Posts filed under ‘Pure Sciences’

What kind of jobs do Chemists do?

Most chemists work in research, but not all of them work in pure research, that is, research for the sake of it. In fact, more often than not, they work in industry, doing research to develop products that can be sold to make a profit, products that will enhance or improve our lives or lifestyles. A large number work in education, sales and marketing, medical laboratories, and consultancy.

Depending on their particular areas of specialization, chemists can be involved in any number of different kinds of jobs. The four basic specializations are:


Organic chemistry – which deals with every compound on earth (and elsewhere) that has a carbon atom in it, and of course, carbon itself in all its forms. This includes every single form of life on earth, so you can see just how wide a field this is. Synthesis – that is, making new things – is the biggest responsibility of the organic chemist. New ‘things’ might include more effective drugs, better fertilizers, and safer food additives. Organic chemists would find jobs in industries like agriculture, the environment, food, medicine, petroleum, rubber, alcohol, and consumer products like soap.

Inorganic chemistry – simply put, this is the chemistry of non-living objects. They are also involved in synthesis, but in the synthesis of things like plastics, glass, ceramics, synthetic fabrics with special properties that make them ideal for certain applications. Chemists were involved with the discovery and development of both nylon and lycra. Inorganic chemists would find jobs in industries as diverse as mining and minerals, chemicals, microchips, environment, polymer technology, cosmetics, and so on.

Physical chemistry – is the area of overlap between physics and chemistry. That means you venture into this area only if you love maths almost as much as you love chemistry. Physical chemists determine the properties, both good and bad, of all kinds of substances. Spectroscopy, which is the study of the physical properties of chemical compounds using light and other forces, is a big area of physical chemistry. So is theoretical chemistry, which is, like its name, mostly about using theories and calculations to predict the existence or behaviour of something that can’t actually be proved. Physical chemists would find jobs in nuclear and atomic research labs, and in a wide range of industries that need materials scientists.

Analytical chemistry – involves deduction, reasoning and analysis. Most analytical chemists work in the area of qualitative and quantitative analysis. It is these guys who check, for instance, if the pollution levels in the atmosphere are within safe limits or not, and if not, how much beyond the safe limit they are. They would also be involved in testing water to see if it is potable, in testing food to check if it is fresh, in testing metals (like gold, for instance), to establish their purity. Analytical chemists work in forensic science departments, medical laboratories (testing blood and urine samples, for instance), in all kinds of industry (where they may work as industrial chemists, testing random samples from production lines to see if the product is up to standard), government environmental departments, and so on.

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March 17, 2009 at 8:30 am Leave a comment

What kind of jobs do Chemists do?

Most chemists work in research, but not all of them work in pure research, that is, research for the sake of it. In fact, more often than not, they work in industry, doing research to develop products that can be sold to make a profit, products that will enhance or improve our lives or lifestyles. A large number work in education, sales and marketing, medical laboratories, and consultancy.

Depending on their particular areas of specialization, chemists can be involved in any number of different kinds of jobs. The four basic specializations are:

Organic chemistry – which deals with every compound on earth (and elsewhere) that has a carbon atom in it, and of course, carbon itself in all its forms. This includes every single form of life on earth, so you can see just how wide a field this is. Synthesis – that is, making new things – is the biggest responsibility of the organic chemist. New ‘things’ might include more effective drugs, better fertilizers, and safer food additives. Organic chemists would find jobs in industries like agriculture, the environment, food, medicine, petroleum, rubber, alcohol, and consumer products like soap.

Inorganic chemistry – simply put, this is the chemistry of non-living objects. They are also involved in synthesis, but in the synthesis of things like plastics, glass, ceramics, synthetic fabrics with special properties that make them ideal for certain applications. Chemists were involved with the discovery and development of both nylon and lycra. Inorganic chemists would find jobs in industries as diverse as mining and minerals, chemicals, microchips, environment, polymer technology, cosmetics, and so on.

Physical chemistry – is the area of overlap between physics and chemistry. That means you venture into this area only if you love maths almost as much as you love chemistry. Physical chemists determine the properties, both good and bad, of all kinds of substances. Spectroscopy, which is the study of the physical properties of chemical compounds using light and other forces, is a big area of physical chemistry. So is theoretical chemistry, which is, like its name, mostly about using theories and calculations to predict the existence or behaviour of something that can’t actually be proved. Physical chemists would find jobs in nuclear and atomic research labs, and in a wide range of industries that need materials scientists.

Analytical chemistry – involves deduction, reasoning and analysis. Most analytical chemists work in the area of qualitative and quantitative analysis. It is these guys who check, for instance, if the pollution levels in the atmosphere are within safe limits or not, and if not, how much beyond the safe limit they are. They would also be involved in testing water to see if it is potable, in testing food to check if it is fresh, in testing metals (like gold, for instance), to establish their purity. Analytical chemists work in forensic science departments, medical laboratories (testing blood and urine samples, for instance), in all kinds of industry (where they may work as industrial chemists, testing random samples from production lines to see if the product is up to standard), government environmental departments, and so on.

February 28, 2009 at 6:05 am Leave a comment

Where do physicists work?

Many physicists work in research laboratories — in industry, in universities, and in national laboratories — but that is only a beginning of a catalog of places where physicists can be found. Many teach in high schools, colleges, and universities. Others can be found in hospitals, the military, oil fields, power plants, in the astronaut corps, in museums, in patent law firms, and in management positions in business and government. A young person trained in physics acquires a set of skills that makes him or her a valued employee in many settings.

In research laboratories
Most research scientists are required to teach as well as do research, so a typical day would involve some hours of both, or at least preparation for lectures in addition to research. Experimental research would involve work in the laboratory that could be confined to some part of the day or sometimes days together without a break if the experiment requires continuous data collection that is time bound. Meeting with the research team to plan and discuss the work would take up part of the day. The scientist may need to spend part of her day in the library (although these days, journals on the Net and information available on various topics on the world wide web have cut the time a scientist needs to spend in a library, some amount of time in actual libraries is still essential). Entering experimental data into the computer and obtaining results would take hours on a computer and theoretical and experimental scientists would spend at least fifty percent of their working hours on the computer. With micro labs in place, not only data collection and recording but also drawing inferences from such data is all computerized, and some part of the scientist’s day would go in upgrading her knowledge of essential software.

In industry
Physicists who work in industry may work in the research wing of companies as diverse as those that make aeroplanes and those that make, say, soap. Physics and soap? Listen to what Pramila Sharma, an MSc in Nuclear Physics who now works in the Hindustan Lever Resarch Centre (HLRC), has to say, “My work at HLRC is mainly concerned with making soaps ‘feel’ better. The work has much to do with physics (even though it doesn’t have much to do with my MSc subject, Nuclear Physics). At my job, I try to measure the difference in coefficients of friction of various soaps to see which soap feels better and why it does so. Then I try to incorporate some chemicals (polymers) into the already existing soaps and see if the foam has a better, smoother ‘feel’ now. I keep doing this until the soap ‘feels’ perfect. For carrying out the measurements I mentioned earlier, I have to work on sophisticated instruments like the rheometer, the texture analyser, and do various studies like DSC(differential scanning calorimetry), SEM (scanning electron microscopy) etc.” So, you see, even making a soap that feels right involves a lot of physics!

February 27, 2009 at 5:55 am Leave a comment


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