Pure Science vs Applied Science

STEM education is an interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses heavily on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Note that this teaching approach includes both pure and applied sciences. Applied science focuses on the practical applications of science versus the theoretical side. So, do you want to go down the path of pure science or applied science? Or would you like to do both? Wherever you are in your educational journey, and whatever your interests are, there’s a place in STEM for you!

Pure science (a.k.a. basic science or natural science) focuses on studying the natural world and gathering information with the goal of expanding knowledge in a particular field. Pure science involves a lot of direct observation, experimentation, and laboratory research – either indoors or outdoors. Pure science includes the core sciences of chemistry, biology, and physics, as well as the related subjects of geology and environmental science. An example of pure science would be attempting to understand the earth’s geologic makeup and how geological processes work. Applied science takes that knowledge of geologic conditions and puts it to use in designing and constructing different types of engineering works such as dams and bridges. So, you can pursue an undergraduate degree in pure science (geology) and then a master’s in applied science (geological engineering) if you want.

Applied science (a.k.a. technology or engineering) as mentioned above applies existing scientific knowledge to practical uses, such as inventions and products that solve problems or make everyday life easier. Taking a raw material and turning it into a product would be applied science. For example, a biologist might discover a natural compound in the leaf of a plant that kills bacteria. That’s pure science. In applied science, a physician might test to see if that natural plant compound actually cures patients, and then a pharmaceutical company will mass produce an antibiotic drug derived from the substance. This shows how some knowledge of both pure and applied science will help you transition easily into the health sciences.

Mathematics can also be separated into “pure math” and “applied math.” Pure math centers around the development of new mathematical concepts on the level of numbers and equations. This would include disciplines like algebra, calculus and geometry. Applied math, meanwhile, refers to math that’s developed for practical applications. Statistics, data science, and theoretical physics are mathematical fields that largely attempt to solve specific real-world problems.

Every technological innovation is built on a scientific discovery that came before it. However, it may take years of experimentation to create a firm basis for a practical application. For example, Benjamin Franklin “discovered” electricity with his lightning experiments in the 1700s. In the late 1800s, Thomas Edison was able to harness electricity to light up the world. In the 1950s, Bell Labs created the first silicon photovoltaic cell that could effectively produce electricity from sunlight.

Then there is the timeline between the foundation of early computer science and the development of modern computer applications that spans nearly two centuries – from the mechanical computers of the 1800s to the room-sized mainframes of the mid-20th century, all the way up to today’s software and smartphone apps. Speaking of which, Propel Software has made a tool that allows manufacturing companies to track a product across its entire lifecycle. Also, posted on their website is a list of definitions for students interested in pursuing a manufacturing career. This can provide great insight into applied STEM and what those entering the industry need to know. Check it out at the link below:

Supply Chain Alphabet Soup: 52 Acronyms

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