How to become a chemist: Saiful Islam's story

What is your job?

I am a Professor of Materials Chemistry at the University of Bath.

I use computer modelling to understand green energy materials, especially new materials for lithium batteries and solar cells.

A case study from the Royal Society

How did you get started in this role?

I enjoyed studying chemistry at the comprehensive school I went to in North London, so went on to do a degree and then a PhD. I loved the way science provided an evidence-based approach to understanding the world, and universe, around us.

Saiful is a scientist working on low carbon tech

Best thing about your job

Being part of the energy challenge, one of the biggest global challenges of this century, and developing cleaner sustainable energy to help deal with climate change.

What inspires you?

It’s a really exciting time to be a scientist - a chemist in particular - because we need better science to develop new low carbon technologies.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Follow your passion and be persistent. Don’t forget to put in the hard work.


A-levels in Chemistry, Physics and Maths and a BSc degree and PhD in Chemistry.

Future plans

To move into new research areas to explore better materials for next-generation solar cells and for lithium batteries in electric cars.

Top tips

  • Keep being curious.
  • Enjoy what you do and keep a sense of humour, i.e. always look on the bright side of life.
  • Be adaptable to new areas or challenges.

Do you have a science joke?

I’m reading a book about helium. I can’t put it down!

What to expect if you want to be a chemist

  • Chemist salary: From £18,000 to £50,000
  • Chemist working hours: On average 39-41 hours per week

What qualification do you need to be a chemist?

  • Entry requirements: You'll usually need a 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including maths and a science at least 2 or 3 A-levels, including chemistry or a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study. You may also be able to work towards this role in an apprenticeship or work experience.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

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