Polymer Chemist

Experiment with polymers to come up with new plastic products.

What does a Polymer Chemist do?

Once upon a time, the world was made of natural materials like earth, metal, stone, and wood. Today, however, the world is a different place: Like a giant Barbie dream house, it’s as much plastic as anything else. A Polymer Chemist is the creator of that plastic world.

As a Polymer Chemist, you’re a Scientist whose job is to study and create synthetic materials, most of which are made with complex molecules called polymers. Polymers are the Mr. Potato Head of chemistry since they can be chemically broken down and put back together again with different “accessories” in order to make new combinations that result in new substances.

Manufacturers use polymers to make everything from fabrics like nylon and elastic to products such as tires, laundry detergent, nonstick pans, DVDs, plastic bags, and contact lenses. Pharmaceutical companies, meanwhile, use polymers in medical research, for things like gene therapy, prosthetics, and organ regeneration. Therefore, both often employ Polymer Chemists in their research and development labs.

There, it’s your job to collect and analyze the properties of naturally occurring polymers called biopolymers, which include substances such as collagen, keratin, elastin, cellulose, starch, glycogen, and even DNA. You then use them in collaboration with Engineers, Physicists, and Biologists to engineer synthetic materials that have superior flexibility, lightness, hardness, or durability.

Like most Scientists, your duties as a Polymer Chemist also include managing laboratories, maintaining scientific equipment, designing and conducting experiments, and writing scientific research reports. Ultimately, though, even your administrative responsibilities are tended to with one goal in mind: Building a world that’s “supernatural” (in the literal, not magical, sense!).