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  • Chemistry is one of the most important physical sciences. All types of solid, liquid, and gaseous matter are made up of different types of atoms and molecules, and chemistry studies the structure of these substances and how they determine their unique properties. It also studies how different substances combine or separate under different conditions to form new substances, much in the same way that we use “chemistry” to describe how two people get along (or don’t) in our interpersonal lives.

    Because chemistry starts with the basic building blocks of matter - recall the periodic table of elements from your high school chemistry class - the foundational skills of this discipline are the same regardless of what you want to accomplish with them. However, beyond those analytic foundations, the field of chemistry includes an array of subfields almost as varied as the elements themselves.

    Physical chemistry, for example, combines chemistry and physics to study how different types of matter and energy interact. Environmental chemistry combines chemistry and environmental science to examine how chemicals react with the natural environment. Similarly, geochemistry combines chemistry and geology to study the composition of substances found within the Earth, as well as how they interact with each other.

    Other types of chemistry touch our lives even more directly. Biochemistry studies the chemical processes that occur within living organisms, including the human body. Food chemistry examines how the different types of food and their biological components - carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins - impact the nutrition, taste, and safety of our food. And agricultural chemistry looks at the substances involved in the production and protection of crops, ensuring that pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are safe for humans as well as the environment.

    The list goes on and on. Our world, and our bodies, are made up of matter - and chemistry provides the critically important analytic framework to understanding how all these types of matter “get along.”