Study Chemistry and the Environment

Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances, or more simply “chemistry carried out without harm to the environment”. It includes such concepts as waste minimisation, solvent selection, atom utilisation, intensive processing and alternative synthetic routes from sustainable resources. The challenge for chemists is to develop products, processes and services in a sustainable manner to improve quality of life, the natural environment and industry competitiveness.

Study Chemistry and the Environment

Green Chemistry issues are here to stay. The most successful chemical companies of the future will be those who exploit its opportunities to their competitive advantage. New greener products will be based on sustainable lifecycles and will have minimal environmental impact; new greener processes will conserve materials and energy, and save money by eliminating the need for costly pollution controls and cleanup. This new way of looking at industrial products and processes offers an exciting intellectual challenge for chemical scientists and engineers. The most successful chemists of the future will be those who use Green Chemistry concepts in Research & Development, innovation and education.

The 12 principles of green chemistry, originally published by Paul Anastas and John Warner in Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice (Oxford University Press: New York, 1998), provide guidance for chemists to implement green chemistry. Economic, environmental and societal drivers are forcing change in the chemical and related industries across the world and these drivers will eventually influence all countries. They include: increasing energy and petrochemical costs, increasing costs of waste disposal and the storage of hazardous substances, increasing fines for pollution, new legislation causing testing of all chemicals, increasing demands of emerging nations and supply chain pressures.

The new European chemicals legislation REACH – the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals – is probably going to become the most important chemicals legislation ever seen. Other regions in the world may well follow the EU trend (a proposal is currently before the Californian legislature to implement REACH-like measures) and impose ever more challenging and restrictive chemicals legislation encouraged by public and media pressure to match that in other regions. This is an ideal time for overseas students to study Green Chemistry, to learn about the new technologies which can help to overcome the problems as well as the drivers forcing the changes to the chemical industry and to take part in active research in the area.

Where can I study?

Overseas students can study at different levels to obtain qualifications in Green Chemistry. Masters courses are available in Europe; at the University of York in the UK you can study for an MRes in Clean Chemical Technology which is open to students with an honours degree or the overseas equivalent in chemistry or a related discipline (It is possible for candidates without an honours degree to enter the course, but sufficient relevant industrial experience and academic qualifications may be required), The University of Leicester offers an MSc in Chemical Research (Green Chemistry with Industry) which requires overseas students to have studied the equivalent of a BSc degree. Both of these courses are taught in English so students will require English Language qualifications to show they have reached the required level. The Universidad de Zaragoza in Spain offers a Master en Química Sostenible which is taught in Spanish.

Students can also study for a PhD in topics related to Green Chemistry and in the UK the qualifications required will be the equivalent of a first or upper second honours degree and the appropriate English Language level. This is an exciting time to be involved in Green Chemistry as its principles and practice become more widely appreciated and needed. This is now beginning to be reflected in the job market as new jobs emerge in Green Chemistry-related fields. Government chemical policy groups, chemical and related industries, the retail industry and the European Chemicals Agency have all recently advertised for “Green Chemists”. There are also numerous opportunities for trained chemists to stay in research within academia; the number of research groups actively involved in studying topics related to green chemistry is growing.

The Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence in the Department of Chemistry at the University of York, UK is a world leading research centre which aims to promote the development and implementation of green and sustainable chemistry and related technologies into new products and processes. The Green Chemistry Centre is associated with or administers a number of green chemistry activities involving several areas of research, industrial collaboration, the development of educational and promotional materials and networking both with academia and industry. The Centre attract students, researchers and visitors from all over the world including Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Australia. We have a long standing tradition of excellent collaborative links with many overseas universities and research organisations and regularly undertake collaborative projects and research or teaching visits.

The Master of Research (MRes) in Clean Chemical Technology is a one-year masters course and is run in collaboration with the Chemical, Pharmaceutical and related industries. It is designed to equip graduates with the tools, techniques and general understanding of environmental, economic and social factors important in the implementation of clean technology and sustainable chemical development. The masters course is designed to meet industry's requirements for graduates entering research or process development by providing the appropriate tools and knowledge to enable them to make an immediate positive impact on the development of environmentally benign products and processes. Students are given a unique opportunity to solve current and real industrial problems by undertaking a core six-month projects carried with our industrial partners or other organisations. The skills gained in this course apply not only to the chemical/related industry but also many other career paths including the manufacturing industry in general, scientific research, legal and environmental services, government and the retail trade.
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