Put simply, chemistry is the study of matter. This branch of science involves identifying different substances contained in matter and how they interact and change. Even people who don’t work as chemists engage with chemistry: it’s everywhere. Here are 10 reasons why chemistry is important in our world:
#1. Chemistry helps explain everything
According to the American Chemical Society, a non-profit organization, “Everything you hear, see, smell, taste, and touch involves chemistry.” Chemistry helps explain things like why leaves change color in the fall, why baking bread smells so delicious, and why some people are allergic to things like peanuts. Everything that has matter breaks down into chemical building blocks.
#2. Being interested in chemistry opens up career options
Chemistry is a broad field. Having an interest and understanding of chemistry opens many doors. We’ll go over some of those options later on, but for now, just know that chemistry can help your job search in a big way. Even if you don’t work as a chemist, the skills learned through studying the subject apply to fields like the food industry, publishing, education, and more.
#3. Chemistry helps people develop strong analytical skills
Like all science, the study of chemistry involves specific skills. Students of chemistry learn to pay close attention to detail, solve problems, analyze data, and communicate verbally and in writing. These are skills easily transferred to other fields beyond the realm of science.
#4. Understanding chemistry keeps people safe
Safety is one of the most practical applications of chemistry. Knowing what happens when you mix certain substances (like household chemicals) and knowing what’s in your food can protect you and your family from illness. Advancements in chemistry have also led to better sanitation and hygiene technologies. As an example, chlorination disinfects drinking water. This chemical process kills waterborne bacteria and viruses that cause up to 3-4 million deaths per year.
#5. Chemistry helps protect the environment
Environmental chemists play a key role in protecting the environment. They study the chemicals and chemical reactions in the air, water, and soil. With their knowledge and tools, these chemists learn how human activity affects the environment and what chemical reactions can be employed to make air, water, and soil cleaner and healthier. Chemistry is also important in the development of green technologies and sustainable fuel.
#6. Chemistry is used in law
Chemistry is involved in the legal field in a few ways. Chemists can work in intellectual property, examining copyright issues and filing for approval from regulating agencies. Before giving this approval, agencies need to know the chemical makeup of products and how they might affect people and the environment. A chemist is the best person to explain this information. Chemists can also be found in forensics. They analyze physical evidence at crime scenes and help law enforcement understand how crimes occurred.
#7. Chemistry is used in the food industry
Cooking and food production are chemical reactions, so it makes sense that chemistry would apply to this field. Food chemists work on improving food safety, which is a matter of life and death. In America alone, the CDC estimates that 48 million people get sick from food each year, while about 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses. Chemists also often work on developing new methods for storage and preservation, so food has a longer shelf life.
#8. Chemistry is important in agriculture
Organic chemistry is essential for developing methods for food production and farming. Agricultural chemists seek to understand the causes and effects of chemical reactions. That includes studying soil fertility and water and air quality as it affects the growth of crops. Chemists also study pests, weeds, and fungi and develop ways to control them. Chemists play a big role in creating and testing herbicides, fertilizers, and insecticides.
#9. Chemistry is used in medicine
Chemistry is vital to the creation and testing of medications. Without chemistry, we would have no drugs. Using their knowledge of chemical reactions, pharmaceutical chemists develop new drugs and test them in labs, animals, and humans. In the past, medicine was based on observation. Without the right tools or information, doctors weren’t sure why certain substances worked or didn’t work, but as science progressed, the reasoning became clearer. Even today, many medicines hit the shelves without a full understanding of why they work, but their effects are obviously beneficial. How medications interact with the body – in both good and bad ways – is a matter of chemistry.
#10. Chemistry is important for space travel
Traveling in space is a very complex endeavor. Chemistry is an important part of making that safe. If we ever hope to travel through space for vast distances (maybe to Mars), chemists are needed to develop ways that make that possible. That includes developing mechanics that can propel ships far enough, fuel that’s sustainable and effective, and new ways of food storage. Chemistry was vital to getting space travel to where it is today, so it’s just as important for future projects.