Why learn chemistry?

Simplicity amidst complexity. We grow, mature and become stronger through chemical reactions.

Fun and fundamental subject. “Francie came away from her first chemistry lecture in a glow. In one hour she found out that everything was made up of atoms which were in continual motion. She grasped the idea that nothing was ever lost or destroyed. Even if something was burned up or rot away, it did not disappear from the face of the earth; it changed into something else – gases, liquids, and powders. Everything, decided Francie after that first lecture, was vibrant with life and there was no death in chemistry. She was puzzled as to why learned people didn’t adopt chemistry as a religion.” ~ A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith, 1943).

Applications of chemistry knowledge can make our food safer, better, and more abundant. For example:

  1. “a specific type of dipstick test that displays lines on a special variety of paper if food-borne pathogens are present” may reduce food poisoning caused by either E. coli strain O157:H7 or Salmonella typhimurium.
  2. intelligent packaging that changes color in the presence of pathogens
  3. DNA fingerprints to distinguish authentic food products from fraudulent look-a-likes, e.g. on single cacao beans (Theobroma cacao).
  4. faster refrigeration techniques e.g. to minimize rampant growth of bacteria
  5. an enzyme solution to reduce or eliminate phytate that prevents egg-lying hens from producing eggs with high nutritional values

Career. There are plenty of options. For example, energy (oil, natural gas, nuclear fission), chemical and pharmaceutical companies; public health and environment; research at universities, government institutes, industry and private laboratories; teaching from middle school to higher education universities; patent agencies of law, scientific media (journals, websites); forensic science.

People. I had a very supportive chemistry teacher for the last two years of my pre-university education. A soft-spoken senior lady, she voluntarily stayed in our last year to help struggling students and to train interested students for a national chemistry competition. In addition, one of my first chemistry teachers, who taught us when I was 14-15 years old, holds a PhD from Taiwan.


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