Students majoring in mathematics with an interest in chemistry or secondary education should consider this special interest area. Chemistry is the study of nanoworld, the world of atoms and molecules spanning dimensions from one to several thousand angstroms (1 x E-9 meters). Chemistry is sometimes referred to as the “central” science due to the size range of physical systems investigated (they are intermediate in size to sub-atomic particles studied by physicists and the larger systems studied by biologists and geologists).
Chemists study the architecture of this miniature universe, explore the changes that occur, unravel the principles that govern these chemical changes, and devise ways to create entirely new compounds and materials. Past triumphs of chemistry include the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and agricultural products, while future challenges include chemical memory, solar cells, superconductors, and the solution of numerous important problems relating to health and the environment.
The usual stereotype of a chemist as someone who works in a laboratory surrounded by flasks of bubbling liquids giving off less than pleasant odors does not describe the experience of most chemists though some do work in laboratories surrounded by traditional glassware and equipment with fume hoods for stinky chemicals. Others, however, work in laboratories equipped with sophisticated computer-controlled measuring instruments. For others, the “lab” is a smokestack, a river, or a process-line in a chemical plant.
From the perspective of employers, chemists are valued as much for their critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they are for their knowledge of chemistry.
Federal government statistics reveal that about 70% of the U.S. economy has some connection to chemistry. Students choosing to study mathematics with a special interest in chemistry will obtain an excellent preparation for these opportunities.