What is Chemistry Good For?


Course Information


Hints for Doing Well in C105/C111
Attitude is Everything

    The #1 reason why some students do not perform well in chemistry is because of personal attitude. Anyone with the proper attitude and background can succeed in chemistry courses. For most students, nothing can make learning chemistry easy, but developing the right attitudes and habits will make learning chemistry possible.
Why is Chemistry Difficult??

  • Chemistry is not in English. There are more new vocabulary works introduced in the typical chemistry class than there are in an average French class.
  • You can not directly observe most of what we are teaching. Chemistry at its heart is a set of beliefs that we as humans have constructed to explain how the world works. We can not look at a glass of water and understand the formula or structure of a water molecule. Studying chemistry will involve use of your imagination.
  • Chemistry can not be memorized. Like other sciences, the value of studying the subject is that it allow us to make predictions (educated GUESSES) about what will happen in situations that have not yet occurred. In order to be good at chemistry, you will have to be absolutely fluent in speaking the language of chemistry and you will have to understand the concepts well enough to apply them to questions or problems that you have not seen before. You will be memorizing a large body of information, but what you can do with that information will define your competence as a scientist.
My Best Analogy
  • Lets pretend that you are planning a career that will involve heavy lifting and regular physical activity. Because of this, one of your goals is to be able to bench-press 300 pounds by the end of the school year. What plan of action would guarantee your success?
  • I would suggest that you hire a personal trainer and join a gym. It might also be a good idea to adopt a diet that would maximize your chances for building muscle mass and to stick to this diet. You trainer would start you on a schedule of regular strength training and stretching. If you were to stick to this schedule and work out with enthusiasm and purpose, you would probably be able to bench press 300 pounds within a reasonably short period of time, despite the fact that most people can notlift half that weight. Once you developed that habits of a successful weight lifter, few would be able to match your physical abilities.
  • Your enrollment in C105/C111 parallels the situation of the weight lifter. As a science major, understanding chemistry will increase your ability to do your future job. Most people do not understand chemistry to the degree that will be expected of you. You have several coaches and personal trainers available to you (I am your head coach) who will guide you. It is of the utmost importance that you adopt a regular training schedule to improve your abilities as a chemist. This regimen will include reading the material, submitting your warm-up exercise on time, attending lecture and workshop sessions and working on the practice tests before the real exam. Enthusiastic participation in the right activities will enhance your performance in this class, whether you ever decide you like chemistry or not. Lack of participation will reduce your abilities whether you love chemistry or not.
  • Things to Keep in Mind

  • You will do all the work. Your tuition does not buy you a degree, it buys you the opportunity to earn a degree. I can only provide guidance.
  • Work enthusiastically and with purpose. The lackadaisical efforts of a potential weight lifter will not help in the quest to lift 300 pounds. Inattentively going through the motions of this course might result in failure for you.
  • When you need help, ask your coach.
  • Cramming does not work. You might have a good enough short term memory to pass the exams by cramming. The final exam has 5 times the material as any single exam and poses a bigger threat. The MCAT has 10 times the information as the C105/C111 final. For you to be worthy of your degree and an exciting high-paying job, you need to put information and abilities in long-term memory.

    This site is made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation (DUE-9981111).