Subject Overview

What is Chemistry?
Our lives, like our world, are deeply connected to chemistry. Every interaction we have with the world involves an intricate series of chemical reactions and interactions in our bodies; what we see, hear, touch and taste are all the result of chemistry. As such, to understand chemistry is to begin to understand the world that we inhabit and the ways in which we inhabit it.

Chemistry has traditionally been divided into four main areas: Organic, Inorganic, Physical and Theoretical. However, increasingly, the boundaries of these distinctions have begun to overlap and blur which, in turn, broadens the horizons of what is possible and so facilitates new discoveries. For example, materials and biological chemistry are just two research areas in which the four disciplines of chemistry interact to produce new knowledge and understandings.

What qualifications do I need if I want to study Chemistry at University?
The qualifications needed to study Chemistry at University will depend upon whether you intend to apply for a straight Chemistry degree or whether you are applying for a Chemistry degree via a Natural Sciences course. Although you should always check the website of the University/ Department that you are applying to, generally, you will need to have studied Chemistry to the highest level of your country’s education system (for example at A Level) and you will often also need evidence of Mathematic ability.

What kind of skills will I gain if I study Chemistry?
A Chemistry Degree will provide you with many different skills: besides a detailed understanding of the chemical world around us, you can expect to develop many other skills that can be applied in a wide variety of different professions, such as:
• The ability to work independently and collaboratively
• Time-management, including planning and meeting deadlines
• Analytical skills
• Practical chemistry techniques
• Computational skills
• Mathematical expertise
• Research proficiency (usually Masters Level only), including use of academic literature

What kind of career will I have if I study Chemistry?
There is no set career path for a Chemistry graduate; people who have studied Chemistry follow careers in many different sectors. Many students continue their education and complete more specialised degrees within further education such as MRes, MPhil or PhD in Chemistry. However, many other students choose to go into non-research based careers implementing their diverse skills learnt through their studies; careers ranging from teaching, publishing and consultancy through to roles in the pharmaceutical industry, the Government and the energy industry. In short, a Chemistry degree can open many doors.

  • Solar Cells

    For many decades, scientists have been interested to find ways and means of harnessing the energy from the sun. Solar cells – often referred to as photovoltaic (PV) cells – provide a very attractive way to convert solar energy directly into electricity without affecting the environment.

  • Organometallic Chemistry

    Organometallic compounds are, probably unsurprisingly to you, most strictly defined as any complex in which there is a bond between a carbon atom (or functionality) and a metal atom. Given the multitude of different metals in the periodic table and the variety of different functional groups that carbon is found in, you can probably imagine how many of different types of organometallic complexes exist.

  • Infrared Spectroscopy

    Spectroscopy is a group of analytical techniques used by organic chemists in order to determine what structure an organic molecule has. In each form of spectroscopy, a molecule interacts with a form of electromagnetic radiation to give a readout allowing information to be gleaned regarding the molecule’s structure.

    In this resource, we will cover infrared spectroscopy.

  • Chromatography

    This topic aims to introduce you to the fascinating technique of separation and purification of compounds. You will learn how interactions between molecules help with the separation, and understand its importance in chemistry and forensic science.

  • Chirality and Why it is Important

    Although many of you will not have come across the word “chirality” or “chiral” you are more likely to know a definition of isomerism.

  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

    Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) is a technique used in Chemistry and Biochemistry to give information about the structure of molecules.

  • Colour and Where it Comes From

    In this topic we are going to think about colours; why they come about and what factors can affect the colour we observe.

  • Bonding and How it Happens

    In this topic we are going to look in more detail at the connection between atoms in certain types of compound, covalent compounds.

  • Aromaticity and its Effect on Reactivity

    In this topic we look at aromatic structures and compounds.

  • Catalysis, Catalysts and Examples of Their Uses

    In this topic we will investigate catalysts, their effect on reactions, the different types of catalysis that occur and specific examples of these.

  • Pharmaceutical Chemistry

    The production, synthesis and development of pharmaceuticals are a key application of chemistry.