Posted by: unlikelygrad | January 22, 2009

Why Chemistry?

I posted this over on The Grad Cafe but thought I should save it for posterity:

How did I get into chemistry? You might say I was dragged, kicking and screaming.

My dad has a Ph.D. in chemistry. And though he has many children, I was the only one who was majorly interested in science at an early age. By the time I got to my teens, Dad was saying to me on a regular basis, “UnlikelyGrad, you want to be a chemist.” My response was usually something like “No way!” (Dad strongly disapproved of swearing or there would have been some Hells, Damns, etc. tossed in there.)

My high school chem teacher told me that I was a natural at chemistry and should consider majoring in it. I said, “Chemistry is all well and good, but I wouldn’t want to make a career out of it.” (Translation: I’m not going to be like my old man.)

I went to school at a well-known institution and marked my major as astronomy. BigNameU required a year of freshman chem; I went to class and enjoyed it. My TA said, “UnlikelyGrad, are you sure you don’t want to be a chemist? ‘Cause you’re terrific at it.” I smiled at him and told him what I’d told my high school teacher.

Then I pretty much failed out of BigNameU. My grades in physics and astronomy were absolutely abysmal. I knew I needed to transfer. I knew I wasn’t cut out to be an astronomer. What could I major in instead? Geology, maybe? Well, how about chemistry? I figured I could give it a try…

So I transferred and changed my major to chemistry. I started right into organic and absolutely loved it. Whee! I was at the top of the class. Everything came to me naturally…and then I realized that everything everyone had ever said to me was absolutely true. I really should have been a chemist all along.

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