CHEM1601: Chemistry Foundations

Course Organizer: Prof. S. D. Price

Lecturers: Prof. S. D. Price, Prof. C.J. Carmalt, Dr Jon Wilden

Normal prerequisite: A-level Chemistry courses or equivalent

Units: 0.5

Moodle page:


The aims of CHEM1601 are to lay the foundations in the 3 main branches of chemistry for all of the subsequent courses in the Department. The course material is linked to, but extends considerably, A-level chemistry and related courses.


  • To explain the appearance of the atomic spectrum of hydrogen and use this understanding to explian the spectra of sodium and helium
  • To cover topics including the Bohr model, quantum numbers, spin-orbit coupling, properties of electromagnetic radiation, experimental principles and the Zeeman effect.
  • To understand elementary concepts of atomic structure and bonding, and how these explain the concepts of periodicity
  • To understand how to rationalise and represent a mechanism for a chemical reaction using the curly arrow notation, incorporating stereochemical and reactivity considerations.
  • To understand the basic principles of molecular orbital theory and its application to bonding.
  • To understand the basic principles aromatic chemistry

Course Structure

  • Lectures: 30
  • Tutorials: 9 small group workshops
  • Labs: 3 experiments


  • Exam: 60% (2 hours). Examination in summer exam period.
  • Lab: 30%
  • Coursework: 10% (3 in-class tests, workshop assessed work)

Practical course organizer:

Dr. F. Cora

Recommended Texts

There is no single suitable text for the whole course. Students are also advised to also consult one of the basic texts for each of the succeeding courses (see also CHEM1301 , CHEM1101 , and CHEM1201 course outlines for further details). Lecturers will give further information.

General chemistry:

  • T.Hey & P Walters - The New Quantum Universe Cambridge 2003
  • M Munowitz - Principles of Chemistry - Norton Ch 3 - 6

Physical chemistry (Section A):

  • Physical Chemistry, Albert and Silby, Wiley.
  • Physical Chemistry, Atkins, Oxford.
  • The elements of physical chemistry, Atkins, Oxford.
  • Atomic Spectra, by Tim P.Softley an Oxford Chemistry Primer

Inorganic chemistry (Section B):

  • Chemical Bonding, Winter, OUP Primer.
  • Inorganic Chemistry, Shriver, Atkins and Langford, OUP, 3rd edition.

Organic Chemistry (Section C):

  • Organic Chemistry, Vollhardt and Schore, Freeman, 3rd edition.
  • Organic Chemistry, McMurry, Brookes/Cole, 5th edition.
  • Organic Chemistry, Carey, McGraw-Hill, 4th edition.
  • Organic Chemistry, Clayden, Greeves, Warren and Wothers, OUP, 1st edition.

Course Outline

Section A: Atomic Spectroscopy, Prof. S.D. Price, 10 Lectures

  • Lecture 1: Why study atomic spectra? The energy level expression for the hydrogen atom.
  • Lecture 2: The Rydberg constant and ionization energies.
  • Lecture 3: The Bohr model of the hydrogen atom.
  • Lecture 4: The breakdown of the Bohr Model.
  • Lecture 5: Quantum mechanics of the hydrogen atom: what the quantum numbers mean.
  • Lecture 6: Predicting transitions in the hydrogen atom: selection rules.
  • Lecture 7: The influence of electron spin. Term symbols for one electron atoms.
  • Lecture 8: Fine structure and the Zeeman effect.
  • Lectures 9 - 10: Multi-electron atoms - spectra of Na and He.

Section B: Atomic Structure,  Prof. C.J. Carmalt, 10 lectures

  • A qualitative view of wavefunctions
  • Hydrogenic orbitals
  • Radial distribution functions
  • Angular properties of orbitals
  • Energies of orbitals for hydrogenic atoms
  • The aufbau scheme for filling the orbitals in atoms
  • Penetration and shielding in the context of effective nuclear charge i.e. to understand the ordering of orbitals in many electron atoms
  • Periodicity
  • Covalency - the idea of overlap
  • The symmetry of orbital overlap - sigma, pi, delta
  • The three rules of overlap - symmetry, energy, radial extension
  • To rationalize the ordering of orbitals in homonuclear diatomics - orbital mixing
  • Lowering symmetry - Heteronuclear diatomics - the effect of electronegativity
  • When covalency falls apart - ionic bonding.
  • Probing orbitals - photoelectron spectroscopy

Section C: Fundamentals of Mechanism and Stereochemistry, Dr. Jon Wilden 10 lectures

  • Lecture 1: Introduction to Organic Molecules Drawing organic compounds; Bonding in organic molecules; Counting electrons.
  • Lecture 2: Hybridisation Hybridisation – sp3, sp2, sp; Shapes of simple organic molecules.
  • Lectures 3: More about Bonding Polarisation of bonds; Resonance; Electron-donating and Electron-withdrawing substituents
  • Lecture 4: Making and Breaking Bonds Using curly arrows to draw mechanisms
  • Lectures 5-6: Isomerism and Stereochemistry Isomerism; Stereochemistry; Enantiomers; Diastereoisomers; Cahn-Ingold-Prelog rules
  • Lecture 7: Introduction to Aromatic Chemistry.
  • Lecture 8: Electrophilic Aromatic Substitution.
  • Lectures 9-10: Electrophilic Aromatic Substitution: Substituent Effects.