Chemist

Summary

Chemists study the physical and chemical properties of materials to determine their composition. They use this information to develop new materials and products, to devise more efficient processes for making materials and to increase scientific knowledge. Chemists should not be confused with pharmacists (see separate entry for Pharmacist).

Duties & Tasks

Chemists may perform the following tasks:

  • conduct experiments to identify chemical composition and study chemical changes that occur in natural substances and processed materials
  • undertake research and analysis to develop and test theories, techniques and processes
  • develop practical applications of experiments and research findings, including those combining new compounds for industrial, agricultural, veterinary and medical use
  • test products and materials and prepare specifications and standards to ensure compliance with government health laws and quality standards
  • undertake cost analysis, pricing and quality assurance exercises when developing new substances, processes and products
  • take part in the marketing and financial management of substances, processes or products developed
  • supervise and coordinate the work of technical support staff
  • conduct routine analyses in a process environment.

Specialisations

Analytical Chemist

An analytical chemist carries out tests and analyses to determine the compositions of substances and to detect the presence of impurities, residues and trace elements.

Environmental Chemist

An environmental chemist monitors waste products from all sources, determines ways to neutralise any negative effects pollutants might have on the environment and devises industrial processes that are environmentally friendly.

Geochemist

A geochemist studies the chemistry of earth materials.

Industrial/Production Chemist

An industrial/production chemist designs, runs, troubleshoots and improves the processes of chemical and material production on an industrial scale.

Organic Chemist

An organic chemist studies the nature of organic compounds to develop new substances for use in the industrial, agricultural, veterinary and medical fields.

Physical Chemist

A physical chemist studies macroscopic, atomic, subatomic and particulate phenomena in chemical systems in terms of physical laws and concepts.

Research Chemist

A research chemist provides innovative solutions to chemical problems and may be involved in pure or applied research.

Working Conditions

Chemists may work alone or as part of a team of professionals and technicians. They work in laboratories, in the field or in chemical processing plants, offices and educational institutions.

Depending on the type of laboratory, chemists may have to handle dangerous or hazardous materials. Protective clothing and equipment are usually provided.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy scientific activities, including laboratory work, fieldwork and research
  • able to think logically and creatively
  • aptitude for accurate work
  • patient and able to persevere
  • an enquiring mind
  • able to work independently or as part of a team.

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