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CHY1205 : Introductory Physical Chemistry

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Werner Hofer
  • Lecturer: Dr Jerry Hagon, Dr Eimer Tuite, Dr Ben Horrocks, Dr Fabio Cucinotta, Dr Nick Walker, Dr Thomas Penfold, Dr Elizabeth Gibson
  • Owning School: Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module serves as an introduction to the field of physical chemistry, especially in terms of making scientific calculations. It has to be recognised that the nature of calculations used in support of formal physical chemistry teaching differ substantially from conventional mathematical operations. The aim of this particular module is to help students develop the necessary skills by which to undertake such calculations and to examine the consequences of their answers. The basic mathematical tools will be introduced and exemplified by way of making a range of calculations of increasing complexity. The module will link with General Chemistry so that the student sees the relevance of the calculation. At the end of the course, the student should be familiar with all aspects of scientific calculations.

To emphasise the application of mathematical and computing methods to the study of chemical problems.
To introduce and develop an understanding of how to use basic software programs to aid the analysis and presentation of scientific data.

To develop the student’s ability to solve scientific problems using fundamental chemical principles.

Outline Of Syllabus

Students will be given typical data and requested to work through the problem, addressing units and likely error ranges. Graphs will be drawn and used to extract more chemical information. Emphasis will be placed on teaching how errors are carried through scientific calculations and on the limitations of extrapolation. Specialist training will be given in the use of Excel, Equation Editor, and Maxima. A range of mathematical operations will be covered, including:

•       Re-arranging equations
•       Quadratics and higher-orders
•       Logarithms and exponentials
•       Graphs, interpolation and extrapolation
•       Integration and differentiation
•       Complex numbers
•       Simultaneous equations
•       Series expansion
•       Reciprocals, approximations, simplifications and rounding up.

These operations will be built around a particular scientific principle – mostly thermodynamic or kinetic – such that realistic numbers result from the calculation.

Statistics and Errors
Prof Werner Hofer

Students are introduced to the ideas of errors, precision and statistical analysis through a combination of lectures and worked examples.
• Averaging procedures and simple statistics
• Errors and their propagation

Computer-Assisted Teaching
Dr JP Hagon

A combination of lectures and computer-labs will be used to guide the student in the application of a range of methods in solving chemical problems, and provide practice and guidance for application of these methods.

An emphasis will be placed on the use of software packages, particularly in the use of spreadsheets:
• Spreadsheet structure, key functions and data entry
• Using spreadsheets, particularly for numerical solution of mathematical problems, including iterative methods and numerical integration
• Curve fitting and plotting.
• Statistical analysis of numerical data sets, with reference to error analysis.

The computer-assisted teaching is assessed via problem sets to be submitted electronically on the above themes with particular reference to the rules stipulated for presentation of data in graphs for laboratory reports.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion55:0025:005 x online maths assessment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture181:0018:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion15:005:00Errors and Statistics assessment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion25:0010:002 x Excel computer based assessment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical23:006:008x3h computer session (students attend 2)
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1136:00136:00Complete in-course assignments in computer based, problem solving analysis exercises
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Students acquire knowledge and understanding through lectures.

This module builds on the student's basic mathematical skills by showing how mathematics is used in the solution of chemical problems. In addition, the application of computers to analyse large amounts of data is presented.

Workshops are devoted to the application of knowledge through the completion of assessed problem sheets. The tests are marked and feedback is provided.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M25Computer based application assignment
Written exercise1M25Statistical analysis assignment
Computer assessment1M505 x computer assessments
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students practise calculations, the manipulation of equations and the use of units in the calculation classes.

The in-course assessed work allows the student to practise and consolidate the lecture material and allows the student and the academic subject tutor to monitor progress towards the learning outcomes.

Reading Lists