Chemistry Department

Students

What are Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Why Study Them?

Chemistry, more than any other field of the natural sciences, is concerned with the properties and behavior of materials, and how these properties are related to molecular scale structures and events. Because all scientists and engineers work with materials, all require at least a basic knowledge of chemistry. Furthermore, chemistry has important applications in fields as disparate as medicine, art, politics, and law.

Biochemistry can be viewed as the application of chemistry to biology. In other words, it attempts to describe the functioning of living organisms in terms of the properties and coordinated action of molecules, ions, and atoms. Biochemistry is a field that straddles both chemistry and biology, and at Union requires study within both the Chemistry and Biology Departments.

Chemists and Biochemists at Work

The range of employment opportunities for people with degrees in chemistry or biochemistry is unusually broad because of the centrality of these bodies of knowledge within the spectrum of disciplines which make up the natural sciences and engineering. Chemists and biochemists may find work in industry, government, and academia. However, the majority work in industry, where they are engaged in fundamental research, new product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales, customer technical support, and management. As government scientists, they might work to formulate policies and legislation in areas touching upon science and technology, develop regulations related to foods, drugs, and the environment, or do basic and applied research in the many laboratories run by local, state, and federal agencies with responsibilities for health, environmental conservation, energy, and defense. As educators, chemists and biochemists are found at all levels; at the college and university level, they are usually active scholars as well.

Chemists and biochemists can be found working to create new pest-resistant agricultural crops through genetic engineering, new drugs to eradicate malaria, new lighter-weight materials to increase the fuel efficiency of cars and jet aircraft, and new batteries and solar cells to power future generations of non-polluting electric cars. The scope of interesting work available to someone with a degree in chemistry or biochemistry is very broad!