In 1928 Alexander Fleming introduced the first true antibiotic to the world. Penicillin has helped to cure countless ailments and saved many lives. This was all the result of some mold and a curious mind. In the century since Fleming’s discovery chemical research has exploded. Pharmaceutical companies pour millions of dollars into new drugs for everything from baldness to cancer.
Dr. Roy J. Plunkett made a similar accidental discovery in 1938. While working with refrigerants he stumbled upon a waxy substance that we know today as Teflon and eggs have never been the same since. Chemistry provides the products that make the modern world possible. However, new scientific discoveries have moved from the realm of the home chemistry set (or discarded toast in Fleming’s case) to ultra-specialized labs that house state of the art equipment.
This has turned the necessary science of chemistry into an extremely resource dependent field. Unlike mathematics or many branches of computer science, which can benefit from independent research done by people of modest means, or by those brave and talented few who have secured finances on their own, chemistry increasingly needs high tech laboratories with substantial funding. This ranking is thus especially critical. Chemists, more so than practitioners of other fields, need a strong research center to operate in. A great chemist without a great laboratory cannot do great work.
A degree in chemistry is not necessarily a one-way ticket to a life in the lab. Chemists enjoy lucrative careers in fields such as:
- Food and Beverage Development
- Quality Control
- Environmental Protection
If one chooses to don the white lab coat and devote their efforts to graduate chemical work there are multiple subspecialties on which he or she can focus such as physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry or analytic chemistry.