As student of science and as a practicing researcher one can always ask why should we do science?
If you look at this question from an utilitarian viewpoint, especially in times where vaccination is in the news (for right and wrong reasons), one does not need to give strong justifications for doing science. Its relevance is there to see in our lives and its impact is it ubiquitous.
So, do scientists always think about an application while doing science? The answer is : not always.
In fact many important discoveries and inventions in science, even those which turn out to have huge applications, were not envisaged with an application in mind.
An illustration of this aspect is beautifully communicated in the above video by Prof. P. Balaram, who is an excellent scientist at IISc, and also served as its director in the past.
I should mention that during my PhD course work days, I had the privilege of taking professor Balram’s molecular spectroscopy course in the molecular biophysics unit of IISc.
Being a student of physics I was introduced to the fascinating concepts of molecular spectroscopy from biophysics and biochemistry viewpoint. I learnt a lot about molecules, their stereochemistry and their interaction with light in this fantastic course. Even to date, when I think about chirality in the optical physics, some of the lessons learnt during this course has come extremely handy. Undoubtedly this was one of the best courses I have attended.
General advice, especially for students in physics, is in order to get a deeper intuition in physics it is good to study some fundamental aspects in chemistry and biology. For sure ones understanding of concepts such as chirality and symmetry is enriched if we look at these topics from the chemistry and biology viewpoint.
Similarly students of chemistry and biology can get a deeper insight into the structure and dynamics of molecules if they understand the nature of light in the context of polarization, phase and momentum etc.
After all the universe we live in does not discriminate between the disciplines we used to study it…