An article every chemist should read — to stay relevant by meeting global challenges

As I am in the process of looking for a postdoc and thinking about my own research topic in the not-so-distant future, I seek guiding lights. I look to those who offer a bird’s-eye view and who can see the future through the lens of the past and the present. And I think I finally find it: Let’s get practical.

It went from the origin of chemistry, through the status quo, to where chemistry should be, with a resounding note on applying chemistry in resolving global challenges. It is a compelling argument. To quote a few that really makes me thinking what I am about to do.

“But if chemistry as a discipline is poorly equipped for today’s problems, it will wither before the challenges of the future. Reinvention is essential for the continuing relevance and survival of the discipline.”

“…academic chemistry is overpopulated. The proliferation of PhD programmes resulted in a demand for research funds that exceeded the (much-expanded) supply, and the imbalance of supply and demand contributed to a peer-review system that protects established fields at the expense of new ideas. These PhD programmes produced too few new ideas and too many average scientists, and neither provided novel solutions to problems (or jobs), nor caught the attention of the public.”

Society does not care if a molecule has a particular structure; it cares if a pill lowers blood pressure, or a panel generates electricity when exposed to sunlight.

“To make fundamental discoveries, an approach that starts with practical problems, and uses them to reveal unsolved fundamental problems, will work at least as well as (and arguably better than) one that starts with the familiar questions of familiar disciplines.”

A focus on these intellectual strengths avoids being second-best in someone else’s game.

Published by

Wendong Wang

A chemist who blogs

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