Is a chemistry degree for you?
By Evan Holm Hansen
Studying chemistry was not actually my plan when I first started my science degree at Griffith; I left Norway in 2017 embarking on a journey to become a marine biologist in Australia. I was quite wimpy – not like one of those hunky characters from “Vikings”. Having left a theatre based high school program, I felt so out of place when I first started uni. Although science was my passion, I was quite sceptical to not being amongst theatre kids. I had this misconception that science students were all nerds, and that I would never fit into such a group.
“Would a fallen stage star like me ever thrive in an environment full of lab rats?”
After finally accepting that I could not discuss my favourite songs from Les Misérables on a daily basis, I realised that the science students were a complex suit of people. They were there to make a difference, with a common goal to do something that matters – to investigate, understand, experiment and innovate the world. The other students were not boring lab rats at all, they were just like me – with a passion for science and all sorts of interests outside of uni. In terms of my own interests, I was soon able to find my place in two of Griffith’s clubs; Serotonin A Cappella choir to hit flawless high notes, and Unified Dance Club, as my hips certainly did not lie. Problem solved!
Discovering a love of chemistry
Following my new-found love for the science community came my sudden obsession with chemistry. I loved doing different science courses in my first year, because that’s how I came to the realisation that chemistry was my thing. It was such a gorgeous mixture of everything I liked – a few grams of maths, a dash of physics and a whole bucket of pure enjoyment. I changed my major to chemistry just before I started my second year. Throughout the different courses I didn’t just attain the theoretical and practical foundations. I was introduced to all the different real-life applications chemistry has.
As Professor Eddie Zhang once told me: A scientist should improve three necessities of humanity: energy, environment and health, and hey, chemistry fits in to all of those! In Physical Chemistry I learned about how we use chemistry to make batteries and new energy solutions. In Advanced Analytical Chemistry Dr Yun Wang taught me how to improve the environment, like water and soil quality. Professor Anthony Carroll and Dr Milton Kiefel taught me the significance of chemistry in medicine where we can literally treat malaria with eucalypt flowers. This made me realise, that a chemist is a science superhero!
Chemistry is an incredibly diverse type of science, which can be applied to so many things. Oh, you don’t want to save the world? Fine – invent a fabulous mascara, or the perfect the vegan hot dog. There are few limits to what a chemist can do. I literally came to this realisation after a few glasses of what I refer to as “adult cordial” in the Uni Bar. PS: It’s a great place to reflect over your life and meet new friends!
“A scientist should improve three necessities of humanity: energy, environment and health, and hey, chemistry fits in to all of those”
Becoming a science superhero
Suddenly, the wimpy kid from Norway, once a great actor, but never a Viking, became a superhero; a science superhero. Or, I mean, not yet. I just finished my bachelor’s degree and COVID-19 has me stuck in Norway, fighting off super villains like anti–vaxxers and anti–5G people with fact checking, solid references and important knowledge. I even wrote a song about it, check it out on YouTube!
Other than that, I’m preparing for a new mission – my master’s degree at Griffith. Yes – I loved Griffith so much that I’m willing to spend two more years there! In my postgraduate degree I’ll be researching eucalypt and their medical applications. I started doing that towards the end of my undergraduate degree; I got the chance to look for brand new chemicals in eucalypt flowers that had never been seen before, and now I get the chance to do it all again. I’m excited. I’m keen. I’ll be stronger, faster, smarter and better. I’ll #BeRemarkable. And you know what? You can too. If you have an aspiring scientist hidden somewhere – take the chance! Become a science superhero and join me in the fight against climate change, diseases and anti–vaxxers!