Physical Chemistry Research Seminar

Small seminar, Intermediate—Year

Chemists are always trying to make new molecules or devise better ways of making useful ones. They do this partly out of curiosity and partly because new chemical compounds are needed in every aspect of our lives—from pharmaceuticals to novel materials such as ceramics and semiconductors. To be successful, a chemist needs to understand both how and why chemical reactions occur. Physical chemistry describes the bonding in molecules, how molecules interact, what factors determine whether a reaction is favorable or not, and what the outcome of a particular reaction will be. In this course, we will explore the tools and concepts of physical chemistry that are required to enable us to think like research chemists. In so doing, we will develop an overview of chemical processes and an understanding of the mechanisms of chemical reactions. In seminar, we will discuss topics such as quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, spectroscopy, and the “curly arrows” of organic reaction mechanisms. In the laboratory, we will synthesize new chemical compounds, determine their structures, and explore their reactivity. During the spring semester, we will present our findings at regional and national scientific meetings and conferences. This course will be useful for both premed students and those who wish to develop a fuller and deeper understanding of the physical and biological sciences. Prior study of chemistry or permission of the instructor is required.