...However, for this opportunity to be fully realized, chemists should be able to talk to machines. Unfortunately, few chemists can actually code, let alone program a robot or write an algorithm to design and run a better set of experiments. Robotics or AI are rarely part of the chemistry curriculum, even at graduate school. This is especially worrisome considering that a recent report by Dell Technologies estimates that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030—when our current students will be in their early 30s—have not been invented yet but will definitely require those skills.
The chemical industry will be profoundly transformed by the convergence of technologies that defines the fourth industrial revolution. According to the World Economic Forum, the digitalization of the chemical industry will create revenues in the $310 billion to $550 billion range, reduce CO2 emissions by 60 million to 100 million metric tons, and avoid 2,000 to 3,000 injuries over the next decade. This will require profound adaptations—and on a very short notice—in the workforce, leadership, and organization of a $5 trillion industry.Call me skeptical that one more item should be bolted onto graduate training in chemistry, but learning to code or work with AI technologies seems like a reasonably wise thing for a graduate student in the sciences to do.