College Advice Blog

Dec 29, 2012

Fields of Concentration for Those with a Passion for Chemistry

Chemistry is a dynamic, abstract, and exciting scientific  discipline that intertwines with pretty much every other scientific  field - from biology, to physics, to astronomy, to meteorology and medical  science. It is often referred to as the "central science"  because of its ability to link the physical and natural world. This  is because chemistry dictates the makeup of all matter, and how different  elements combine into molecules that interact to form the world as we  know it. Studying chemistry is to study the underpinnings of virtually  every known thing in the universe. People with a passion for wanting  to know why molecular matter behaves in the ways that it does, and are  able to think in very abstract terms, would do well with a chemical  career, of which there are many different sub-fields and inter-disciplines  to accomodate a wide range of specific interests.

- Environmental Chemistry: this subfield is ideal  for those who would enjoy studying the rols of molecules and particles  in ecosystems. The subfield deals primarily with the chemical reactions  that occur in natural environments. These can include the biochemical  interactions between organic and inorganic matter, such as the interaction  between bacteria and soil. It stipulates on the chemical properties  of natural environments or specific habitats, and how those chemicals  got to be in that place, and what makes it chemically unique, as many  natural habitats have distinct chemical "signatures." It should  not be confused with Green Chemistry, which deals specifically with  toxins and pollutants in the natural environment, and their effects.

- Neurochemistry: this is where psychology and chemistry  intertwine, and would be great for those interested in pursuing the  understanding of living sensory systems. Neurochemistry deals with how  biochemical molecules in the nervous system (such as the brain) affect  the human body. Biochemical molecules such as neurotransmitters, glycoproteins,  sugars, and nucleic acids all play essential roles in this field of  study. This important and relatively new field of chemistry is emerging  with some significant discoveries that expand our knowledge on how the  brain, perception, and consciousness work.

- Inorganic Chemistry: simply put, this field of study  concentrates on the synthesis, behavior, and study of inorganic materials.  This would be a great field for those who might be more interested in  directly applying chemistry to projects with tangible outcomes. All  chemical compounds are included, except those containing carbon-hydrogen  bonds (which are therefore classified as organic molecules). There is,  however, much overlap between both inorganic and organic chemistry as  the two subfields co-exist in the same world and interact heavily with  each other. Inorganic chemistry is directly applied in many useful ways,  such as materials science, health science, pharmacology, energy, and  agricultural science.

- Physical Chemistry: this broad and essential field  combines chemistry (the makeup of matter) with physics (the rules that  dictate matter). These are studied in terms of theoretical and practical  concepts as they apply to core concepts of physics such as fluid dynamics,  motion, gravity, time, thermodynamics, and force. Physical chemistry  tends to be focused more on the macromolecular scale, rather than looking  at atomic and sub-atomic structure. Reaction kinetics, intermolecular  forces, and surface chemistry are all important applications, and anyone  with a passion for gaining a strong understanding and appreciation for  the most basic natural laws of our universe would do very well in this  subdiscipline.

- Biochemistry: this field of chemistry is at the  forefront of how chemicals affect the living and natural world. Biochemical  reactions govern all living things and natural processes. This is a  huge and important field that tackles how elements, molecules, and particles  form the very nature of the biological world. There is an endless supply  of topics within biochemistry to study, as natural chemical reactions  are countless and different across all living beings. Biochemistry involves  a vast array of topics, from the study of digestion and other organismal  processes such as metabolism, energy production, reproduction, and range  from the macro- to the micro-molecular scale. This subfield is perhaps  one of the most interdisciplinary, as it can involve almost any other  scientific discipline. Many people with vastly different interests and  specialties end up working together in biochemistry, and therefore this  field is great for someone with broader interests.

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This article was composed by Ty Whitworth for the  team at


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