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Areas of Chemistry

Defines the five branches of chemistry

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You Do What?

You Do What?

Credit: National Archive
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Surprise!  Chemistry is everywhere, and there are a lot of people, professions, and products that rely on the sub-disciplines of chemistry.

News You Can Use

  • Chemistry is the study of changes in matter – a pretty big topic.  Thus, discipline can be traditionally further divided into the following five chemistry subareas: organic, inorganic, physical, analytical, and biochemical.
  • Organic chemistry is the study of organic compounds, mainly compounds and materials that contain carbon atoms.
  • Credit: Iain George
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035797337@N01/3012247640/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    The organic compound Brompheniramine. The black balls represent carbon atoms [Figure2]

  • There are numerous careers that are built on a strong understanding of chemistry.  These careers include, but are not limited to, the following topics: catalysis, the environment, food and flavor chemistry, materials science, the oil and petroleum industry, polymer science, textiles and water purification. 
  • For a silly music video by some overly enthusiastic students reviewing the five areas of chemistry, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmw1o6MjM4Y

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With the links below, learn more about the areas of chemistry and possible careers.  Then answer the following questions.

  1. What element (atom type) is always present in the study of organic chemistry?
  2. What type of chemistry relies heavily on physics?
  3. What type of chemistry would likely help in drug discovery or the development of novel medicines?
  4. You are a police detective working on a very important crime and have collected some evidence.  If the identities of various compounds in the evidence need to be determined or if you need to know the amounts of those compounds, to whom might you send the samples?

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