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The Breakdown

Chemistry often (at least initially) conjures up images of beakers gurgling with crazy concoctions, stained lab coats that smell slightly of sulphur and foreheads marred by goggle imprints. Of course, the subject is much more complex and important than these superficial descriptions. The study of the basic structure of matter, chemistry allows us to understand both our own physical make-up as well as our surroundings.

As a chemistry major, you’ll become well versed in the field’s traditional sub-disciplines: organic, inorganic, physical, biological and analytical chemistry. More importantly, through a combination of classroom and laboratory work, you will study both theory and application. Indeed, you will fine tune your scientific mind, learning how to question and how to effectively test your hypotheses. Additionally, it should be noted that many programs offer their students the opportunity to engage in independent research, be it through summer grants, faculty projects, thesis requirements or all of the above.

Chemistry is a challenging, work intensive discipline that requires diligence and focus. In other words, it’s not a good major for slackers. It is, however, a stellar major for students endowed with a natural curiosity, strong quantitative skills and a propensity for problem solving. And it’s also a great major for undergrads who are already prone to thoroughly washing their hands after class.

Nuts and Bolts

Chemistry majors really get to sink their teeth into all aspects of the discipline with classes such as: Chemistry for Everyday Living, The Molecular Basis of Chemical Change, Organic Chemistry I, Structure and Mechanism in Biological Chemistry, Advanced Inorganic Chemistry, Computational Genomics, Instrumental Analysis, Chemical Thermodynamics, Structure and Bonding and Quantum Chemistry.

Decisions, Decisions

Chemistry majors often have a burning desire to understand the natural world. Therefore, they are also likely to be interested in biochemistry, physics, biology, chemistry, environmental science, neuroscience, chemical engineering, atmospheric science, astronomy, geology, microbiology, psychology, plant science, pharmacology, forestry and marine science.

What's Next

Chemistry majors rejoice; the professional paths you can tread are many and varied. Certainly, a significant number of chemistry students set their sights on graduate school – be it medical, dental, nursing, veterinary, pharmacy or PhD programs. Of course, there are many positions a recent grad can pursue within private industry. Indeed, they can land jobs ranging from soil scientist, metallurgist and toxicologist to pollution control officer, food and drug inspector and nutritionist. Further, chemistry majors can easily put their knowledge to use outside of traditional science fields. To be sure, plenty of grads move on to become teachers and educators. Others might apply their science background to jobs within patent law, public policy or even journalism. So really, just as atoms and molecules are the building blocks of matter, a chemistry major can be a building block to a satisfying career.


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Don Munce