Chemistry, in simplest terms, is the science of matter and the changes that take place with matter. Chemistry is a very fundamental science which impacts all facets of our lives and touches almost every aspect of our existence in some way or the other. It is also often referred to as the central science because it joins together physics and mathematics, biology and medicine, and the earth and environmental sciences. Knowing something about chemistry is worthwhile because it provides an excellent basis for understanding the physical universe we live in.
The most fascinating aspect of chemistry is that chemists not only describe the world around us the way it exists but are continously involved in changing and extending the world by producing new chemical substances. This makes chemistry the most productive of all sciences. Chemists also have the ability to transform matter into amazing new things. Some chemists work on drug-designing to cure deadly diseases such as cancer, AIDS, ebola etc while others are involved in analytical monitoring of environment and health. Still others develop smart materials with in-built properties, or new fabrics, cosmetics and other materials for use in everyday life. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that we are all chemists. Our bodies develop, grow and function as a result of various chemical processes reacting within us.
The exponential growth in the number of chemical substances (this number is expected to reach 5 billion by the end of this century) accompanied by emergence of many new ideas, concepts and theories has led to emergence of many new branches of chemistry such as cheminformatics, combinatorial chemistry, green-chemistry, supra-molecular chemistry, astrochemistry, medicinal chemistry, nanotechnology, phytochemistry, material science, food chemistry, polymer chemistry, engineering chemistry etc. This, in turn, has led to the need for professionals having knowledge in these fields. Many of these fields require knowledge of chemistry along with other connecting/related disciplines or sub-disciplines such as biology, physics, electronics, mathematics, statistics, computers, etc.
A degree in chemistry opens the doors to a wide range of careers, both in and out of the lab.Those keen on pursuing chemistry after Class 12 can opt for BSc (hons) chemistry programme at entry level. Training in chemistry is highly recommended for industrial positions. It is required for teaching jobs and those in public sectors and management. But employment opportunities depend on your qualifications in the subject (see box).
Skill sets required
Chemistry requires out-of-the-box thinking, problem solving skills, numeracy, creativity, good communication skills and data analysing abilities.
The author holds a Sir Shankar Lal Chair of Chemistry at Delhi University.