Analytical chemists are specialized scientists who work to determine the chemical makeup of a variety of substances, both organic and inorganic. They must not only determine what chemical compounds and molecules are contained in a piece of matter, but also the quantities of those chemicals relative to others to discover chemical impurities, analyze unknown samples, and maintain quality control for specific chemical substances and medicines.
Much of an analytical chemist's job is metaphorical to investigative work. The chemist is typically provided a sample which must be broken down and examined in great detail, and he/she may use chemical means to separate the sample into component parts for easier examination. They may also use a variety of instrumentation and tools, such as centrifuges, chromatoscopes, and spectroscopes, to further detail the substantive makeup of a sample down to the molecular level.
Analytical chemists work in a variety of larger fields. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, employ them to perform quality control work and analyze medicines and drugs to ensure they adhere to formula parameters. They may also work in environmental fields to analyze soil and groundwater samples for potential contaminants and sources. Analytical chemistry is also valuable in food manufacturing, engineering, and even police investigation work.
A strong education background in chemical engineering and chemistry science is generally required for this position, and the field is competitive enough that many employees prefer those who have a master's degree. Most analytical chemists work in a laboratory environment and must be methodical, logical, patient, and proficient in using computers and advanced technology.
Analytical Chemist Tasks
Use computer-controlled instruments in laboratories to take measurements.
Study samples, calibrate and standardize test results, interpret data and report results.
Determine the composition and structure of matter.