Physical Chemist “Take a deep breath.” Maybe a doctor, a yoga teacher, or someone wanting to help you in some way has suggested this to you. It’s good advice: breathing keeps us alive and gives us energy. Throughout our lives, our bodies engage in respiration, a process that gives us the energy we need to do everything from playing basketball, baseball, or soccer to doing homework for school to keeping our bodies themselves running well. You could say that respiration begins with breathing in oxygen, which our lungs pass on to our blood. The blood brings oxygen all over… Learn more
Physical Chemist Peter O’Donnell Offenhartz spends his summers on a small island off the coast of Maine. Knowing that he’s a scientist and creative problem-solver, people there come to him with requests that run from “How can I improve my telephone service?” to “Why does my boat battery keep failing?” Read on to find out how Offenhartz uses his knowledge of chemistry and physics to help his neighbors. “I think I always knew I was going to make my living in science,” says Offenhartz, who grew up in Westchester, outside of New York City. His parents “wanted me to be… Learn more
Physical chemists study energy, molecular structures, and other behaviors and characteristics of matter on a tiny scale. Their work has many applications, from medical technology to energy storage, air conditioning, refrigeration, and heat. “Physical chemistry is a wonderful sort of union of physics and chemistry,” says Physical Chemist Barbara Hopf Offenhartz. She studied the structure and behavior of molecules of vitamin B12 and hemoglobin, both of which play key roles in respiration (the system that turns oxygen and sugar into the energy that helps your body stay healthy). The work Offenhartz did helped produce today’s sophisticated instruments for using light… Learn more
Chemists are architects on a tiny scale. They design and build molecules, structures composed of atoms. By precisely combining chemicals and sometimes using catalysts, molecules that help a chemical reaction happen more quickly, chemists create materials suited to all sorts of different uses, from gasoline to carbon fiber to lifesaving medicines. They also investigate the molecular structure of different types of already-existing matter. Biochemist and Cancer Researcher Eugene DeSombre discovered how different breast cancers react to estrogen and developed a test for that, helping doctors figure out how to treat different cancer patients. Physical Chemist Barbara Hopf Offenhartz studied the… Learn more
Some people who study science, computer technology, engineering, or math in college and beyond use their degrees in the arts. Photographer David Goldes, trained as a molecular geneticist at Harvard, majored in biology and chemistry at the Buffalo campus of the State University of New York. He went on to photograph science-informed activity, from the behavior of magnetized pins to thousands of volts of electricity passing through a graphite circuit. Mechanical Engineer Julia Lintern improves cars and planes and teaches programming. She also designs puppets and clothing.
Atmospheric chemists like this Energy Economist study the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere, the gases that surround our planet. While in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he studied fluid dynamics and chemical modeling, looking at the ways aerosols (tiny particles in air and mist) produced by human industry as well as natural processes affect clouds. [Interested in clouds? Check out the work Physicist Nicholas Carrera did at the University of Chicago’s Cloud Physics Laboratory.]
Energy Economists like this Atmospheric Chemist examine the ways changes in technology, economics, climate, natural resources, and politics affect the markets that supply power to our homes, workplaces, and infrastructure.
Energy economist and atmospheric chemist Politics can make energy and climate change seem black and white, dividing people and organizations into those that support traditional energy-producing industries (like coal and oil) and those that support newer, renewable resources (like. wind and solar energy). So it might surprise you to learn that “a number of the big oil and power companies made big early bets on wind, solar, and biofuels.” An energy economist Math4Science interviewed, also trained as an atmospheric chemist, explained just how complicated — as well as important — the realities shaping energy production are. Note: Because he… Learn more
Topologists study shapes of different dimensions. Think of the shapes they study as malleable (squishy and stretchable, like clay). To a topologist, a solid triangle and a solid square are the same sort of two-dimensional shape (one with no holes in it). A shape that looks similar to a donut is called a torus. Some topologists study knots, which helps chemists model and understand the way molecules behave. Topology is also useful for scientists interested in the shapes DNA forms. Strands of genetic material tend to wrap around themselves … to tie themselves in knots. Mathematician Emille Lawrence, a topologist,… Learn more
Topologist At some point, you learned to tell the difference between a triangle (a polygon with three sides), a rectangle (four sides…), and a circle (the set of points that are a certain distance from a particular point). Understanding the differences between those shapes may have been one of your first achievements in a field of mathematics called “geometry.” Topologist Emille Lawrence focuses on another field of math, one in which a triangle, a rectangle, and a circle are all considered the same shape: a closed, one-dimensional shape with one hole inside of it. Topologists define a shape by… Learn more