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Chemistry Overview - Preparation - Specialty Areas - Co-ops and Internships - Employment - Earnings - Profiles of Chemists - Career Path Forecast -Professional Organizations

Specialty Areas
- Agricultural Chemistry
- Analytical Chemistry
- Biochemistry
- Biotechnology
- Catalysis
- Chemical Education
- Chemical Engineering
- Chemical Information
- Chemical Sales and Marketing
- Chemical Technology
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry
- Consulting
- Consumer Products Development
- Environmental Chemistry
- Food and Flavor Chemistry
- Forensic Chemistry
- Geochemistry
- Hazardous Waste Management
- Inorganic Chemistry
- Materials Science
- Medicinal Chemistry
- Oil and Petroleum
- Organic Chemistry
- Physical Chemistry
- Polymer Chemistry
- Pulp and Paper Chemistry
- R&D Management
- Science Writing
- Textile Chemistry
- Water Chemistry

Physical Chemistry
Physical chemists seek to unravel such varied mysteries as how proteins fold into their active state, how complex nanostructures can be formed and behave, how biomolecular motors work, and how global phenomena such as the stratospheric ozone hole originated. They develop theories about these properties, analyze materials, and discover potential uses for materials. Physical chemists work extensively with sophisticated instrumentation and equipment as well as state-of-the-art computers. When you walk into a physical chemistry lab, for example, it is bound to be packed with computers and large instruments, including lasers, mass spectrometers, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers, and a variety of microscopes that can see and follow molecules at atomic resolution.


Polymer Chemistry
A polymer is a chain of small molecules joined together in a repeating fashion to form a single layer molecule. Chemists develop polymers so they can be used to make ingredients for products with unique physical and chemical properties. They manipulate large, complex molecules and capitalize on the connections between their molecular structure and the properties that make them useful. Polymer products can be lightweight, hard, strong, and flexible and have special thermal, electrical, and optical characteristics; they include products from the fiber, communication, packaging, and transportation industries. The big boom in polymer chemistry occurred largely in the first part of the twentieth century with the advent of polymer materials such as nylon and Kevlar. Today, most work with polymers focuses on improving and fine-tuning existing technologies. Still, there are opportunities ahead for polymer chemists. They work in many industries, creating a variety of synthetic polymers such as Teflon and special application plastics and developing new polymers that are less expensive or that outperform traditional materials and replace those that are scarce.


Pulp and Paper Chemistry
Pulp chemistry and paper chemistry are integrated processes, but each is carried out somewhat separately. Chemists in the paper-making business tend to gain experience with both pulp and paper science, because knowledge of both is integral to the smooth running of a paper mill.  Pulping is a process of delignification-removing lignin from wood while leaving cellulose fibers intact. Most pulping is done through a "Kraft" delignification process, which uses sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide to chemically remove lignin. After delignification, the color of the pulp is dark brown. If white paper is desired, the pulp is bleached. Delignified, bleached pulp is fed into paper machines after undergoing other chemical processes that produce the desired quality and characteristics for the paper. "Sizing" chemistry gives the paper resistance to moisture; "retention" chemistry binds fillers and shorter fibers into the paper; and "wet strength" chemistry ensures that products like paper towels will not disintegrate in water.


R&D Management
The R&D manager must have a strong foundation in his or her scientific discipline as well as the ability to understand and work with scientists in other disciplines. A project manager's job is to take broad responsibility for the scientific aspects of a research project or research team and marry its efforts with the strategic and business goals of his or her company. Time is spent working with other scientists in the lab, planning directions for research, putting together self-directed teams of scientists, obtaining in and allocating monies, and meeting with business managers. Few chemists go to school to become R&D managers, but many receive management training through their employers. R&D management is a position scientists move into over the course of their careers. The R&D manager must have a strong foundation in his or her scientific discipline as well as the ability to understand and work with scientists in other disciplines.


Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the American Chemical Society and the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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