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Master Syllabus

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Administrative Unit: Physical and Biological Sciences Department
Course Prefix and Number: CHEM 401
Course Title: *Introduction to Physical Chemistry/Chemical Physics
Number of:
Credit Hours 3
Lecture Hours 3
Lab Hours 0
Catalog Description:

Introduction to the physical principles underlying chemical science. Topics include thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, and quantum mechanics. Cross-listed as PHYS 401. Prerequisites: CHEM 112, MATH 201, PHYS 111 or PHYS 211, PHYS 112 or PHYS 212 (may be a corequisite).

Prerequisite(s) / Corequisite(s): CHEM 112, MATH 201, PHYS 111 or PHYS 211, PHYS 112 or PHYS 212 (may be a corequisite).
Course Rotation for Day Program: Offered Spring.
Text(s): Most current editions of the following:

Physical Chemistry
By D. Ball (Cengage)
Physical Chemistry
By Atkins and de Paula (W.H. Freeman)
Physical Chemistry
By I. Levine (McGraw-Hill)
Physical Chemistry
By Silbey, Alberty and Reid (Prentice Hall)
Physical Chemistry
By Engel and Reid (Prentice)
Course Objectives
  • To distinguish between microscopic and macroscopic descriptions of matter, using the kinetic theory of gases.
  • To describe the principles of thermodynamics and apply them to pure substances, mixtures and chemical reactions.
  • To explain the time dependence of chemical reactions and infer reaction mechanisms from kinetic data.
  • To state the principles of quantum mechanics and use them to explain properties of atoms and molecules.
    Measurable Learning
  • Calculate energy levels and degeneracies for simple model systems.
  • State the statistical definition of entropy.
  • Use the Boltzmann Distribution to calculate relative probabilities of molecular states and energy levels.
  • Describe statistical properties of gases.
  • Define thermodynamic state functions.
  • Use heat-capacity data to calculate enthalpy, entropy and free energy as a function of temperature.
  • Define thermodynamic potentials.
  • Use Maxwell Relations and other thermodynamic relations to calculate hard-to-measure properties in terms of more easily accessible ones.
  • State the three laws of thermodynamics and explain the use of each in chemistry.
  • Calculate phase equilibria in pure substances and mixtures.
  • Calculate equilibrium constants from tabulated data.
  • Determine the dependence of equilibrium constants on temperature and pressure.
  • Determine rate laws of reactions from experimental data.
  • Calculate rate constants and their dependence on temperature.
  • Explain the form of rate laws in gas-phase reactions in terms of collision theory.
  • Apply the steady-state approximation to predict rate laws of complex reactions.
  • State the postulates of quantum mechanics.
  • Write down the classical Hamiltonian and the Hamiltonian operator for simple mechanical systems.
  • Demonstrate the validity of wave functions by substituting into the Schrodinger equation.
  • Use particle-in-a-box, rigid-rotor, and harmonic-oscillator models to calculate molecular heat capacities and spectra.
    Topical Outline:
  • Properties of gases
  • The laws of thermodynamics
  • Changes of state
  • Physical transformation of pure materials and simple mixtures
  • The phase rule
  • Equilibrium electrochemistry; ions and electrodes
  • Introduction to quantum chemistry: principles, techniques, and applications
  • Atomic and molecular spectroscopy
  • Introduction to the hydrogen atom--Born-Oppenheimer approximation, etc.
    Culminating Experience Statement:

    Material from this course may be tested on the Major Field Test (MFT) administered during the Culminating Experience course for the degree. 
    During this course the ETS Proficiency Profile may be administered.  This 40-minute standardized test measures learning in general education courses.  The results of the tests are used by faculty to improve the general education curriculum at the College.


    Recommended maximum class size for this course: 25

    Library Resources:

    Online databases are available at You may access them from off-campus using your CougarTrack login and password when prompted.

    Prepared by: Frank Somer Date: August 27, 2014
    NOTE: The intention of this master course syllabus is to provide an outline of the contents of this course, as specified by the faculty of Columbia College, regardless of who teaches the course, when it is taught, or where it is taught. Faculty members teaching this course for Columbia College are expected to facilitate learning pursuant to the course objectives and cover the subjects listed in the topical outline. However, instructors are also encouraged to cover additional topics of interest so long as those topics are relevant to the course's subject. The master syllabus is, therefore, prescriptive in nature but also allows for a diversity of individual approaches to course material.

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