The orbital configuration for carbon is 1s2 2s2 2p2. It has four valence electrons. Carbon exists in nature as graphite and diamonds, but it often combines with other elements, such as hydrogen and oxygen, in forming compounds that are necessary for life.
The valence of carbon allows it to combine in many different forms. Carbon atoms often join with other carbon atoms to form long chains and rings. Organic chemistry is the study of carbon compounds. Understanding organic chemistry is vital in the practice of healthcare professionals. In addition, organic chemistry plays a role in the development of plastics and many polymers.