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The Apothecary or The Chemist by Gabriel Metsu (c. 1651-67). Metsu, Gabriel - L'Apothicaire - c. 1651-1667.jpg
The Apothecary or The Chemist by Gabriël Metsu (c. 1651–67).

A chemist (from Greek chēm (ía) alchemy; replacing chemist from Medieval Latin alchimista [1] ) is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms. Chemists carefully measure substance proportions, reaction rates, and other chemical properties. The word 'chemist' is also used to address Pharmacists in Commonwealth English.

Scientist person that studies a science

A scientist is someone who conducts scientific research to advance knowledge in an area of interest.

Chemistry is the natural science involved with elements and compounds composed of atoms, molecules and ions: their composition, structure, properties, behavior and the changes they undergo during a reaction with other substances.

Molecule Electrically neutral entity consisting of more than one atom (n > 1); rigorously, a molecule, in which n > 1 must correspond to a depression on the potential energy surface that is deep enough to confine at least one vibrational state

A molecule is an electrically neutral group of two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their lack of electrical charge. However, in quantum physics, organic chemistry, and biochemistry, the term molecule is often used less strictly, also being applied to polyatomic ions.


Chemists use this knowledge to learn the composition and properties of unfamiliar substances, as well as to reproduce and synthesize large quantities of useful naturally occurring substances and create new artificial substances and useful processes. Chemists may specialize in any number of subdisciplines of chemistry. Materials scientists and metallurgists share much of the same education and skills with chemists. The work of chemists is often related to the work of chemical engineers, who are primarily concerned with the proper design, construction and evaluation of the most cost-effective large-scale chemical plants and work closely with industrial chemists on the development of new processes and methods for the commercial-scale manufacture of chemicals and related products.

Materials science interdisciplinary field which deals with the discovery and design of new materials; primarily concerned with the physical and chemical properties of solids

The interdisciplinary field of materials science, also commonly termed materials science and engineering is the design and discovery of new materials, particularly solids. The intellectual origins of materials science stem from the Enlightenment, when researchers began to use analytical thinking from chemistry, physics, and engineering to understand ancient, phenomenological observations in metallurgy and mineralogy. Materials science still incorporates elements of physics, chemistry, and engineering. As such, the field was long considered by academic institutions as a sub-field of these related fields. Beginning in the 1940s, materials science began to be more widely recognized as a specific and distinct field of science and engineering, and major technical universities around the world created dedicated schools of the study, within either the Science or Engineering schools, hence the naming.

Chemical engineer professional in the field of chemical engineering

In the field of engineering, a chemical engineer is a professional, who is equipped with the knowledge of chemical engineering, works principally in the chemical industry to convert basic raw materials into a variety of products, and deals with the design and operation of plants and equipment. In general, a chemical engineer is one who applies and uses principles of chemical engineering in any of its various practical applications; these often include 1) design, manufacture, and operation of plants and machinery in industrial chemical and related processes ; 2) development of new or adapted substances for products ranging from foods and beverages to cosmetics to cleaners to pharmaceutical ingredients, among many other products ; and 3) development of new technologies such as fuel cells, hydrogen power and nanotechnology, as well as working in fields wholly or partially derived from chemical engineering such as materials science, polymer engineering, and biomedical engineering.

Chemical plant industrial process plant that manufactures chemicals

A chemical plant is an industrial process plant that manufactures chemicals, usually on a large scale. The general objective of a chemical plant is to create new material wealth via the chemical or biological transformation and or separation of materials. Chemical plants use specialized equipment, units, and technology in the manufacturing process. Other kinds of plants, such as polymer, pharmaceutical, food, and some beverage production facilities, power plants, oil refineries or other refineries, natural gas processing and biochemical plants, water and wastewater treatment, and pollution control equipment use many technologies that have similarities to chemical plant technology such as fluid systems and chemical reactor systems. Some would consider an oil refinery or a pharmaceutical or polymer manufacturer to be effectively a chemical plant.

History of chemistry

Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev - author of the first modern periodic table of elements Medeleeff by repin.jpg
Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev - author of the first modern periodic table of elements
Antoine Lavoisier (1743-94) is considered the "Father of Modern Chemistry". Antoine lavoisier color.jpg
Antoine Lavoisier (1743–94) is considered the "Father of Modern Chemistry".

The roots of chemistry can be traced to the phenomenon of burning. Fire was a mystical force that transformed one substance into another and thus was of primary interest to mankind. It was fire that led to the discovery of iron and glasses. After gold was discovered and became a precious metal, many people were interested to find a method that could convert other substances into gold. This led to the protoscience called alchemy. The word chemist is derived from the New Latin noun chimista, an abbreviation of alchimista (alchemist). Alchemists discovered many chemical processes that led to the development of modern chemistry. Chemistry as we know it today, was invented by Antoine Lavoisier with his law of conservation of mass in 1783. The discoveries of the chemical elements has a long history culminating in the creation of the periodic table by Dmitri Mendeleev. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry created in 1901 gives an excellent overview of chemical discovery since the start of the 20th century.

Combustion high-temperature exothermic redox chemical reaction between a fuel (the reductant) and an oxidant, usually atmospheric oxygen, that produces oxidized in a mixture termed as smoke

Combustion, or burning, is a high-temperature exothermic redox chemical reaction between a fuel and an oxidant, usually atmospheric oxygen, that produces oxidized, often gaseous products, in a mixture termed as smoke. Combustion in a fire produces a flame, and the heat produced can make combustion self-sustaining. Combustion is often a complicated sequence of elementary radical reactions. Solid fuels, such as wood and coal, first undergo endothermic pyrolysis to produce gaseous fuels whose combustion then supplies the heat required to produce more of them. Combustion is often hot enough that incandescent light in the form of either glowing or a flame is produced. A simple example can be seen in the combustion of hydrogen and oxygen into water vapor, a reaction commonly used to fuel rocket engines. This reaction releases 242 kJ/mol of heat and reduces the enthalpy accordingly :

Fire Rapid oxidation of a material

Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition.

Discovery is the act of detecting something new, or something previously unrecognized as meaningful. With reference to sciences and academic disciplines, discovery is the observation of new phenomena, new actions, or new events and providing new reasoning to explain the knowledge gathered through such observations with previously acquired knowledge from abstract thought and everyday experiences. A discovery may sometimes be based on earlier discoveries, collaborations, or ideas. Some discoveries represent a radical breakthrough in knowledge or technology.


Jobs for chemists usually require at least a bachelor's degree, but many positions, especially those in research, require a Master of Science or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD.). Most undergraduate programs emphasize mathematics and physics as well as chemistry, partly because chemistry is also known as "the central science", thus chemists ought to have a well-rounded knowledge about science. At the Master's level and higher, students tend to specialize in a particular field. Fields of specialization include biochemistry, nuclear chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, polymer chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, theoretical chemistry, quantum chemistry, environmental chemistry, and thermochemistry. Postdoctoral experience may be required for certain positions.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework, although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees.

Master of Science masters degree awarded for post-graduate study in the sciences, or occasionally social sciences

A Master of Science is a master's degree in the field of science awarded by universities in many countries or a person holding such a degree. In contrast to the Master of Arts degree, the Master of Science degree is typically granted for studies in sciences, engineering and medicine and is usually for programs that are more focused on scientific and mathematical subjects; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the humanities and social sciences. While it ultimately depends upon the specific program, earning a Master of Science degree typically includes writing a thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

Workers whose work involves chemistry, but not at a complexity requiring an education with a chemistry degree, are commonly referred to as chemical technicians . Such technicians commonly do such work as simpler, routine analyses for quality control or in clinical laboratories, having an associate degree. A chemical technologist has more education or experience than a chemical technician but less than a chemist, often having a bachelor's degree in a different field of science with also an associate degree in chemistry (or many credits related to chemistry) or having the same education as a chemical technician but more experience. There are also degrees specific to become a chemical technologist, which are somewhat distinct from those required when a student is interested in becoming a professional chemist. A Chemical technologist is more involved in the management and operation of the equipment and instrumentation necessary to perform chemical analyzes than a chemical technician. They are part of the team of a chemical laboratory in which the quality of the raw material, intermediate products and finished products is analyzed. They also perform functions in the areas of environmental quality control and the operational phase of a chemical plant.

Quality control Project management process making sure produced products are good

Quality control (QC) is a process by which entities review the quality of all factors involved in production. ISO 9000 defines quality control as "A part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements".

An associate degree is an undergraduate degree awarded, primarily in the United States, after a course of post-secondary study lasting two or three years. It is a level of qualification between a high school diploma or GED and a bachelor's degree.

In addition to all the training usually given to chemical technologists in their respective degree (or one given via an associate degree), a chemist is also trained to understand more details related to chemical phenomena so that the chemist can be capable of more planning on the steps to achieve a distinct goal via a chemistry-related endeavor. The higher the competency level achieved in the field of chemistry (as assessed via a combination of education, experience and personal achievements), the higher the responsibility given to that chemist and the more complicated the task might be. Chemistry, as a field, have so many applications that different tasks and objectives can be given to workers or scientists with these different levels of education or experience. The specific title of each job varies from position to position, depending on factors such as the kind of industry, the routine level of the task, the current needs of a particular enterprise, the size of the enterprise or hiring firm, the philosophy and management principles of the hiring firm, the visibility of the competency and individual achievements of the one seeking employment, economic factors such as recession or economic depression, among other factors, so this makes it difficult to categorize the exact roles of these chemistry-related workers as standard for that given level of education. Because of these factors affecting exact job titles with distinct responsibilities, some chemists might begin doing technician tasks while other chemists might begin doing more complicated tasks than those of a technician, such as tasks that also involve formal applied research, management, or supervision included within the responsibilities of that same job title. The level of supervision given to that chemist also varies in a similar manner, with factors similar to those that affect the tasks demanded for a particular chemist.

In economics, a recession is a business cycle contraction when there is a general decline in economic activity. Macroeconomic indicators such as GDP, investment spending, capacity utilization, household income, business profits, and inflation fall, while bankruptcies and the unemployment rate rise. In the United Kingdom, it is defined as a negative economic growth for two consecutive quarters.

A chemist in a lab Kolo Naukowe Flogiston.jpg
A chemist in a lab

It is important that those interested in a Chemistry degree understand the variety of roles available to them (on average), which vary depending on education and job experience. Those Chemists who hold a bachelor's degree are most commonly involved in positions related to either research assistance (working under the guidance of senior chemists in a research-oriented activity), or, alternatively, they may work on distinct (chemistry-related) aspects of a business, organization or enterprise including aspects that involve quality control, quality assurance, manufacturing, production, formulation, inspection, method validation, visitation for troubleshooting of chemistry-related instruments, regulatory affairs, "on-demand" technical services, chemical analysis for non-research purposes (e.g., as a legal request, for testing purposes, or for government or non-profit agencies); chemists may also work in environmental evaluation and assessment. Other jobs or roles may include sales and marketing of chemical products and chemistry-related instruments or technical writing. The more experience obtained, the more independence and leadership or management roles these chemists may perform in those organizations. Some chemists with relatively higher experience might change jobs or job position to become a manager of a chemistry-related enterprise, a supervisor, an entrepreneur or a chemistry consultant. Other chemists choose to combine their education and experience as a chemist with a distinct credential to provide different services (e.g., forensic chemists, chemistry-related software development, patent law specialists, environmental law firm staff, scientific news reporting staff, engineering design staff, etc.).

In comparison, chemists who have obtained a Master of Science (M.S.) in chemistry or in a very related discipline may find chemist roles that allow them to enjoy more independence, leadership and responsibility earlier in their careers with less years of experience than those with a bachelor's degree as highest degree. Sometimes, M.S. chemists receive more complex tasks duties in comparison with the roles and positions found by chemists with a bachelor's degree as their highest academic degree and with the same or close-to-same years of job experience. There are positions that are open only to those that at least have a degree related to chemistry at the master's level. Although good chemists without a Ph. D. degree but with relatively many years of experience may be allowed some applied research positions, the general rule is that Ph. D. chemists are preferred for research positions and are typically the preferred choice for the highest administrative positions on big enterprises involved in chemistry-related duties. Some positions, especially research oriented, will only allow those chemists who are Ph. D. holders. Jobs that involve intensive research and actively seek to lead the discovery of completely new chemical compounds under specifically assigned monetary funds and resources or jobs that seek to develop new scientific theories require a Ph. D. more often than not. Chemists with a Ph. D. as the highest academic degree are found typically on the research-and-development department of an enterprise and can also hold university positions as professors. Professors for research universities or for big universities usually have a Ph. D., and some research-oriented institutions might require post-doctoral training. Some smaller colleges (including some smaller four-year colleges or smaller non-research universities for undergraduates) as well as community colleges usually hire chemists with a M.S. as professors too (and rarely, some big universities who need part-time or temporary instructors, or temporary staff), but when the positions are scarce and the applicants are many, they might prefer Ph. D. holders instead.


The three major employers of chemists are academic institutions, industry, especially the chemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry, and government laboratories.

Chemistry typically is divided into several major sub-disciplines. There are also several main cross-disciplinary and more specialized fields of chemistry. There is a great deal of overlap between different branches of chemistry, as well as with other scientific fields such as biology, medicine, physics, radiology, and several engineering disciplines.

A chemist prepares a new fuel cell for testing. Laura Miller at ANL.jpg
A chemist prepares a new fuel cell for testing.
A chemist pours from a round-bottom flask. Julie Perkins at LLNL.jpg
A chemist pours from a round-bottom flask.

All the above major areas of chemistry employ chemists. Other fields where chemical degrees are useful include astrochemistry (and cosmochemistry), atmospheric chemistry, chemical engineering, chemo-informatics, electrochemistry, environmental science, forensic science, geochemistry, green chemistry, history of chemistry, materials science, medical science, molecular biology, molecular genetics, nanotechnology, nuclear chemistry, oenology, organometallic chemistry, petrochemistry, pharmacology, photochemistry, phytochemistry, polymer chemistry, supramolecular chemistry and surface chemistry.

Professional societies

Chemists may belong to professional societies specifically for professionals and researchers within the field of Chemistry, such as the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom, or the American Chemical Society (ACS) in the United States.

Honors and awards

The highest honor awarded to chemists is the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded since 1901, by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

See also

Related Research Articles

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to chemistry:

Physicist scientist who does research in physics

A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe. Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate causes of phenomena, and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms. Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic and particle physics, through biological physics, to cosmological length scales encompassing the universe as a whole. The field generally includes two types of physicists: experimental physicists who specialize in the observation of physical phenomena and the analysis of experiments, and theoretical physicists who specialize in mathematical modeling of physical systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. Physicists can apply their knowledge towards solving practical problems or to developing new technologies.

Physical science is a branch of natural science that studies non-living systems, in contrast to life science. It in turn has many branches, each referred to as a "physical science", together called the "physical sciences".

Biochemist Scientist specialized in biochemistry

Biochemists are scientists that are trained in biochemistry.

John Ross was a scientist in Physical Chemistry and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University.

Engineering technician specialist who is trained in the skills and techniques related to a specific branch of engineering

An engineering technician is primarily trained in the skills and techniques related to a specific branch of engineering, with a practical understanding of the relevant engineering concepts. Engineering technicians often assist engineers and technologists in projects relating to research and development, or focus on post-development activities like implementation or operation. An engineering technician is between a skilled craft worker and a technologist.

Chemical technologist

Chemical technologists and technicians are workers who provide technical support or services in chemical-related fields. They may work under direct supervision or may work independently, depending on their specific position and duties. Their work environments differ widely and include, but are not limited to, laboratories and industrial settings. As such, it is nearly impossible to generalize the duties of chem techs as their individual jobs vary greatly. Biochemical techs often do similar work in biochemistry.

The Willard Gibbs Award, presented by the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society, was established in 1910 by William A. Converse (1862–1940), a former Chairman and Secretary of the Chicago Section of the society and named for Professor Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839–1903) of Yale University. Gibbs, whose formulation of the Phase Rule founded a new science, is considered by many to be the only American-born scientist whose discoveries are as fundamental in nature as those of Newton and Galileo.

The Diploma in Engineering or Diploma in Technical Education is a program focused on practical and skills-oriented training. It is a technical course that only covers the essentials when ranked with an undergraduate engineering degree. It aims to provide students with industry or job related engineering knowledge, scientific skills, computing and analysis, mathematical techniques, a sound knowledge of English to communicate in the field and ability to apply problem solving techniques.

The Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas is a university in Moscow. The university was founded on 17 April 1930 and is named after the geologist Ivan Gubkin. The university is affectionally known as Kerosinka, meaning "kerosene stove".

Kizhakeyil Lukose Sebastian is a professor of chemistry at the department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry of Indian Institute of Technology, Palakkad, India. Prior to becoming a professor at IIT Palakkad, he was a professor of chemistry at the department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for about 20 years.

University of California, Irvine School of Physical Sciences

The School of Physical Sciences is an academic unit of the University of California, Irvine (UCI) that conducts academic research and teaching in the field of physical sciences. It offers both pre-professional training and general education in the departments of chemistry, earth system science, mathematics, and physics and astronomy. The school enrolls 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students and is one of the top schools in the nation in the number of degrees it confers in the area of physical sciences. It also offers specializations such as biochemistry, statistics, math for economics, applied and computational mathematics, astrophysics, applied physics, biomedical physics, and education. In 1995, the school gained international prominence when Frank Sherwood Rowland, a professor in chemistry and Frederick Reines, a professor in physics, won the Nobel Prize in their respective fields. It was the first time two people won the prize in the same year in two different fields at the same public university.

Institute of Chemical Process Fundamentals research institute

Institute of Chemical Process Fundamentals, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v.v.i. is one of the six institutes belonging to the ASCR chemical sciences section and is a research centre in a variety of fields such as chemistry, biochemistry, catalysis and environment.

Comparison of chemistry and physics

Chemistry and physics are branches of science that both study matter. The difference between the two lies in their scope and approach. Chemists and physicists are trained differently, and they have different professional roles, even when working in a team. The division between chemistry and physics becomes diffuse at the interface of the two branches, notably in fields such as physical chemistry, chemical physics, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics/chemistry, materials science, spectroscopy, solid state physics, solid-state chemistry, crystallography, and nanotechnology.

Faculty of Chemical Technology

Founded in 1952 as part of the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague, Czech Republic, the Faculty of Chemical Technology consists of chemistry graduate programs and interdisciplinary committees, organized into ten departments and divisions.

Clay chemistry is an applied subdiscipline of chemistry which studies the chemical structures, properties and reactions of or involving clays and clay minerals. It is a multidisciplinary field, involving concepts and knowledge from inorganic and structural chemistry, physical chemistry, materials chemistry, analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, mineralogy, geology and others.

Alexander Butlerov Chemistry Institute

Alexander Butlerov Chemistry Institute — structural unit of Kazan Federal University, carries out research, development and academic activity in the area of basic and applied chemistry.

Princeton University Department of Chemistry

The Princeton University Department of Chemistry is an academic department at Princeton University. Founded in 1795, it is one of the oldest departments of chemistry in the country and is consistently funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In 2010, the department moved to its new location, the Frick Chemistry Laboratory. The department oversees the undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral programs in chemistry, as well as a number of research centers and initiatives at the university.


  1. "the definition of chemist".