CHEM2302: Physical Chemistry for Medicinal Chemistry & Life Sciences

Course Organizer: Dr Daren Caruana

Lecturers: Dr D J Caruana, Prof F Gervasio and Dr S Banks

Normal prerequisite: CHEM1301 (Basic Physical Chemistry) and CHEM1004 (Foundations of Chemistry), or alternatively CHEM1603 (Chemistry for Biology students)

Units: 0.5

Moodle page:


  • An intermediate course designed to provide students who have a primary interest in Medicinal Chemistry and Biochemistry with a more detailed knowledge of Physical Chemistry applied to aqueous solutions.
  • It can also form a bridge to more advanced chemistry courses.


Successful students should

  • understand the basic concepts of thermodynamics as applied to aqueous solutions, especially activities and the use of thermodynamic tables.
  • be able to apply these to some simple systems including macromolecule solutions.
  • understand important concepts in equilibrium electrochemistry and the application of these in chemical and biochemical situations.
  • understand the concepts of mobility and conductance and the determination of transport properties in solution.
  • understand basic spectroscopic concepts as applied to species in solution and be able to choose between various spectroscopic techniques for monitoring species in solution.

Course Structure

  • Lectures: 22
  • Workshops: 4
  • Labs: Practical 5 afternoons


  • Exam: 70% (2 hours)
  • Lab: 20%
  • Coursework: 10%

Practical course organizer:

Dr Simon Banks

Recommended Texts

  • Raymond Chang, "Physical Chemistry for the Chemical and Biological Sciences", 1st ed. University Science Books, 2000

Further Reading

  • P W Atkins & J de Paula, "Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences", 2006.

Course Outline

Thermodynamics and Chemical Equilibria, FG- 6 lectures

Revision of First Law. The Second Law of thermodynamics: Gibbs function and chemical potential. Equilibrium and Activity. Calculation of equilibrium constants from thermodynamic data; temperature dependence; use of tables. Colligative properties; estimation of molecular weights. Osmotic phenomena. Techniques for the determination of molar mass of macromolecules.

Properties of Electrolyte solutions and Conductivity, DJC - 5 lectures

Electrolyte solutions. Columbic interactions, deviations from ideal behaviour, non ideal solution. Chemical potential of species in solution. Debye-Huckel treatment of electrolyte solutions, Mean ionic activity coefficient, ion-ion and ion-solvent interactions. Derivation of limiting law. Molecular motion in applied electric fields: Ionic conductance and mobility; Equilibrium constants from conductance data; electrophoresis, electro-osmosis.

Electrochemical cells and redox reactions in biological systems, DJC - 6 lectures

Electrochemical reactions and cells; relation between current and reaction rate; electrode potentials and Gibbs free energy of reactions. Electrochemical driven processes in biological systems: What makes a mitochondria tick, electron transport chain, membrane potentials in living cells, nerve impulses, other membrane systems.

Molecular Spectroscopy and Structure, SB - 5 lectures

Introduction to electronic spectroscopy: absorption, fluorescence, phosphorescence and luminescence. Beer's Law: determination of concentrations; calculation of equilibrium constants. Excited states and excited state lifetime; deductions from spectra; energy transfer within and between molecules. Fluorescence and phosphorescence, applications including lasers. ORD, circular dichroism and FRET.