Chemists often call Chemistry the central science as it spans both Biology (think very large organic molecules) and Physics (think ‘hard’ mathematics). So an optimist can be sure there is some part of Chemistry they will both love and excel in, while a pessimist is not going to be disappointed either.
All my professional life I have been a Chemist – from researcher to lecturer to teacher and now tutor. Over this 25+ year period, my interest has never wavered, and I’m still as obsessed with wanting to know why something works rather than just accepting that it does. My research focussed on understanding the link between chemical structure and material properties; after all, if you want to design a better material, you need to understand how the existing one works. For example, early mobile phones were large and heavy as the battery technology at the time was nickel oxide based. Understanding how those batteries worked and applying that to the lightest metal, led to the much smaller and lighter lithium-based batteries for every young person’s essential life accessory – who says Chemistry doesn’t impact our everyday?
I’m as obsessive to do well in my personal life as I am in my professional one. At school I learnt to play the flute, achieving a grade 8 and played in the County Youth Orchestra (I also played percussion in the County Brass Band – triangles are not as easy to play as they look). To cultivate a certain eccentricity, I played tiddlywinks for Cambridge University during my PhD studies and took up karate as an early midlife crisis. Well my children were doing it at that moment. After seven years of blood, toil and a broken hand and nose, I achieved my 1st Dan black belt.
A final thought; there are roughly 80 useful chemical elements – that is the total palette that the Chemist has to paint with – yet every substance in all of creation is made up of unique combinations of them. There is much to learn and, more importantly, understand.