Career and Job Search Guide

Chemist and Materials Scientist

Every natural and artificial object is comprised of chemicals. Chemists and material scientists conduct research and utilize their expertise about chemicals to improve consumer products and human health. Chemists are responsible for developing paints, drugs, electronic parts, and numerous other products. Chemists and material scientists additionally create chemical processes that have improved energy efficiency and decreased harmful particles released into the environment. The research of chemists has also improved drugs, farm production, and other processes that have significantly enhanced the quality of life for people.

Large quantities of chemists work in research and development (R&D) operations. Those conducting simple research determine chemical properties, compositions, and the reactions occurring after elements are combined. Chemists participating in applied R&D, develop new materials or products or seek to build better products currently on the market. To make new discoveries and improve product quality, chemists utilize knowledge gained from basic research. To illustrate, chemists discovered synthetic plastics and rubber after combining small and large molecules, which resulted in a process known as polymerization. Chemists increasingly use computer technology to conduct experiments.

Computer technology has enabled chemists to perform combinatorial chemistry experiments. This process makes it possible for chemists to experiment with large varieties of chemicals at the same time to determine chemical properties. This process has rapidly increased chemical production rates, and this process, has led to new discoveries pertaining to human genes. Chemists that specialize in medicine have developed many new drugs.

New chemistry discoveries affecting the life sciences will cause more engineers, computer experts, and other scientists to collaborate together. Chemists are frequently employed as quality control specialists at chemical manufacturing factories. They are responsible for creating detailed plans designed to provide factory employees instructions for mixing chemicals. Many chemists at these factories are responsible to make sure environmental and government regulations are followed.

Many chemists develop expertise in chemistry sub-fields. Analytical chemists become experts in chemical compounds. Many are employed by pharmaceutical companies since identifying specific compounds has led to advancements in medicine. They also determine how chemicals interact after being combined. Analytical chemists also determine what types of chemicals are emitted into the environment from manufacturing processes that produce pollution. Organic chemists specialize in the chemicals that organisms are composed of. They are credited with developing drugs, plastics, and elastic compounds. Inorganic chemists specialize in non-carbon elements, compounds often used to build parts for electronic devices.

Physical and theoretical chemists specialize in the composition of atoms and molecules. They also specialize in chemical reactions. Their work is vital since they focus on research to create new sources of energy. Macromolecular chemists specialize in the characteristics of molecules and atoms. Medicinal chemists specialize in the research and development of compounds designed to create new medicines.

Materials chemists study current product materials to create better ones. The work of most chemists is devoted to this endeavor.

Material chemists have similar jobs as material scientists but the latter apply physics to their work while the former focus on chemistry. In particular, material chemists conduct research to determine what materials are composed of.

Materials scientists spend their time conducting research on material chemical composition to improve existing products and develop new ones. Moreover, they are constantly combining chemical compounds to create more durable products. Material scientists frequently specialize in metal and ceramic compounds.

Work environment. Chemists and material scientists work 40 hour weeks. Those specializing in R&D spend a lot of time in research laboratories. Some work for smaller companies in small labs while others working for large chemical manufactures work in labs with state of the art equipment. Material scientists frequently work in industrial manufacturing factories. Many chemists work outside performing tests to measure pollution levels in the environment. When safety procedures are followed, working with chemicals is not dangerous.

Chemistry specialists usually work 40 hour weeks but frequently work overtime. Research needs often require them to work unusual hours.