As you begin a career in chemistry, you are quite likely considering an area of specialization. Because virtually every single thing in our environment is made up of chemicals, the options are abundant. Each offers its own opportunities for you to discover and utilize new information, contributing to advances in many fields.
Chemical research has given us drugs, cosmetics, electronic components, paints, synthetic fibers, and countless other products. It has also developed such energy saving processes as oil refining and petrochemical processing. Advances in medicine, food processing and agriculture have also been made by chemists.
Specializing in a special field
Research and development offers many opportunities for chemists. Those working in basic research investigate the properties and structures of matter, while those in applied research and development create new products and processes.
Chemists can also be involved in production and quality control in chemical manufacturing plants. In these settings, they prepare specifications for ingredients, mixing times and temperatures, and monitor automated processes to ensure that they meet industry and government standards.
If you are interested in the very nature of matter and the understanding of how chemical reactions work, you might specialize in physical or theoretical chemistry. Working in this area will allow you to study the physical characteristics of atoms and molecules and the theoretical properties of matter. Research in physical chemistry may lead to new energy sources.
Organic chemists study the carbon compounds that make up living things. They have developed commercial products such as drugs and plastics. Inorganic chemists study compounds consisting mainly of elements other than carbon, such as those in electronic components.
The pharmaceutical industry relies heavily on the work of analytical chemists, whose work leads to the identification of compounds that the companies hope to use to develop new drugs.
Materials chemists develop materials to improve existing products, or to create new ones. Their work is similar to that of materials scientists, who combine physics with chemistry to study all aspects of materials, although chemistry carries more weight because it provides information about the structure and composition of materials.
Whichever specialty you choose, computer technology will make it possible to analyze complex data. These analyses may be used in combinational chemistry, a technique that makes and tests large quantities of compounds simultaneously. Using this method, chemists can produce compounds quickly and inexpensively, and these can be further used to develop new drugs.
Overall, chemistry is a science that touches all aspects of life, and stands poised to continue its contributions to improving the human condition.