Uni degree: chemistry or environmental science Watch

CharisHeaven
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I was wondering if anyone could give me some advice about whether an environmental science or chemistry would be better. I love studying chemistry and am not sure how much actually science is involved with environmental sciences as I don't want to end up in a degree which is primarily about legislation or geography and not scienctific research. I ultimately want to end up working in a sector to do with environmental scienctific research, however not really sure if I can get to this through either degree.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Many thanks,
Charis
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artful_lounger
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Hi, I've moved your thread to the Physics, Chemistry, and NatSci courses forum Hopefully you'll get some more science focused responses here (environmental sciences can sort of fall under natural sciences courses as well, so it's at least as suitable for this forum as Geography, Geology, and Environment courses ).

As you've noted, "Environmental Sciences" courses can vary widely and it's not a hugely well defined subject area at the undergraduate level. Most scientific researchers working on environmental research will typically have done their undergraduate (and sometimes masters and/or PhD) in a "basic" science area, then specialised towards environmental topics as they progress to higher degrees and research. Virtually any STEM field can be applied to evaluating and researching environmental issues, and chemistry by virtue of it being a fairly "central" science, while also being very experimentally based, fits in well there.

I would suggest then chemistry might be a good choice if you enjoy the breadth of chemistry topics and are able to make the connections to how these are relevant to environmental issues yourself. In an undergraduate chemistry degree there may be more or fewer module options available specifically tailored to the environmental angle (Southampton previously had quite a few, I'm not sure if they are still running), so you would need to investigate carefully in the options offered to see if it would be up to you to make these connections solely or if there exists some curricular exploration of those issues.

However, you might also want to consider some other degree courses which might be able to integrate the study of environmental issues with a formally scientific approach. Broadly speaking, a lot of earth sciences related courses may be relevant. Depending on your interests, this includes geology, geophysics, earth sciences, climate sciences, and oceanography. Oceanography often includes climate science studies, and both these subjects often include some element of chemistry. Geology and earth sciences courses also often include some chemistry-adjacent study (in terms of the composition of earth materials and petrology). Manchester also has a Geochemistry degree which specifically combines both earth sciences and chemistry elements, which might be of interest.

You may also be interested in Natural Sciences degree programmes, which allow you to combine more than one area of science in your studies; you could then combine chemistry with aspects of earth sciences and possibly other areas to give you a wide background as a basis for going into further study and research in environmental areas. Some notable examples include Cambridge, Durham, and UCL, although many universities offer such degrees now. Be aware however, not all universities offer all subjects in all combinations on natural sciences courses, so check what options are available before making an decisions.
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CharisHeaven
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Thank you so much
This definitely gives me lots to think about, I'll have a look at some of those courses, I hadn't really considered earth science or oceanography before.
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by CharisHeaven)
Thank you so much
This definitely gives me lots to think about, I'll have a look at some of those courses, I hadn't really considered earth science or oceanography before.
Glad to help, hopefully some other people will also be able to advise

Southampton has a quite strong ocean/earth sciences department, as well as a strong chemistry department, so might be worth checking out; in the first couple years on either course you can take options in the other area if you're doing the degree in one of the two (although apparently the chemistry modules can be oversubscribed a bit). Typically you can't mix and match in later years because the earth/ocean sciences courses for year 3/4 are taught on at the NOC on the waterfront (as opposed to on the main campus).

CheeseIsVeg is doing chemistry at Southampton and might be able to advise on the chemistry side of it though

There are obviously plenty of other courses available in both areas though! However you wouldn't be "limited" in going into environmental research with "just" a chemistry degree, so if you enjoy chemistry for itself and for it's relevance to environmental issues it's well worth checking out the options in that regard
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CharisHeaven
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Glad to help, hopefully some other people will also be able to advise

Southampton has a quite strong ocean/earth sciences department, as well as a strong chemistry department, so might be worth checking out; in the first couple years on either course you can take options in the other area if you're doing the degree in one of the two (although apparently the chemistry modules can be oversubscribed a bit). Typically you can't mix and match in later years because the earth/ocean sciences courses for year 3/4 are taught on at the NOC on the waterfront (as opposed to on the main campus).

CheeseIsVeg is doing chemistry at Southampton and might be able to advise on the chemistry side of it though

There are obviously plenty of other courses available in both areas though! However you wouldn't be "limited" in going into environmental research with "just" a chemistry degree, so if you enjoy chemistry for itself and for it's relevance to environmental issues it's well worth checking out the options in that regard
That sounds really good, I've been looking at Southampton and lots of their courses look really good.
thank you so much again
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CheeseIsVeg
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Glad to help, hopefully some other people will also be able to advise

Southampton has a quite strong ocean/earth sciences department, as well as a strong chemistry department, so might be worth checking out; in the first couple years on either course you can take options in the other area if you're doing the degree in one of the two (although apparently the chemistry modules can be oversubscribed a bit). Typically you can't mix and match in later years because the earth/ocean sciences courses for year 3/4 are taught on at the NOC on the waterfront (as opposed to on the main campus).

CheeseIsVeg is doing chemistry at Southampton and might be able to advise on the chemistry side of it though

There are obviously plenty of other courses available in both areas though! However you wouldn't be "limited" in going into environmental research with "just" a chemistry degree, so if you enjoy chemistry for itself and for it's relevance to environmental issues it's well worth checking out the options in that regard
Thanks

(Original post by CharisHeaven)
That sounds really good, I've been looking at Southampton and lots of their courses look really good.
thank you so much again
Pretty much already said above but I would say that doing Environmental Science or Earth Science or Chemistry would be really suited to your interests I think

I would really recommend Chemistry if you're really enjoying it right now! There are so many climate applications and one of the great things about the course at the University of Southampton is that you can choose optional modules in environmental science.

I did take this Environmental Chemistry I module in my first year and thoroughly enjoyed it - would definitely recommend it to you. It was all about the chemistry of different water sources, pollution and examining case studies demonstrating the chemical processes behind an environmental incident. We then did a problem solving task in trying to identify what the cause of fish dying in a river were - applying the knowledge learned in a fun way.

Then you can further add modules in your 2nd/3rd/4th year should you wish! I am planning to take up Atmospheric Chemistry which which has a lot of environmental applications and also Sustainable Chemistry - industry has to strive to manufacture chemicals/materials in a green way now but this is complex and that will be investigated in the module I believe!

You can actually take a look by having a look at the course profile drop downs for each year. If you want more info on it feel free to reply here
Hope this helps,
Cheese

PMs always open if you want more info :yy:
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Royal Society of Chemistry
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Hi All,

Repeating much of the great guidance above, but chemistry certainly would give you a route into environmental science research. Many of our members work in a wide range of areas linked to this both in research related roles as well as those at the front line, such as drinking water, land contamination and the nuclear industry.

We actually award Chartered Environmentalist alongside Chartered Chemist status, recognising the large number of chemical scientists who use their knowledge and skills to develop sustainable solutions to benefit the world we live in.

If you would like any more detailed information on the variety of careers our members have, do get in touch.

All the best,

Gareth
Royal Society of Chemistry
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