CHEM 123

Chemistry 123: Physical and Organic Chemistry

Instructor: Ed Grant for the physical section and Glen Sammis for the organic section of the course. Grant was probably one of the worst profs I had in first year. His lectures were unorganized, impossible to follow, and completely devoid of any practice problems. Some days I would leave class without a clue as to what the topic of that day’s lecture had been. Sammis, on the other hand, was absolutely amazing. His lectures were clear, full of easy-to-follow analogies and tons of practice problems. Also, he encouraged students to come to his office hours and even bribed us with cookies. Highly, highly recommend him.

Textbook: General Chemistry by Petrucci, custom 2nd UBC edition. Do not buy this book off of Amazon, as the custom edition contains a few organic chemistry chapters from other textbooks.

What We Learned: Physical chemistry – phase equilibria, thermodynamics (work, entropy, enthalpy, all that fun stuff), electrochemistry, acids and bases. Organic chemistry – nomenclature, isomers, stereochemistry, SN1 and SN2 substitution reactions

What I Actually Learned: My high school chem teacher should have really spent more than a week teaching us physical chemistry. I was hopelessly unprepared.

Homework/Assignments: This course had an online component for each portion of the course. There was an acids/bases VISTA assignment (2.5% of your grade) and five organic chemistry quizzes (also worth 2.5%). On your first acid/base attempt, you only had to get 50% or higher to gain full credit (that was worth 0.5% of the 2.5%, I believe), and then you had to . Unlimited attempts on both, so theoretically you could get perfect, but since the assignment fell over reading break I think I just threw in the towel after I had an 80. Organic chemistry quizzes cover all the orgo topics: nomenclature, stereochemistry, isomers, etc. On the first orgo quiz you had unlimited attempts, but then on subsequent quizzes you only got two. The best four out of the five quizzes counted towards your grade. Easy peasy.

Lab: I personally found the lab component of Chem 123 to be a lot easier than 121, but that might just have been because I was more used to the structure. Same as in 121, you need to come up with your own procedural steps using the lab manual as a guide, fill out an experimental design form before the lab, and write a short quiz at the beginning of the lab period. The only big difference between 121 and 123 is that the lab reports are a little more challenging. Instead of a fill-in-the-blanks sheet of paper that you just hand back to your TA, you actually need to write a full 2-ish page long lab report complete with references to literature (oh, the horror!). The lab portion is worth 20% of your final mark, and you need to pass both the lab and the lecture components in order to pass the course.

Midterms/Exams: There was one common midterm (meaning that all the sections write the same exam) that exclusively covered physical chemistry. The average for this was pretty high, around 85% I believe—although I failed to make good use of my reading week and did miserably. The final was about 25% physical chemistry, and the rest was organic. The final was worth 52.5% of your final mark. It had a few tricks thrown in, but overall I’d say it was pretty fair. Know your reaction mechanisms like the back of your hand, though.

Comments/Tips: Practice exams and problem sets are your best friends in this course. As opposed to Chem 121, which I found was a lot more memorization and conceptual knowledge, Chem 123 is a lot more mathematical, especially during the physical chem portion. Do the problems in the back of the textbook if you’re looking for some extra practice—there are literally hundreds at the end of each chapter. If you’re still struggling, go to the Chemistry Resource Centre. There are tons of TAs there who will be more than happy to help you out (even if it does get a little busy around exam time). Your profs will give you information about this at the beginning of the semester. Another thing, if you have a lot of issues picturing three-dimensional structures, you should invest in the optional molecular model set. It was a huge help to me during the organic portion of the course, especially when we got into cyclohexane conformations and stereoisomers.

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