Chemistry is often referred to as the Central Science as most scientists will have to study chemicals at some point in their studies or research. Biologist study all the chemicals used by living organisms, geologist and environmentalists research chemicals and compounds found in soils, rocks and minerals. Even astrophysicist has to research the chemicals compositions of planets, stars and moons.
With so many ramifications, chemistry is the one subject you will not be able to escape if you are interested in a scientific career.
From their dark beginnings centuries ago, alchemists have gained more and more knowledge about the world surrounding them and the reactions naturally occurring in nature. For long these pro-chemist thought that alchemy would allow them to transform any metal into gold. It is a feat still to be achieved (at least not in a way that makes any economic sense).
Since French naturalist, Antoine Lavoisier, set the rules of mass conservation in 1774, chemists have been involved in much of the scientific advances the world has witnessed for the past 250 years.
Louis Pasteur original research was in crystallography, a specialised field of chemistry. From Sir William Ramsay in 1904 to Sir Gregory Winter in 2018, more than two dozen British Chemists have received a Nobel prize for their research.
If you are curious about the world, always wondered what is the secret behind caramel and would like to save the planet's environment, you should seriously consider a career in chemistry. Below are ten more reasons why you should pick chemistry lessons for your GCSE's, A-levels or university studies.
"The country which is in advance of the rest of the world in chemistry will also be foremost in wealth and in general prosperity."
- Sir William Ramsay, a Scottish chemist who discovered the noble gases and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1904.
1 - Understand the World Around You
When you study chemistry, you will uncover the reason everything around you happens. Why does chocolate taste so good, why does soap clean or why the sky is blue?
Comprehending the atomic structure of atoms, the electrochemistry of an acid base solution or the stoichiometry of a molecule is critical to understand everything in your environment, from the toothpaste you use every morning to the phone battery your charge every day.
Every reaction in nature is ruled by chemistry, from metal rusting to your digestion. If you have a curious mind, then a chemistry course will help you answer all the questions you may have about the world and your environment.
For example, did you know that leaves change colours in autumn because chlorophyll production is regulated by light? As day grow shorter the amount of chlorophyll in leaves decreases and the green chemical that is so prevalent during spring and summer days give way to other compounds present in the leaves.
Anthocyanin pigments production increases as sugar level rise during autumn, giving leaves yellow colours. Carotenoids, whose production is not affected by sunlight, will provide the leaves with orange and brown hue.
And why do we cry when we cut onions? Simply because sulfenic acids and enzymes contained in onion cells are released when you start slicing and propanethial S-oxide, a volatile sulfur compound gas is produced. The natural reaction for our eyes is to create tears to wash away the irritant, but as propanethial S-oxide mixes with the water of our tears, sulphuric acid is produced, making the whole cooking thing, a messy crying experience.
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2 - Be Better Educated ABout What You Buy
Studying chemistry will also make you a more knowledgeable buyer. As most of the food we ingested is heavily processed, it has become more critical to understand what we ingest. However, the more complicated food labels have grown, the hardest it is to make sense of all the different preservers, sweeteners, food colouring agents and stabilisers contains in our food.
By understanding what food additive such as Citric acid, Monosodium glutamate, Sodium benzoate, Sodium nitrite or Guar Gum is, you will know which ones are safe to eat and which ones you should keep out of your diet.
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3 - Be A Better Cook
Being a good chemist will make you a better cook. All food is made of chemical compounds and cooking is merely changing chemical bonds, using the properties of matter and playing around with combustion, oxidation, reduction, solubility and chemical reaction, to make ingredients as tasty as possible.
One of the primary reaction involve in cooking is the Maillard reaction. It is the primary chemical reaction behind the deliciousness of cooked foods and happens when amino acids, the building block of all animal and vegetal proteins, react with reducing sugars contained in most food. Most cooking techniques (frying, roasting, searing and baking and even very slow cooking), involve some degree of Maillard reaction.
Caramelisation is another excellent example of the chemistry behind cooking. Unlike the Maillard reaction, caramelisation involves what chemists refer to as pyrolysis, which you probably call burning. When sugars react with water above a certain temperature (between 110C and 180C depending on the sugars involved), dozens of chemical reactions happen, and hundreds of different chemical compounds are released.
"Chemistry begins in the stars. The stars are the source of the chemical elements, which are the building blocks of matter and the core of our subject."
- Peter Atkins, English chemist and a Fellow of Lincoln College at the University of Oxford
5 - Easily Find A Job
Chemistry offers a lot of job opportunities, from nuclear chemistry to biological chemistry or analytical chemistry you can easily specialise in a field that interests you. It is also very common for chemists to be involved in other science fields and to collaborate with biologists, physicists, doctors and engineers.
You could become a Materials Scientist and find new ways to use recyclable elements such as was plastics, paper, cardboard or food industry by-products to create new materials to better serve humanity’s needs and reduce the amount of trash ending up in landfills and polluting our planet.
You could also become a Nanotechnologists and work with elements smaller than cells to create new surgery and diagnostic methods as well as creating more efficient drugs.
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6 - Understand both Physics And Biology
As a central science, chemistry will be the best tool at your disposal to understand both physics and biology.
Biochemistry and Biophysics are two fields the two fields at the crossroad between the three sciences. Both involve inorganic and organic chemistry, as well as general chemistry.
Biochemist work in biotechnologies, medicinal chemistry or forensic science and they're often working for environmental agencies, hospital and research laboratories.
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7 - Use Your Brain AND Your Hands
Unlike hard sciences such as physics and maths, which mainly use your brain to solve complicated equations and problems, chemistry is a very hands-on field.
As a chemist you will have to plan your experiment but also carry them out, often manipulating dangerous chemicals and using very complicated contraptions and instruments such as mass-spectrometers, chromatography machines or distillation columns.
8 - Have Fun
Chemistry is the one science that can be very fun (if practised safely). It is very easy to play around safe and straightforward chemical and obtains astonishing results.
Everyone have seen the viral videos of diet coke and Mentos candies producing incredible jets of soda, and you can easily reproduce this safely at home. But chemistry is much more than that.
Why not create polymer marbles or change the colour of the flame in your home chimney? Using simple, everyday products that you can find around the house, you can have a lot of fun and learn about the reasons behind the reactions you create and observe.
"A detective with his murder mystery, a chemist seeking the structure of a new compound, use little of the formal and logical modes of reasoning. Through a series of intuitions, surmises, fancies, they stumble upon the right explanation, and have a knack of seizing it when it once comes within reach."
- Gilbert Lewis, American physical chemist, known for the discovery of the covalent bond and his concept of electron pairs.
9 - Understand The News
Every day, we are bombarded with news about petrol pollution, water contamination, medical discovery and advances or product recalls, but how much of this do you really understand?
Taking chemistry classes will make you more informed about what is going on in the world. It is also essential to understand the repercussions of events such as oil leaks in the oceans or chemical contamination of underground aquifers.
As most of the industries involved in climate change are regulated by national laws, understanding what is going on in your neighbourhood, city or country, will also make you a more informed voter.
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10 - Make a Better World
The chemistry industry has been the main contributor to the world's major pollution problems. For the past 70 years, with the advent of the intensive use of fertiliser in our agriculture, chemists have been at the forefront of most pollution crisis.
Plastic wastes, CO2 emissions, contaminated waters or barren soils can all be linked to the misuse of chemistry, mainly for selfish economic reasons. But the mess that was created by chemists can also be solved by chemists.
Recycling plastics and coming up with new materials and use for what we long considered trash is one of the many challenges that young professional chemists are facing today. CO2, one of the main greenhouse gas, is mainly produced transportation using fossil fuels. Chemists are now working on capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide and using it as a clean energy source.
Much more is to be done to save our planet from the effect of our industries, and most of the work will be done by chemists.
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Chemistry is much more than learning the periodic table of elements.
Whatever field of science you are considering for your career, chemistry will always come in handy to help you understand everything around you, from the clothes you wear to the food you eat. And considering the great damages we have caused to our environment, it seems that chemists will be much needed to help fix issues created by the previous generation.
Now let your voice be heard: what kind of future do Chemistry graduates have?