Chemists deal with the properties of substances.
An article by Maren Wernecke in collaboration with Jan Ludwig
That is what it’s about
"Chemical processes are everywhere – when we breathe, in a lighting flash or the glow of a firefly. Which is one of the things that makes Chemistry so exciting," says Peter Klüfers, professor at the LMU Munich and spokesperson for the conference of the departments of Chemistry. Chemists analyse reactions between molecules in nature and reproduce them in a test tube. But they also develop new materials and active ingredients that can be found, for example, in fuel cells, packaging or medication. In the first four semesters, students deal mainly with the traditional areas of the subject: organic, inorganic, physical and analytical chemistry. It's about compounds with and without carbon, about redox reactions and acid-alkaline balances, about thermodynamics and the theory of fusion. First students need to learn the "vocabulary" of Chemistry, e.g. the properties of elements in the periodic table. Mathematics and physics are also an important part of the curriculum. In the laboratory, the future chemists learn how to determine masses and volumes. They synthesise drugs and find out which components make up mixtures of substances. They fiddle around with test tubes, pipettes and Bunsen burners, work with dyes and practise handling corrosive or toxic compounds. They log their experiments. Experiments are also presented and examples provided from everyday life in the lectures. "The Bachelor's degree courses at all universities largely cover the same basic principles," says Wolfram Koch, Executive Director of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh – German Chemical Society). From the fifth semester, students begin to choose their own areas of specialisation. They focus, for example, increasingly on polymers, the basis for plastics, take courses in biochemistry or learn how to calculate molecular properties on computers and simulate reactions in theoretical chemistry.
suitability, obstacles, misconceptions
Anyone who studies Chemistry should enjoy the process of trial and error – and possess a certain manual dexterity. The ability to think abstractly and analytically is also needed because students often work with mathematical formulas. The ability to visualise space is also useful. Chemistry students also need discipline and stamina: spending long hours in the laboratory every day requires endurance and concentration. It also helps to be able to work well with others because work often takes place in teams in the laboratory. Many universities do not have course entrance restrictions for Chemistry. If they do, they often require grades in the range of one or two.