If you’re planning to study science, there is virtually no way for you to go far away from Chemistry. After neuroscience, chemistry is the second most ubiquitous field of study in academia, and the most abundant stream of science and technology.
Given that the stream has been around for millennia, it’s safe to say that if anything exists (be it real or imaginary!) there is chemistry behind it.
Because it is so fundamental, those who study it at higher levels get into specialization early in their career, which makes each career in chemistry much more varied and unique than that in other disciplines, such as engineering or humanities.
How to Become a Chemist?
Starting off a career in chemistry isn’t difficult – you have to opt for science in class XI and XII, subsequently get into a B.Sc (honours) in Chemistry after high school.
However, the colleges which offer the country’s top chemistry courses are often very, very selective and it takes a considerable amount of talent and hard work to get through.
Bachelor in Chemistry is three years long course, and the next thing to get (in the next two years) is usually a master’s degree – because B.Sc’s in India don’t come to specializations, it is not easy to get into a professional position as a chemist with only a bachelor’s degree.
Chemists with Master’s degrees find a wide range of career opportunities available to them, in sectors including the industry, research, teaching, and even non-science sectors such as banking and law.
Eligibility Criteria to Become a Chemist
+2: The student should have studied Science, and graduated with at least 60% aggregate.
Bachelor’s Degree: B.Sc Chemistry (Hons.)
Master’s Degree: M.Sc Chemistry
A Day in the Life of a Chemist
Hi, I’m Rohit. I’m a quality control chemist working for one of the nation’s top manufacturers of cosmetic products.
I have an M.Sc in chemistry from a top university in the nation with a specialization in pharmaceutical science. Come, take a round of my lab and get to know the life.
9:00 AM: I usually reach bang on time, even though my actual work tends to start a little late during the day. In the morning, my primary job is at the desk.
Every batch of material that gets sent out of this massive factory has to be approved by my department, and this is when I handle the paperwork.
10:00 AM: I’ve been informed that the facility’s line operations staff has just sent over today’s first sample. Here’s where we get to the lab. Put on your coat and don your goggles.
10:30 AM: We get a sample per batch, and are often required to deliver a verdict as to the quality of the product at a very short notice – the line operation will wait until it has confirmed that the previous batch was up to the mark (because we manufacture large scale, a rejected batch is a big financial loss)
11:30 AM: Once we get a batch, we perform a number of tests on the physical and chemical characteristics of the product. This time, the product is shampoo.
As many of you might already be aware, the active ingredient in shampoo is sodium lauryl sulphate. However, what makes each brand special is the composition and the secondary and tertiary ingredients. Here’s where we come in.
12:30 PM: The first thing I do with the sample is the check the “vitals” of quality control – things like density, viscosity, and pH. Aside from being crucial quantities that we have to report, these give us a very good indication of the overall quality of the batch.
13:30 PM: The shampoo is considerably less viscous than the required specifications. However, I note that being fresh from the site, the sample is still extremely hot, and viscosity decreases with temperature.
I’m going to take this for a pass for the moment, and re-check it when it cools down. For now, let’s move on and measure the composition!
14:00 PM: The composition is what gets wrong most of the time because even a slight variation can be considered to be unacceptable. Fortunately, it’s possible for this to be altered with minimal efforts. The batch passed the test perfectly. It’s time for lunch!
15:00 PM: A second batch arrived in the afternoon, and a colleague is handling it for the moment. Even though the first batch is yet to be approved, the utility alternates between two distinct products at the same time.
The management doesn’t like equipment going unused for even a second (bad for revenue) so the QC department is always on the move. I’m going to produce reportable data for the tests on the first batch before I can call this done.
16:00 PM: The most important thing about a great shampoo is that its constituents should not separate out easily. Shampoos are colloidal solutions (if you remember them from school), and the success of a product depends a lot on the settling time.
The best way to test for it is, of course, to wait for it to set, but we’re in a hurry so we speed up the settling process in a device called a “centrifuge”, where the solution spins at a very high rpm and we estimate something called the “zeta potential” of the solution form the centripetal force of the system. It’s one of our cooler instruments!
17:00 PM: The batch has been approved, and my days work has come to an end.
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