Chemistry is the study of matter and energy and the interactions between them. This is also the definition for physics, by the way. Chemistry and physics are specializations of physical science. Chemistry tends to focus on the properties of substances and the interactions between different types of matter, particularly reactions that involve electrons. Physics tends to focus more on the nuclear part of the atom, as well as the subatomic realm. Really, they are two sides of the same coin. Organic chemistry requires much more memorization. It is considered a weed-out course for pre-med or pre-vet in the sense that you’ll need to memorize much more to be successful in those fields than you’ll encounter in organic. If you find you truly hate memorization, then those fields of study may not be for you. However, students who are taking organic so that they can become doctors or vets usually feel the memorization that is more directly related to their field of study is more interesting and therefore easier to remember than organic functional groups.
Why Study Chemistry?
Because understanding chemistry helps you to understand the world around you. Cooking is chemistry. Everything you can touch or taste or smell is a chemical. When you study chemistry, you come to understand a bit about how things work. Chemistry isn’t secret knowledge, useless to anyone but a scientist. It’s the explanation for everyday things, like why laundry detergent works better in hot water or how baking soda works or why not all pain relievers work equally well on a headache. If you know some chemistry, you can make educated choices about everyday products that you use.
What Fields of Study Use Chemistry?
You could use chemistry in most fields, but it’s commonly seen in the sciences and in medicine. Chemists, physicists, biologists, and engineers study chemistry. Doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, and veterinarians all take chemistry courses. Science teachers study chemistry. Fire fighters and people who make fireworks learn about chemistry. So do truck drivers, plumbers, artists, hairdressers, chefs… the list is extensive.
What Do Chemists Do?
Whatever they want. Some chemists work in a lab, in a research environment, asking questions and testing hypotheses with experiments. Other chemists may work on a computer developing theories or models or predicting reactions. Some chemists do field work. Others contribute advice on chemistry for projects. Some chemists write. Some chemists teach. The career options are extensive.
Read the Text Before Class
At least skim it. If you know what is going to be covered in class you’ll be in a better position to identify trouble spots and ask questions that will help you to understand the material. You do have a text, right? If not, get one! It is possible to learn chemistry on your own, but if you attempt this, you’re going to need some sort of written material as a reference.
Studying problems until you understand them is not the same as being able to work them. If you can’t work problems, you don’t understand chemistry. It’s that simple! Start with example problems. When you think you understand an example, cover it up and work it on paper yourself. Once you have mastered the examples, try other problems. This is potentially the hardest part of chemistry, because it requires time and effort. However, this is the best way to truly learn chemistry.
If you want to be good at something, you have to practice it. This is true of music, sports, video games, science… everything! If you review chemistry every day and work problems every day, you’ll find a rhythm that will make it easier to retain the material and learn new concepts. Don’t wait until the weekend to review chemistry or allow several days to pass between study sessions. Don’t assume class time is sufficient, because it isn’t. Make time to practice chemistry outside of class.
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