What has Breaking Bad taught us about Chemistry?
As we have seen, pop culture can really influence career choices of a whole generation, and that effects what people study too. Whether it’s studying Media to hang with the Don Drapers of the world in the boardroom; or a Journalism degree to write for a glossy magazine a la Carrie in "The City"; we pick up ideas about what we might like to do from what we see around us – and if you haven’t noticed, a lot of us are buried in our screens watching things!
In the last few years, the exploits of Walter White in Breaking Bad have catapulted the subject of Chemistry to the forefront of pop culture; it’s suddenly cool to spout formulas and the materials of chemicals! Who would have thought that a simple definition of chemistry (‘...growth....then decay...and transformation....’) would be repeated so often too? Now Breaking Bad is critically acclaimed and much loved, but what has it really taught us about the possibilities of Chemistry? And are these lessons all true? Let’s put on our hazmat suit and goggles, and look a little closer....
Study hard at school: RIGHT
Jesse is the epitome of a high school dropout and suffers because of it. Leaving school without qualifications and realistic thoughts about your next step in life isn’t clever. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do for a living, but at least identify your interests and strengths. Then , you can choose a course of study which fulfils or meets these – you can work on the career specifics later when you’ve accumulated more experience and research.
You have to become a criminal: WRONG
While Walt doesn’t exactly have a commanding presence in Bad, if you’re a confident speaker who relishes being the centre of attention and inspiring others, the teaching profession may suit you perfectly – it doesn’t have to be just the Drama graduates who draw a crowd! If you’re a Chemistry undergrad unsure of what to do next, study a PGCE degree to qualify you to teach. You may even be able to move between departments, subjects, teaching levels and institutions.
Teachers don’t make a difference: WRONG
Walter struggles to get his student’s attention in class. In reality, a subject like Chemistry is ripe for inspiring students because of the visual element involved (and we're not just talking about multi-coloured flames on a bunsen burner either!). Students really respond to seeing actual, physical transformations occur in front of them, and you can be the master of this knowledge. While Bad illustrates characters learning chemical practices for the worst kind of reasons, the art and beauty of chemistry (and learning in general) is on display throughout.
You can make money: RIGHT
We DON’T condone breaking the law at all with your knowledge of Chemistry. As demonstrated by Walter’s former colleagues Elliott and Gretchen, there is money to be made in chemistry through legitimate, legal means. The pair have since gone on to establish a million dollar pharmaceuticals company. If you have posses a qualification in Business and Management as well, you can one day start your own company; or you can play a consulting or corporate role for an existing company. While you can still be hands-on with the practical side, a role like this adds a whole new dimension to your professional profile.
Keep in touch with your teachers: RIGHT
In the pilot episode, Walt and Jesse come into contact again through pure chance. We recommend staying in touch with at least one teacher from school (you should have up-to-date contact information for at least one teacher or faculty member at any institution you have attended). Check in with them every now and then to keep on their good side. As well as being able to provide you with an academic reference (necessary for future academic applications), they can act as a counter-signatory on applications for visas, passports and other important documents. These documents usually require a signature from someone who has known you for a minimum amount of time, in a certain capacity. Teachers may also be able to help secure work experience placements, if you are considering a teaching degree.
Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.