Chemistry degree involving little maths?Watch
I'm interested in a degree in chemistry. Although I got an A at gcse maths, I struggled with it compared to everything else and I do not take maths at A-level. Does anyone know what 'type' of chemistry degrees would involve as little maths as possible (e.g. medicinal chemistry, analytical chemistry). I'm open to doing a foundation year etc so any suggestions would be very useful, thanks!
a) the more biological, the less physical chemistry
b) lower ranked universities on comparison to standard RG typically don't take physical chemistry in as much depth at all early on, don't focus on it at all, or ultimately most of it is optional (possibly in the later years)
c) you may lose out on RSC recognition/accreditation because you're losing a key chunk of chemistry. Not a huge deal, but if you ever want to become chartered later on then you will have additional exams to do. I wouldn't be too worried about it though.
Analytical focused courses are worth a look, but look at those from ex-poly type institutions as they are usually more application focused than theoretical. The theory behind analytical techniques is very heavy on maths, but actually using the instrumentation and spectra interpretation does not require very much - as long as you can use simple equations. Might find some that are more like "with forensic sciences" than analytical specifically, but same sort of thing.
Have you thought about biochemistry as well? I don't know too much about the course, but you're taught usually in the biology dept rather than the chemistry one, so I think more of it tends to focus on organic/biological aspects than the chemistry.
Without maths at A-level it's very likely you'll be made to take a maths module (that covers the relevant bits of a-level) in your first year. Unlikely to be any way out of that one i'm afraid. By and large, you don't have to be the best at maths, but you need to be less "scared" of it. If you're willing to address your weaknesses then there will be plenty of support to help you do that.
Thanks for such a detailed reply! I'm definitely considering biochemistry as well, I personally find biology more straight forward but chemistry more interesting. However I'm not sure if taking this instead of chemistry would limit my options to go into a more chemistry based job after uni? Then again, maybe it would be better to get a better degree in biochemistry than a lesser degree in pure chemistry. Any idea if I'd need to 'become chartered' for a job such as a research chemist? I'm not against going to a less acknowledged uni to reduce the amount of physical chemistry content, so long as this would not drastically limit my job prospects afterwards?
You don't need to be chartered at all, at any point, it's just one of those things people do to sort of certify their level of expertise and sometimes demand a higher salary for it. It requires a fair bit of experience so it's not something that will impact the start of your career at all.
If you're interested in very pure research then typically a PhD is quite relevant. Something like organic synthesis i'd describe it as a must. That's something you can make a judgement on in a few years, although your choice of undergraduate course and institution may affect how competitive your application is. I'm no expect here, i'm not interested in a PhD. I have no idea how much bias there is on where you came from (i.e. RG universities are more research-centric, so chances are you'll have done a final year project in a "better" group, for instance, but that's not absolute or guaranteed). Professors in different universities typically know each other if they're in the same research area, so it can be handy to have established yourself in a group in an area you're interested in. I'd like to think with strong undergraduate performance you should be fine wherever, and relevant research experience is what might swing it. I don't know who would be best to approach to get further detail about that. All the PhD students i've come across at my university either did their undergrad here or are from another RG/similar level university.
By doing a more biological focused degrees you are going to limit some elements of chemical work after, but it's hard to give specifics. One of the easiest things to describe would be drug discovery processes: a chemist will take a medicinal chemist role and synthesise new compounds for potential drugs, whereas a biochemist would be further along the development process evaluating pharmacokinetics or pharmacodynamics. Specifics can vary, but you can be involved in the same area, just with a very different role. With medicinal chemistry they're keen on your organic chemistry skills, so they'd be expecting an organic-focused PhD, which is accessible whether you do straight chemistry, or medicinal, and probably a lot of biological chemistry courses too.
Direct jobs in chemistry [without a PhD] are more like development, than pure research. The difference being in something like cosmetic formulation, for instance, the development chemist will be trialling formulations, different blends, assessing the properties and so on. The research chemist behind that has likely been working on developing a new colloid or component to try in stuff. Quite a few companies use funded PhDs to do the research they don't have the time/people to do so you can build a good link with a company if they are your industrial sponsor. I'm mainly looking at jobs in polymers/materials/formulations - most of which would prefer chemistry, other than formulations which are sometimes happy to go with any life sciences degrees where it's semi-relevant to them. Stuff like analytical chemistry itself is more concerned about the skills (can you operate HPLC and so on) rather than the specific area your degree is from.
Who/what did you shadow? If you shadowed in the analytical department with technicians or analytical chemist then i'm not surprised - analytical is a great area if you don't have a PhD. The other consideration is they probably entered the industry 20-40 years ago where things were far easier to get into. The size of the company makes a difference too I think, as it seems smaller companies are a bit more flexible, so factor in if a company was taken over (for instance).
I got a scholarship from GSK which was entirely based on an organic chemistry interview. No maths, but they took two placement students, both straight chemistry, from my university. The "profiles" of their graduates all seem to have done just MChem degrees [grad scheme being the way to get in without a PhD, although you'll probably end up being funded through one later on]. They like the well rounded chemist with strong organic synthetic skills, but I doubt the other stuff ever gets used much. I think medicinal chemistry is going to be your best shout really, but it might still entail some maths-y stuff. It should cut down on some physical chemistry (in favour of biological/biochemistry modules) but it will still contain enough to be noticed.
What I would say also is that not all of physical chemistry is entirely about how well you can do maths. Actually, i'm great at maths (or was..) but some of it just wasn't there conceptually for me. Equally, there were other modules (like quantum mechanics) that looked a lot worse than they actually were. Kinetics-based modules are very logical if you're competent at rearranging equations (and shoving numbers into it) - it's not a huge amount of maths. You can completely ignore quite a bit of advanced maths, and sure you won't do that well in those bits, but if you do well enough in the rest you can still get a first. Despite getting a mid 2:2 (~55%) in physical chemistry my overall average for second year was still just about 70 (first), because I just did well in inorganic/organic/labs to negate it.
Note the difference between chemistry with medicinal chemistry and straight medicinal chemistry. Keele was just one that popped up on google, but it looks like there isn't that much on the maths side. The chemistry with med chem ones seem to share more core modules with pure chemistry, so you seem to cop for more advanced phys chem, whereas it doesn't look like that happens here. Possibly pharmaceutical chem if that exists elsewhere.