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November 2015

An open letter to chemists


Dear chemists

I know that your work is sometimes misunderstood and under-appreciated, so I hope that you draw encouragement from this letter.

Thank you for the countless hours you spend in labs, sheds and fields and at your desk doing the ‘boring but essential’ stuff – repeated testing that stalls and sideshifts and succumbs to error, and only sometimes succeeds. Unfortunately it’s only those shining moments of success – so few and far between – that see the spotlight. Thanks for popping in on the weekend or in the middle of the night to check on that experiment. And here your supportive (or long-suffering) families and friends deserve a special mention, too.

Thank you for picking up an idea and running with it – sorry, I mean having an idea, fighting tooth and nail to get funding, then picking up the idea again and running with it.

Thanks for talking to others about your work, to raise awareness of chemistry or to teach it formally. Teaching must be a tough gig, and I congratulate those brave enough to do it. And when you chemists get together to talk with other scientists, all sorts of great things happen.

Thanks to you, many diseases can be avoided, cured or their ravages diminished. We have clean water, plentiful food and comfortable homes. We know so much about the intricate workings of the natural world.

I think others would be just as grateful if they knew just how much they owe you. We need to dispel the common conception that you dispense medicine, and sing your praises loudly and clearly. I’ve put together this public edition of Chemistry in Australia to spread the word about how brilliant and important you are. I’m sure that chemistry readers will pass it on, and for the recipients I hope that it brings chemistry to life.

Oh, and one more thing: please, please keep up the good work. We need you.

Sally Woollett


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