An analytical chemist is someone who investigates the ingredients and organization of matter. He or she is trained to use both qualitative and quantitative analyses to reveal the individual components and internal structure of both organic and inorganic matter. He or she is focused on determining what is in matter and how that can be measured and quantified.
Classic analytical chemistry can be thought of as laboratory bench detective work. The chemist’s job is to determine which chemical components make up an unknown sample. Typical analytical methods fall into two main groups: wet bench chemistry and instrumental analysis.
Wet bench chemistry might include qualitative observations of color, smells, boiling points and melting points. Basic quantitative measurements of volume, weight and potenz hydrogen (pH) level are often employed. More complex bench analysis might include titrations, precipitations, recrystallizations, flame tests and basic chromatography. A trained analytical chemist is able to manipulate an unknown sample with a great number of analyses, eventually revealing the chemical components.
Instrumental analyses provide a large array of other investigative options for approaching an unknown sample. Common techniques include spectroscopy, spectrometry, chromatography and electro-analytical methods. The instruments available have constantly improved and increased in number as the technology has grown and improved.
In addition to identifying the components of matter, an analytical chemist is also concerned with standardizing the components of a given substance. For example, one who works for a pharmaceutical company will not only be able to identify the components of a given medicine, he or she also will monitor the production of the medicine and ensure that it is produced with the same quality and quantity of each ingredient each time. In general, analytical chemists develop and maintain calibrations and standards to enable consistency in the laboratory.
The methods and approaches of analytical chemistry are applicable to all other areas of chemistry. Indeed, this field usually is considered a fundamental part of any chemist’s training. The science of analytical chemistry is also critical to a large number of other fields, including food regulation, water quality, medicine, forensics and manufacturing.
Analytical chemists can be found working within research environments, such as academia, as well as private or government research institutes. Many of these primary researchers focus on developing and improving analytical techniques. Others are employed by government agencies or private companies, often working in the areas of chemical monitoring and quality assurance.