General Chemistry I

Taught in
Summer 2019, Summer 2018
Course Level
Lifelong Support

Course Description

This is the first semester of Roosevelt University’s introductory chemistry series (CHEM 201,202). We will cover a range of topics including chemical formulas and equations, acids and bases, oxidation/reduction reactions, thermochemistry, atomic and molecular theory. The concepts learned in this course will be relevant to future studies in all areas of chemistry (e.g., biochemistry, organic, inorganic, physical, environmental, materials, and medicinal chemistry).

Chemistry demystified

Chemistry is a special, unique branch of science that requires the learning of a symbolic language (akin to learning Hieroglyphics, Mandarin or Japanese) as much as learning and applying fundamental science concepts. Chemistry is all around us, yet we are incapable of observing it in its simplest, purest form. Therefore, learning chemistry requires students to build physical and mental abstract models of what scientist have come to understand about atomic and molecular structure based on supported theories. Furthermore, students must trust those models to make informed analytical decisions to solve problems. Chemical laws, rules, principles we use to build our models are dynamic and not concrete, and serve as fluid, general guides for effective inductive reasoning of a given scenario. Chemistry principles can’t be applied universally and therefore can’t be solely memorized. The true beauty of chemistry lies within the exceptions to the rule that makes up an expansive grey area. Chemistry exists as a separate branch of science, because the concepts can’t be directly applied to all situations, but that every chemical system is unique and the expansive grey area continues to surprise and amaze as new systems are discovered. Chemistry is continually evolving. If the principles of chemistry could be applied universally, then chemistry would not exist as a separate branch of science, rather it would be a subtopic of physics. Therefore, to succeed, we must embrace and accept the unique subtleties inherent in the material, and have faith in our own understanding to unleash the secrets of each new chem- ical system. With guidance and coaching, students will not only learn the fundamentals, but acquire strong working knowledge. Couple this with fortified inductive reasoning skills, students will be able to synthesize and apply their own higher understanding to new situations and truly embrace this wonderful science.

Teaching philosophy

As your instructor, I strive to provide an accessible and safe environment in which you are unhindered in your ability to learn and express your ideas. While doing so, I will present material in multiple ways in order to address all learning types. We will make use of visual aids, examples, and problem solving sessions, to guide you toward unlocking the secrets of general chemistry. Ultimately, I want you to think of me as your Sherpa on the journey to unlock- ing your potential and reaching your goals. I will show you the way to de-compartmentalize concepts forging strong connections to create a higher understanding that can be applied to new situations. I will guide and coach you on how to embrace the uncertainty that is inherent in chemistry to support your journey toward becoming a master problem solver. Above all, I will engage and challenge you to reach your highest potential. I will encourage you to reach deep and push past the fundamental understanding and help you to synthesize your own working knowledge. I will be your coach as you work toward creating strong inductive reasoning and problem solving skills that you can apply to this course and beyond in your career and personal life.

Course expectations

  • It is imperative that you utilize 2-3 hours outside of class for practice for every hour you spend in class and lab. To succeed in this course, you should put in 12-15 hours outside of class, every week, for reading, homework, pre-labs, lab reports, and study. This is not an exaggeration!
  • Read the assigned sections before coming to class. As you read, take notes. Use these notes to supplement your notes in class. Lecture follows the text closely, so use your book as a resource.
  • Do your reading and homework regularly to ensure that you understand and can apply the material. Start your homework as soon as we begin a new chapter. Later sections of the chapter will make more sense if you have already begun to digest earlier portions of the chapter.
  • Remember to learn effectively, we must process new information effectively through use of as many senses as possible to create strong recall. To process new information into long term working knowledge: you need to see it, write it, speak it and connect it to prior knowledge.
  • This course contains a lot of material, some of it difficult, and moves at a rapid pace. You may find it helpful to study with a friend or in a study group in order to help each other process the information mire effectively as described in the latter point. Do your best amongst yourselves first, but please do not hesitate to come to my office hours, schedule additional hours, or contact me by email or phone if you become stuck and frustrated.

Required Text

  • Kotz, Treichel & Townsend. (2012). Chemistry and Chemical Reactivity, 9th edition. ISBN10: 1-133-94964-9; ISBN13: 978-1-133-94964-0.