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Timothy Herzog, Weber State University
Last seen: 1 week 2 days ago
Joined: 08/08/2008 - 3:28pm

Foundational course

We're revamping our curriculum to include a foundational inorganic course probably in the sophomore year.  I have a couple of questions to those of you who teach this course or are planning such a course.  

1.  What books do you like?  I have struggled to find anything that fits the bill for this type of class.  

2.  Where do you put the course?  Does it usually land in the sophomore year?  We currently have quant and organic, but also need to add a more foundational P-chem and biochem.  Where does it all fit? 

3.  What do you all see as the core subjects that should be taught at this level?  I've been struggling to decide what to hold out, but am excited about the possibility of ultimately having two semesters in the curriculum to teach inorganic. 


Tim Herzog

Maggie Geselbracht, Reed College
Last seen: 4 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 11/17/2007 - 11:00am

I teach one of these courses and have for the past 16 years that I have been at Reed.  I love it!  Early exposure to inorganic chemistry!  My course only has a year of General Chemistry as a pre-requisite.  It is composed of lecture, conference (discussion), and lab and is typically taken by our chem majors in the spring of their second year.  I do also have a few juniors from year to year, particularly those who have "come to the chemistry major late."  And I will commonly have one or 2 Biochemistry/Molecular Biology majors who are taking only the lecture portion of the course as an elective.

I call my course "sophomore inorganic on steroids" as I do not skimp on what I try to stuff in there.  This is the only required inorganic course for our chem majors.  I do teach an Advanced Inorganic course, but not all chem majors will take it.  I should also say that I/we have pulled a lot of inorganic out of Gen Chem.  So, for example, we don't have them violate the octet rule in Gen Chem, and I save expanded octets and VSEPR for steric numbers higher than 4 for Chem 212.  I like to teach multinuclear NMR when we do molecular structure as it is a nice complement for the students who are also in O-chem (although it can be a challenge for the students who haven't had o-chem, because I don't take class time to explain how NMR works).  Most importantly, I do teach MO theory in this course!  I don't make them do all the group theory and derive representations, but rather, develop the MO diagrams from a pictorial approach.  If I tell them what the group orbitals look like, then they need to figure out which AOs on the central atom will be involved.  I teach them about point groups and character tables so that we can put symmetry labels on our MOs.  Basically, I want to teach them enough about MO theory so that when we get to TM chemistry, they can understand the spectrochemical series from arguments based on orbital overlap and the effects of pi-donors and pi-acceptors.  Oh, I also teach some solid state chemistry in the course as well, getting the students to understand simple band structures of metals, semiconductors, and insulators, another nice connection to MO theory.

That's the quick and dirty overview.  If you are interested in a more detailed syllabus, just e-mail me and I would be happy to share.  As for texts...yeah, well, that's a problem.  I have had my students tell me I should write my own, but I'm not ready to go there yet.  I have successfully used both Miessler and Tarr and Housecroft and Sharpe with lots of skipping around in chapters when things get too hairy.  I also like to supplement with "Chemical Bonding" by Mark Winter (Oxford Chemistry Primers - see entry in our Textbooks section) and Teaching General Chemistry: A Materials Science Companion (for the solid state stuff).