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What is Chemistry?

Your textbook probably defines Chemistry as the study of matter, but, at AUS-e-TUTE we think of Chemistry as the study of life, the universe and everything (with apologies to Douglas Adams and the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

Your whole, entire body, is one big chemical factory. Every breath you take, every move you make, and every piece of food you digest, involves chemical reactions.

Everything you see, touch, smell and taste during your life is made up of atoms. Even the way you perceive the world through your senses involves chemical reactions. And, in the fullness of time, when you die, a whole array of chemical processes takes place during decay.

Indeed, the universe itself is just one big chemical factory, rearranging atoms and sub-atomic particles to produce elements and compounds. Planets are made up of rocks which are just an interesting arrangement of compounds, and an atmosphere is just a mixture of compounds separated by distance. Even the vast reaches of "near vacuum" between stars and planets, and between galaxies, is just a huge volume of sparsely distributed molecules.

Now, because Chemistry is just such an enormous area of Science, it has been broken up into smaller chunks or disciplines. The Chemistry disciplines you are likely to meet at school are:

  • Analytical Chemistry - the analysis of materials in regards to composition and structure
    This includes the areas of titrations and chromatography, etc.

  • Biochemistry - the study of chemicals and chemical reactions in living things
    This includes the study of amino acids, proteins, enzymes, carbohydrates, fats and lipids, DNA, chemical reactions during breathing and digestion, etc.

  • History of Chemistry - study of the history of Chemistry
    This includes the study of the history of elements and the Periodic Table, etc.

  • Inorganic Chemistry - the study of non-carbon compounds and reactions
    This includes the study of transition metals, their compounds and reactions.

  • Nuclear Chemistry - the study of sub-atomic particles and nuclei formation.
    This includes the study of isotopes, radioactivity, fission and fusion, etc.

  • Organic Chemistry - the study of carbon based compounds
    This includes the study of IUPAC nomenclature, functional groups, and the reactions of carbon based molecules.

  • Physical Chemistry - the study of the physical basis of chemical systems
    This includes the study of thermodynamics, thermochemistry, kinetics, electrochemistry and spectroscopy, etc.

Although this list may seem pretty comprehensive, in fact there are a whole lot more Chemistry disciplines, for example,

  • Astrochemistry - study of elements, compounds and chemical reactions in space

  • Atmospheric Chemistry - study of planetary atmosphere

  • Chemical Engineering - study of the conversion of raw materials into more useful forms

  • Chemical Biology - application of chemical techniques to the manipulation of biological systems

  • Chemo-informatics - application of information techniques to chemical problems

  • Crystallography - the study of the arrangement of atoms in solids

  • Environmental Chemistry - the study of chemistry occurrring in natural places

  • Flavour Chemistry - the study of the chemicals and systems involved in flavour

  • Geochemistry - study of the chemical composition of the Earth and other planets

  • Green Chemistry - study of elimination or reduction in the use and generation of hazardous substances

  • Immunohistochemistry - study of the localization of proteins in tissue cells

  • Immunochemistry - study of the chemicals and reactions of the immune system

  • Industrial Chemistry - study the optimization of chemical processes

  • Materials Science - study of the relationship between molecular structure and macroscopic properties

  • Mathematical Chemistry - applications of mathematics to chemistry problems

  • Medicinal Chemistry - study of the design, synthesis and development of pharmaceutical drugs

  • Molecular Biology - study of chemical interactions within a cell

  • Nanotechnology - study of the control of matter at the atomic and molecular scale

  • Natural Product Chemistry - the study of natural products found in nature

  • Oenology - the study of the chemistry of wine and winemaking

  • Neurochemistry - the study of neurochemicals

  • Organometallic Chemistry - study of chemical compounds containing bonds between carbon and metal atoms

  • Petrochemistry - study of the transformation of crude oil and natural gas into useful products

  • Pharmacology - study of drug action

  • Photochemistry - study of the interactions between atoms, molecules and electromagnetic radiation

  • Physical Organic Chemistry - study of interrelationships between structure and reactivity in organic molecules

  • Phytochemistry - study of chemicals derived from plants

  • Polymer (Macromolecular) Chemistry - study of the synthesis and properties of polymers (macromolecules)

  • Quantum Chemistry - application of quantum mechanics to chemistry

  • Solid-State Chemistry - study of synthesis,structure and physical properties of solids

  • Sonochemistry - study of the effect of sonic waves and wave properties on chemical systems

  • Supramolecular Chemistry - study of the weaker, non-covalent interactions between molecules

  • Surface Chemistry - study of the interactions occurring at the interface of two phases

  • Theoretical Chemistry - study of chemistry from fundamental theoretical reasoning

Basically, if you have an interest in any sort of science at all, there is a Chemistry discipline that will cover it!

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