Submitted by Maggie Geselbracht / Reed College on Fri, 10/24/2008 - 20:47

I was wondering how many folks include basic coordination chemistry in their General Chemistry course?  Perhaps I will put together a poll on this topic.  I used to teach coordination chemistry in Gen Chem, but it has since been removed in favor of more organic chemistry (eek!) that is more relevant for our contextual themes for the fall semester.  Since I teach a 200-level (2nd year) inorganic course, I do not miss it too much in Gen Chem.  I know that I will still have a chance to sink early inorganic hooks into our students.  But it does mean that some of our students, most notably biology and biochemistry students may not ever see very much about coordination complexes as inorganic is only required for chem majors.

I wonder if there is any correlation between the prevalence of coordination chemistry in Gen Chem and where inorganic chemistry is found in the curriculum at different institutions.  I would be curious to hear what other folks have to say.  And what if any "contextual hooks" do you use to introduce coordination chemistry in Gen Chem?  What is the main theme of the unit?

Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College
we teach (taught anyway;  I've been out of the course for 4 years) pretty substantial coord. chem. in our first year course.  Probably 3 lectures.  Of course, when I teach it, I intersperse it whereever I can.  But we discuss metals, ligands, and transition metal ions in solution in the context of bonding, acid/base, and equilibrium.  I'd have to dig out my notes for more details.
Fri, 10/24/2008 - 21:17 Permalink
Nancy Williams / Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College

We have a simple unspoken agreement with our students on coord chem in the genchem sequence. We'll cover it, but we'll do it real fast at the end of the course, and they'll pretend to know it until the exam is over, and then they'll forget it and we'll forgive them for not retaining it.

It's really the worst of both worlds. We used to do the same thing with "organic" (really just naming of functional groups and drawing line structures) before we cut it. I call it "chemistry by inoculation". If you're exposed to a small amount of a topic, maybe when you see it for real later, it won't kill you.

As with so many things, I think "go big or go home" isn't a bad approach.  If you can expand it enough to get some important themes or ideas, it's a great unit. If you can't, maybe it's better to just work d-block elements into the course throughout rather than having "Two Days with Transition Metals".

When I teach our advanced gen chem course, I do a fair bit of coordination chemistry. When I teach bonding, I compare and contrast the "coordinate covalent" behavior of coordination compounds to the more fully covalent bonding of main group and organometallic species. When we do MO theory, I do a very hand-wavy derivation of d-orbital splitting, and then when we get to TM chemistry proper, we do crystal field, the spectrochemical series, the chelate effect, stereochemistry, and magnetism. I mostly do all of this by slashing aqueous equilibria and descriptive chem to the bone.

I don't do much TM chem at all in the regular sequence-I pretty much confine it to a special case of equlibirium (binding constants) and a little bit on crystal field, magnetism, and color at the end of the course. I fight the battle every time as to whether I should teach effectively none, or expand it to do something interesting.

I've had grand plans for some time to design a unit toward the end of genchem using coord chem as a bridge between genchem and organic. It would be immediately preceeded by kinetics. It would introduce stereochemistry in more depth (MUCH easier to see on octahedral cobalt than tetrahedral carbon), and would introduce the idea of a reaction mechanism, "pushing electrons" with arrows, and using kinetic rate laws to distinguish between associative and dissociative ligand substitution mechanisms (a really basic mechanistic question with relatively easy math and which is directly analogous to a lot of organic mechanism dilemmas).

Needless to say, these plans have yet to be actualized.

Sun, 10/26/2008 - 01:57 Permalink
Hilary Eppley / DePauw University
At DePauw we teach coordination chemistry as part of our first year "Inorganic" course. It depends how much time we have left in the semester as to how much we get to, but typically we do between 1 and 2 weeks. I introduce the idea of different types of ligands (using bioinorganic as the contextual hook since our biochemistry and biology students don't take the upper level inorganic course). I also tie spectroscopy in a little bit at this level in a basic way (since they've seen other types of spectroscopy earlier in the semester--we do the metal acac lab and I have them compare the IR of Hacac to the metal complexes and also look at the colors in the context of visible spectroscopy. I also do a bit of HSAB at this point and tie it into toxicity (and antidote) mechanisms. --Hilary
Sun, 10/26/2008 - 20:06 Permalink
Barbara Reisner / James Madison University

At this point, coordination chemistry has been entirely removed from our general chemistry lecture course.  During the first semester, students do a lab where they synthesize [Ni(en)3]Cl2 as a percent yield lab.  Although I haven't taught this lab, my understanding is that a little bit of coordination chemistry is presented.  (However, they haven't covered anything other than stoichiometry at this point so I doubt that the coordination chemistry leaves much of an impact.)  We have a required sophomore-level inorganic course for our majors and we spend 2-3 weeks on coordination chemistry in this course.

That said, things may be changing.  Our education school is up for re-accreditation and coordination chemistry is listed as a required topic not only for getting teacher certification in chemistry but it is also required for certification in biology, earth sciences, and physics.  Since these students only take general chemistry (or genchem and organic), we may be "forced" re-insert coordination chemistry back into the curriculum.

Mon, 10/27/2008 - 03:11 Permalink
Jim Goll / Edgewood College

I have students prepare and characterize a coordianation compound in General Chemistry lab.  I teach very basic CFT here.  The major and minors will see it again in an inorganic course.

James G. Goll Associate Professor of Chemistry Chair--Physical Sciences Edgewood College Madison, WI 53711

Mon, 10/27/2008 - 09:03 Permalink
Lori Watson / Earlham College
We have only a one semester gen-chem course (the students start Org 1 spring semester of their freshman year).  And coordination chem is one of the things that gets left out.  Depending on who's teaching it, we do use a few examples to illustrate various concepts, but don't cover it systematically.  In our sophomore analytical lab, students do a couple chelation type titrations, and talk some about equilibrium and Kf's in coordination complexes, and they talk about some biologically relevant examples (and a bit of HSAB) in biochemistry.  But for the most part, it doesn't get covered at all until inorganic chem as a junior/senior level class.
Mon, 10/27/2008 - 21:14 Permalink
Dean Johnston / Otterbein University
We cover very little in the first year lecture course, but the laboratory has two coordination chemistry exercises. We do have a sophomore-level inorganic where we spend several weeks on coordination chemistry. An accelerated section of our first-year chemistry course is in the works, so we may find a way to work it in there. We "strongly encourage" our biochemistry majors to take the sophomore-level inorganic and I try to bring in as many bioinorganic examples as I can.
Fri, 11/14/2008 - 02:08 Permalink