Polygence blog / Research Opportunities and Ideas

What can you do with a Chemistry degree?

5 minute read

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So, you've got your sights set on a chemistry degree and the boundless opportunities it brings? Fantastic choice! Let's embark on a journey to uncover not just what you can do with a chemistry degree.

At its core, a Chemistry degree is a passport to an array of awesome careers. The American Chemical Society (ACS) reports a continual surge in employment opportunities for individuals with a background in chemistry. This degree opens doors to diverse fields, from pharmaceuticals to environmental science, where your chemical expertise becomes a driving force for positive change. 

Absolutely, let's delve into each of these fascinating career paths, providing a more detailed exploration with paragraphs tailored for high school seniors:

  • Pharmaceutical Research

High school seniors can actively seek internships with renowned pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Moderna, or similar research institutions. These programs often provide exposure to real-world drug development and laboratory work, enhancing understanding and skills for future endeavors. Polygence mentor, Amy’s expertise lies in exactly this line of work. With her, students can learn more about biochemistry behind how antidepressant medications work, offering valuable insights into drug development processes.

  • Environmental Chemistry

High school students interested in environmental chemistry can explore internships with organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or local environmental research groups. An example of an interesting Polygence project in this realm is to create a project focused on studying the impact of pollutants on local ecosystems. Polygence Mentor Claire is conducting research in this realm, studying the effects of wastewater treatment and air pollution on our health.

  • Material Science and Engineering

Dive into the synthesis and study of materials by investigating the properties of a novel material and exploring its potential applications. This hands-on project allows students to experiment with material creation and understand their mechanical, electrical, or other properties. Polygence Mentor Soha is conducting research on how different materials can be used inside a nuclear power plant to optimize for the tritium (fuel) breeding.

  • Food and Beverage Industries

A chemistry degree plays a pivotal role in the Food and Beverage Industries to ensure the safety, quality, and innovation of the products we consume. Graduates with a chemistry background are equipped with the knowledge to analyze and understand the chemical composition of food, from the molecular structure of ingredients to the reactions that occur during cooking and processing. 

Harvard University has a fun chemistry course on this topic: Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science. This course brings together renowned chefs and Harvard researchers to delve into the fascinating connections between everyday cooking practices and haute cuisine, shedding light on fundamental principles in chemistry, physics, and engineering. Participants gain insights into the intricate world of food molecules and discover how chemical reactions play a crucial role in shaping the texture and flavor of various culinary creations.

  • Academia and Research and Development (R&D)

For many chemistry majors, the most traditional route is the pursuit of academia, where their passion for the molecular intricacies of the scientific world meets the realms of teaching and research. Upon earning an advanced degree, often a Ph.D., chemists may embark on an academic career by becoming professors or researchers at universities and research institutions. In this environment, they contribute not only to the education of aspiring scientists but also to the advancement of knowledge through cutting-edge research. 

Chemistry professors engage in diverse activities, from instructing students in lecture halls and laboratories to delving into their own research projects, pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding. This traditional path allows chemistry enthusiasts to inspire the next generation of scientists while making their own mark in the ongoing exploration of the molecular wonders that shape our world.

  • Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers are multidisciplinary professionals who leverage principles from chemistry, physics, mathematics, and economics to tackle diverse challenges across industries. One of their primary roles is the design and optimization of large-scale manufacturing processes, ensuring efficiency and cost-effectiveness in producing chemicals, fuels, pharmaceuticals, and other products. 

Safety and environmental considerations are integral to their work, with a focus on creating processes that adhere to stringent standards and regulations. From energy production and utilization to the development of new materials, chemical engineers contribute significantly to various sectors. They play a key role in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, overseeing the design and optimization of processes for producing drugs and biologically based products. 

Additionally, their involvement in waste management, water treatment, and quality control highlights their broader impact on sustainable practices and resource utilization. Whether engaged in research and development, project management, or ensuring the safety and quality of products, chemical engineers are instrumental in shaping industries and advancing technological innovations. Polygence Mentor Freddy or Alina work in the integration of biology, chemistry, and engineering.

  • Government and Policy

Chemists in government and policy roles play a crucial role in shaping regulations, ensuring public safety, and contributing to environmental protection. Government agencies at various levels enlist the expertise of chemists to develop and implement policies related to chemical safety, pollution control, and public health.

Chemists may work with agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency to analyze the impact of chemicals on the environment or collaborate with health departments to assess the safety of consumer products. Their insights are instrumental in crafting regulations that balance industrial progress with the protection of human health and the environment. 

Government chemists also engage in monitoring and enforcing compliance with established standards, contributing to a safer and more sustainable society. Additionally, they may be involved in scientific diplomacy, representing their expertise in international discussions on issues like climate change and chemical weapons proliferation. 

By actively pursuing internships and engaging in hands-on research projects, high school seniors can lay a robust foundation for a future career in chemistry while gaining invaluable practical experience.


So, how do you get started on the path to becoming a chemist? 

High school students keen on a chemistry degree can kick-start their journey with immersive experiences. The American Chemical Society provides valuable resources, including financial assistance, networking opportunities and mentoring for students. 

The Future Leaders in Chemical Engineering (FLChE) scholarship awarded by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers is a noteworthy option for high school seniors. Another great program is the Research Science Institute, a competitive summer program for high school students interested in scientific research. This not only provides a taste of the dynamic world of chemistry but also bolsters your university applications!

Once you're in university, the real fun begins. The Research Experience for Undergraduates program, funded by the National Science Foundation, provides hands-on research experiences at various universities across the United States. 

Along with these internships and scholarships, here is a list of all the Polygence mentors with expertise in chemistry, so you can get started on a passion project today! 

Want to start a project of your own?

Click below to get matched with one of our expert mentors who can help take your project off the ground!

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