Integration & Interdependence Among Scientific Disciplines

Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson, we'll be looking at how different scientific disciplines are interrelated. We'll talk about how science and technology work together through the fields of chemistry, biology, and Earth science.

What Are Scientific Disciplines?

When we study science in school, each class is a separate entity. You might take biology your first year, followed by chemistry or physics. Although these separate topics or disciplines are how we divide science up in school, in the real world all disciplines in science are interrelated. Biologists use chemistry, and chemists use physics and Earth science in their work. Furthermore, all of these branches include the integration of technology, such as computers, nanomaterials, circuits or other materials. Today, we're going to look at how each of these seemingly separate disciplines actually involves other fields in science and technology.

Technology

To start, let's look at how science and technology are interrelated. Science is the study of natural phenomenon in the world. Scientists investigate and try to create theories to explain how the world works. This new knowledge then provides us with information to better solve human problems in the process of engineering and design. The technology created from this process then can help further scientific investigations.

For example, through studying the properties of molecules on the subatomic level in physics engineers were able to create scans that can be used to image the body as well as help investigate the chemical structure of unknown molecules of interest called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Scientists then were able to use that technology not only in medicine but also to further scientific research.

Chemistry

Chemistry is the study of matter and its properties. Although we might not think of chemistry as playing a role in biology, it's one of the most important aspects of medicine. Chemists are tasked with the important role of developing new drugs to treat human disease. Chemists must have an understanding of both the biology of how the drug will work in the body, as well as its chemical structure and how to synthesize it in the lab.

Prescription medications are created through a collaboration between chemistry and biology
prescription

Even if you don't use prescription drugs, chemistry makes an important appearance in biology. Studies in chemistry create all of the personal care products we use, from soap to perfume to artificial coloring and flavoring.

Chemistry also is important for Earth science. One of the most important topics today in Earth science is global warming, an increase in global temperature caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Chemists are looking for renewable energy sources, as well as chemicals that can be used as alternatives to petrochemical-based materials, such as plastic.

Biology

Biology is the study of living things. All biological processes are rooted in chemistry. The combination of studying the chemistry of living things is known as biochemistry and is a very important branch for human medicine. Biochemists study the structure of proteins and other molecules in the body. This information can then be used to develop novel drug targets and help investigate human disease.

For example, biochemists have elucidated the three-dimensional structure of important proteins in the process of tumor development, such as vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF). Knowing the structure of this protein has allowed for the development of anti-VEGF therapies that are used during cancer treatment today.

Ecologists are biologists that study the interaction of organisms and their environment. Since these scientists not only study plants and animals but the environments they live in as well; they also need to understand Earth science. Understanding the processes of climate change, weather patterns, erosion, and volcanic activity can help ecologists understand animal behavior and evolution.

Earth Science

Earth science is the study of the physical aspects of the Earth and the atmosphere. One of the main concerns of Earth scientists today is global warming, or climate change. Human activities are changing the way the Earth's weather patterns occur and are causing disruptive weather, such as hurricanes, droughts, melting ice caps, floods, and wildfires.

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