, energy, water
treatment, plastics, toiletries, pharmaceuticals and food and drink. Processes
differ within each of these areas, but chemistry and chemical engineering roles
are found throughout and are directly involved in the design, development,
creation and manufacturing process of chemical products and materials.
Researchers are common within chemical engineering and are often tasked with
creating and developing new chemical techniques, frequently combining other
advanced and emerging scientific areas such as nanotechnology or biomedical
engineers ensure the efficiency and safety of chemical processes, adapt the
chemical makeup of products to meet environmental or economic needs, scale up
chemical processes for manufacturing purposes, and apply new technologies to
improve existing processes. It’s worth bearing in mind that although those who
study chemistry at the undergraduate level are good candidates, many more
engineering-related and specialized roles will be reserved for engineering
graduates and postgraduates.
Chemistry careers in healthcare
careers for chemists are once again largely based in laboratories, although
increasingly there is opportunity to work at the point of care, helping with the
patient investigation. Often called clinical biochemistry or healthcare
science, your tasks will be to in order to aid in the investigation, diagnosis
and treatment of disease and illness.
some roles will require clinical expertise (and a medical qualification), many
scientific roles in healthcare simply require scientists to liaise with
clinicians in order to interpret patients’ test results, acting as support in
diagnosis and assessment. While chemists are unable to advise on medical
treatment, their work is vital in ensuring results are accurate, root causes
are found, reports are accurately kept, and research is applied.
you pursue healthcare careers in chemistry, you’ll likely be working as part of
a team comprised of fellow chemists, biochemists, biologists, clinicians and
Chemistry careers in pharmaceuticals
related to the healthcare industry, the pharmaceutical sector is huge in its
own right, offering a correspondingly large employment market. As demand for speciality
and new drugs grows, pharmaceutical chemists are relied upon to design,
develop, analyze, evaluate and regulate new and existing pharmaceuticals. These
chemists, as well as holding technical expertise, also possess strong team,
communication and management skills and understand areas such as mathematics
and analytical thinking.
synthetic pharmaceutical chemists (also known as medicinal chemists) focus on
researching and developing new, cost-effective drugs for the market, analytical
pharmaceutical chemists focus more on the testing and chemical analysis of new
drugs, ensuring each product is suitable for the public consumption and in
accord with governmental regulations. Toxicology is another fast-growing field
for careers in chemistry, in which specialists are tasked with identifying
chemical risks and damaging toxins in any chemical that is to be used for
a bachelor’s degree in chemistry will open many entry-level doors in this
field, a master’s or even PhD in a related specialization may also stand you in
good stead for particularly high-level research roles.
Chemistry careers in the public sector
well as careers for chemists as researchers in state-led initiatives, there are
a growing number of government-funded careers in chemistry within areas such as
law, policy, defence, public health and the environment.
law and policy, forensic careers are growing, particularly as the techniques
used within forensic research continue to undergo rapid development. This is
not all about collecting evidence; forensic experts may also be called upon to
discuss findings in court, and chemical experts are needed to run analyses on
existing policies in order to ensure they’re up to date with scientific
developments. While advanced careers in law are out of reach with just a
chemistry degree, many entry-level roles and specialized consultancy jobs may
be available to chemistry graduates with a particular interest in law and/or
you decide to pursue scientific roles in public policy, there’s a chance you’ll
get to conduct research that will help shape your country’s science policy, and
national health and safety regulations. Public-sector
opportunities for chemistry graduates keen to focus on environmental issues
include environmental consultancy, agriculture and chemical diagnostics. These
roles all focus on the chemical state of the Earth’s environment and analysis
of relevant data, (e.g. meteorological data or chemical analysis of soil, water
and by-products). The aims of such work will vary, for example, identifying
ways to improve crop yield, or providing reports on the effects of certain
chemicals on the natural environment. This knowledge can then impact on future
environmental policy and regulations.