2014-2015 Chemistry Courses
General Chemistry I
Chemistry is the study of the properties, composition, and transformation of matter. Chemistry is central to the production of the materials required for modern life; for instance, the synthesis of pharmaceuticals to treat disease, the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides required to feed an ever-growing population, and the development of efficient and environmentally benign energy sources. This course provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts of modern chemistry. We will begin by examining the structure and properties of atoms, which are the building blocks of the elements—the simplest substances in the material world around us. We will then explore how atoms of different elements can bond with each other to form an infinite variety of more complex substances called compounds. This will lead us to an investigation of several classes of chemical reactions, the processes by which substances are transformed into new materials with different physical properties. Along the way, we will learn how and why the three states of matter (solids, liquids, and gases) differ from one another and how energy may be either produced or consumed by chemical reactions. In weekly laboratory sessions, we will perform experiments to illustrate and test the theories presented in the lecture part of the course. These experiments will also serve to develop practical skills in both synthetic and analytic chemical techniques.
General Chemistry II
This course is a continuation of General Chemistry I. We will begin with a detailed study of both the physical and chemical properties of solutions, which will enable us to consider the factors that affect both the rates and direction of chemical reactions. We will then investigate the properties of acids and bases and the role that electricity plays in chemistry. The course will conclude with introductions to nuclear chemistry and organic chemistry. Weekly laboratory sessions will allow us to demonstrate and test the theories described in the lecture segment of the course.
From Alchemy to Chemistry
Tracing its origins back to ancient Egypt, alchemy was a dark—often forbidden—art whose practitioners wrote cryptic, encoded, symbolic, and often secretive texts. Driven by the desire to turn base metals into gold and to discover the Philosopher’s Stone and, with it, the secret of immortality, alchemists studied the transmutation of physical substances. Despite its unsavory reputation, alchemy was practiced by some of the most extraordinary individuals in the history of humanity’s intellectual development: Jabir ibn-Hayyan, Roger Bacon, Paracelsus, and Robert Boyle. Indeed, Isaac Newton—widely regarded as the father of modern science—wrote more alchemical manuscripts than on any other subject. In this course, we will investigate the essence of alchemy and its turbulent history. The course will then explore the legacy of alchemy: how the work of the alchemists enabled the scientists of the 18th and 19th centuries to transform alchemical lore into the modern science of chemistry.
This course provides an introduction to basic concepts of chemistry and their application to current environmental issues. Topics include acid rain, ozone depletion, air pollution, global warming, and surface water and groundwater pollution. We will then consider how human activities such as transportation, energy production, and chemical industries influence the environment.
Organic chemistry is the study of chemical compounds whose molecules are based on a framework of carbon atoms, typically in combination with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Despite this rather limited set of elements, there are more organic compounds known than there are compounds that do not contain carbon. Adding to the importance of organic chemistry is the fact that very many of the chemical compounds that make modern life possible—such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, pigments, and dyes—can be classed as organic. Organic chemistry, therefore, impacts many other scientific subjects; and knowledge of organic chemistry is essential for a detailed understanding of materials science, environmental science, molecular biology, and medicine. This course gives an overview of the structures, physical properties, and reactivity of organic compounds. We will see that organic compounds can be classified into families of similar compounds based upon certain groups of atoms that always behave in a similar manner no matter what molecule they are in. These functional groups will enable us to rationalize the vast number of reactions that organic reagents undergo. We will also look at the synthesis of large, complicated molecules from simple starting materials, how organic compounds can be separated and purified, and the techniques that are used to identify and determine the molecular structure of organic compounds. In the laboratory section of the course, we will develop the techniques and skills required to synthesize, purify, and identify organic compounds. Organic chemistry is a key requirement for pre-med students and is strongly encouraged for all others who are interested in the biological and physical sciences. Prerequisite: General Chemistry or its equivalent.
Every time chemists conduct a reaction or isolate a compound, their first task is to identify the molecular structure of what has been made or isolated. To help them accomplish this, chemists have a powerful array of modern instrumental techniques that are used to quickly and accurately determine the structures of compounds. One of the most challenging (and entertaining!) parts of chemistry is to use the information obtained from these techniques to assign structures to unknown compounds (a bit like Sherlock Holmes using clues to solve a murder mystery). In this course, we focus on the three most widely used techniques: mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. All of these techniques provide valuable information about the structures of molecules and are all used on a day-to-day basis by most chemists. Once we have a sound understanding of each of these techniques, we will become chemical detectives and use the information that the techniques provide to solve chemical puzzles. The laboratory section of the course will give us the opportunity to make some completely new chemical compounds, and we will then use our knowledge of spectroscopic techniques to elucidate their identities and molecular structures. Prerequisite: One semester of General Chemistry or General Physics
Biochemistry is the chemistry of biological systems. This course will introduce students to the basic principles and concepts of biochemistry. Topics will include the structure and function of biomolecules such as amino acids, proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids, RNA, DNA, and bioenergetics. This knowledge will then be used to study the pathways of metabolism. Prerequisite: Organic Chemistry and General Biology