Physical Chemistry

 Physical chemistry is the study of how matter behaves on a molecular and atomic level and how chemical reactions occur. Based on their analyses, physical chemists may develop new theories, such as how complex structures are formed. Physical chemists often work closely with materials scientists to research and develop potential uses for new materials. Physical chemistry has traditionally given students broad training, and positioned them to work in a variety of scientific careers. Many people trained as physical chemists ultimately work as analytical chemists, where they work to understand the fundamental process involved in analytical techniques, allowing them to enhance and expand those techniques. For example, Matt Lynch, Principal Scientist in the Beauty Care Division of Procter & Gamble, works in physical/analytical chemistry, conducting applied and basic surfactant research for product development applications. His work involves looking at the assembly of molecules and determining how to measure and quantify it. Lynch says, “We assemble molecules in crystals and solutions and look at how to measure that in terms of arrangements of atoms and molecules; how they grow to form bigger aggregates in solutions as well as in crystals; and how these aggregates of surfactants impart various properties to a product.” Lynch notes that he uses diffraction, infrared, and microscopy methods in his work. By developing better ways to measure and quantitate aspects of the ingredients, he helps his company develop better products.

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