Industrial chemists use their knowledge of applied science to invent, develop
and test chemical manufacturing processes and products. In other words, they
transform raw materials or chemicals into useful products -- plastics, coffee
whitener and cosmetics are all the result of an industrial chemist's creative
work with petroleum.
Industrial chemists are experts on the chemical make-up and behavior of
substances. However, this field is different than other forms of chemistry
because the focus is on development, not research.
"We concentrate on creating the end product. We create useful chemicals
from raw materials or other chemicals, and process them so they can be used
to manufacture a product," says Washington industrial chemist Penny Lao.
Industrial chemists work closely with engineers and technicians to create
and test their creations. That means a lot of troubleshooting to ensure the
product is safe and effective before it hits the manufacturing floor.
Industrial chemistry is not a physically demanding job, but people in this
field say you must be patient, imaginative and persistent.
"Your mind must always be active. Even when you're totally frustrated,
you have to be looking for solutions," says Lao.
Keeping up with the changes in the field of industrial chemistry is practically
a full-time job, says Seth Ruskin, a chemistry department lab manager at the
University of Arizona. New tools and instruments are constantly being developed
to help chemists in their work.
Be an expert on the chemical make-up and behavior of substances
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