© 2024 KOSU
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How chemists can impact everyday society

OSU Research Matters is a bi-weekly look inside the work of Oklahoma State University faculty, staff and students.

In this episode, Meghan Robinson speaks with Dr. Jimmie Weaver to learn more about how chemists can impact everyday society.


Dr. Jimmie Weaver
Oklahoma State University
Dr. Jimmie Weaver

WEAVER: Fundamentally, we are interested in coming up with new strategies to make molecules and put molecules together. Molecules are really important to the human existence, and we're always looking for better ways to do that, that are more efficient. Ways that allow us to make maybe new molecules that we haven't looked at before that might contain new properties. We are trying to introduce those strategies that allow us to do that.

ROBINSON: What does it mean to synthesize a molecule?

WEAVER: That means to, to make the connections between the different types of atoms to make that molecule. Also, to make it in the right spacial orientation. So it's not just connectivity of atoms, but rather connectivity and the directionality of that. The technical definition, in practice, it means like understanding the ways in which we can do that. That takes many years of kind of building a repertoire of known reactions that allow you to do that, right? And so, that's what it takes to synthesize molecules. We often do those in special fume hoods that allow us to do that without having exposure to chemicals that could be harmful for our long-term health and stuff. So, we can actually do it pretty safely nowadays, it's more than it used to be.

ROBINSON: What's the difference between an atom and a molecule?

WEAVER: An atom is the most basic fundamental unit. Your periodic table are full of the different types of atoms, which are built up from subatomic particles and are based off the number of subatomic particles that are in there. But every one of those types of atoms has, reproducible behavior and very periodic behavior that has a lot to do with where it's located on that periodic table. But molecules are then what happens when you assemble those atoms together, and we can build those. Molecules can range from diatomic, meaning two atoms, like the many of our halogen gases are diatomic -- oxygen, nitrogen, those are all diatomic molecules as well. Molecules can also range to polymeric material. So, technically this table, assuming there's some wood in there, is a molecule made up of what we call polymeric, meaning it's lots of repeating units, but they are actually oftentimes cross-linked versions of molecules, but they get up into the hundreds of thousands of atoms put together. And so that's what many of the materials that we use in our everyday lives are molecules that are polymeric in nature, where they've been repeated many, many times.

ROBINSON: How does chemist's ability to synthesize molecules help society?

WEAVER: Huge advances in health are due to chemists, right? I mean, I could probably name the top 10 selling drugs that were produced all by chemists, discovered by chemists, and manufactured by chemists. There's healthcare, there is energy -- chemists have developed many, many processes that allow us to convert low value material into higher value material. [They] give us fuels that work in our vehicles. They help us come up with the chemistry for batteries if you have an electric vehicle -- all that involves chemistry. So, there's really no field or industry that people touch that does not involve chemists innovating to come up with solutions to push what's possible.

Stay Connected
Meghan Robinson is the host of OSU Research Matters and the Multimedia Reporter/ Producer for Inside OSU, the official streaming platform of Oklahoma State University.
KOSU is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.
Related Content