CHEM 121

Chemistry 121: Structural Chemistry with Application to Chemistry of the Elements

Instructor: Dr. Olivia New. British lady who always seemed unhappy/irritated with our class. Basically spoon-fed us the textbook without any real explanations. She was really friendly and accommodating in office hours though, so if you have her I’d recommend going to them.

Textbook: Chem 121 Integrated Resource Package (ChIRP), a custom UBC textbook made exclusively for this class. A new edition is made every year and most people end up writing in this book pretty extensively, so I’d recommend buying it brand spankin’ new from the Bookstore.

What We Learned: Mainly grade 11/12 chemistry review with some new stuff thrown in. Atomic structure and periodic properties, ionic and covalent bonding, molecular structure (VSEPR), spectroscopy, quantum mechanics and orbitals, valence bond theory, molecular orbital theory, and applications to materials science and electronics. See here for a detailed course syllabus.

Lab: The lab component of this course can come as a bit of a shock at first since a) you do nearly every experiment on your own, and b) you’re not given a cut-and-dry procedure to follow. However, the lab manual and your TAs are both excellent resources, and it’s really not as stressful as it may seem. Here’s how chemistry labs at UBC work: You have a “wet” lab every other week in which you need to actually come to the lab and perform the experiment. The next week is a “dry lab” week, and you use it to write your lab report and prepare for the following week’s experiment. There’s also a lab exam at the end of the semester where you’re tested on basic laboratory skills like pipetting and titration. At the beginning of every wet lab, you’re given a 10-minute quiz on the material that is covered in the prelab reading. They say that if you fail the quiz you’re not allowed to perform the experiment, but I’ve never seen that happen. Then you’re given a quick pre-lab presentation outlining the experiment, and the next two and a half or so hours are yours to complete the experiment. In Chem 121, the “lab report” is just a few pages from the lab manual that you need to fill out and hand in the following week. Note: you must pass the lab component of Chem 121 in order to pass the course!

Midterms/Final: Chem 121 has two midterms, each worth 10% and a 50% final exam. The rest of the marks come from the lab (20%) and quizzes/assignments (10%). The midterms and finals were both significantly more difficult than the questions in the ChIRP and in-class examples, so make sure you prepare yourself accordingly.

Comments/Tips: Read the ChIRP before you come to class, especially once you start getting into quantum mechanics and MO/VB theory. Do lots and lots of practice exams to prepare for midterms and finals, since the questions tend to be a lot trickier than in the textbook. Don’t stress over the lab, but make sure you make use of your dry lab week. Doing the prelab the night before is possible, but it’s crazy stressful.

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