Chemistry, in many people's minds, has always seemed inferior to other natural sciences; it doesn't seem as exciting as some of the newer disciplines.
Some people associate chemistry with "dirtiness", or wonder if it is "toxic". The word "chemistry" in Cantonese even carries the meanings of being "unreliable" and "easily damaged".
As a teacher and researcher of chemistry for years, I feel disappointed that it is so undervalued.
Misunderstandings about chemistry may be caused by many factors. As the Chinese saying goes, "Good news doesn't travel, bad news travels far".
Accidents in some chemical plants or factories have led people to link chemistry with disasters. Some factories and businesses also dispose of chemical waste irresponsibly, polluting the land and rivers.
Another negative factor is food contamination, caused by humans, such as toxic milk powder and drinks tainted with plasticisers. They make people think all chemical additives in food are bad.
Many people associate chemistry with drug abuse, while chemical weapons, such as sarin gas, also give chemistry a bad name; they blind people to the benefits that chemistry brings to the world.
I stress constantly that, as a profession, chemistry is closely linked to people's lives and technological advancements.
My goal is to educate people through basic concepts and real-life examples, so our brains are not filled with "fake science".
There are well-made television documentaries promoting science. There are also popular science videos on the internet. Hopefully it means people will gain a more positive understanding of chemistry.
I constantly encourage students to take part in science competitions, including local and international Chemistry Olympiads. They can use the knowledge learned in class to create new inventions, or decode the mechanisms and principles behind chemical phenomena, and also improve their presentation skills.
Hopefully, over time the bias against chemistry will end.