Biology vs. Chemistry: There Can Be Only One

Phil Meagher
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This is a guest post by Adam Ruben, PhD. The opinions expressed are his own.

You’re in college. You’re halfway through your freshman year, which means you’ve most likely just dropped out of Engineering. You’re also probably drunk.

Time to choose your major! But which should you choose—Biology or Chemistry? For centuries, biologists and chemists have each argued for the superiority of their field, typically while drunk. Here are eight advantages of each:

Atom vs CellBiology:

  1. Most animals are cuter than test tubes.
  2. Just might need to wear a jungle adventure pith helmet at some point.
  3. No one ever irreversibly devastated a small town with a toxic spill of guinea pigs.
  4. You get to work with macro-er molecules.
  5. You publish papers whose titles include 15-letter words instead of 38-letter words.
  6. No one actually understands electron orbitals.
  7. Can use your profession as a pickup line: “Wanna go…you know…study biology?”
  8. 8. Any rudimentary math skills will place you in the top 5% of biologists.


  1. Squigglier glassware.
  2. Periodic table easier to print on a coffee mug than human genome.
  3. People think your title, “Chemist,” has to be a euphemism for something cool.
  4. Can manufacture illicit substances with high street value to support your family following a cancer diagnosis, and nothing will go wrong.
  5. Biologists love fruit flies, yeast, and nematodes, all of which are nasty-ass.
  6. Cyclohexane rings in boat configuration are fun to draw. Ahoy!
  7. You feel a personal connection to the British electronic music duo Chemical Brothers.
  8. The general public thinks most scientists are chemists anyway.

Romance Languages & Literature:

  1. This is what you’ll end up majoring in.
Adam Ruben, On Set on Outrageous Acts of Science
Adam Ruben, on set at “Outrageous Acts of Science.” Photo courtesy of Gareth Cornick.

Adam Ruben is a molecular biologist, a television host on the Discovery Channel’s “Outrageous Acts of Science” and author of the book “Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School.” You can read more of Adam Ruben’s work on the JoVE blog here.