Submitted by Jason D'Acchioli / University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Wed, 12/31/2008 - 15:48

Hi all,

As my semester break begins (break? What break?), I'm thinking about things I'm going to change for the Advanced Inorganic Chemistry course I'm teaching in the Spring. A little bit of background: first, this is the second time I've taught the course, the first being last spring. Second, the course is primarily Seniors, with some Juniors (all have had P-chem, or are taking it concurrently). Third, this is the "first" exposure to inorganic the students have had. They will have had some inorganic in P-chem and gen-chem (some general periodic trends, electronic structure, and some descriptive chemistry), but this is their first true exposure. Finally, the course is, essentially, taught as a graduate level course. As such, I'm thinking about what things to change next semester.

The textbooks we're using are a group theory text by Carter (we pretty much go through the whole text), and, for more general readings, Inorganic Chemistry by Housecroft and Sharpe (2nd ed). We also read a number of papers from the primary literature. My topic list last semester was:

  1. General electronic structure (students held responsible for things like general periodic trends, radial distribution functions, etc).
  2. Group theory and MO theory. This was the biggest part of the course, and was the undercurrent for the rest of the semester. This included MO diagrams from simple diatomics to more complicated organometallic molecules dissected using group MOs.
  3. Crystal field and ligand field theory of coordination complexes.
  4. Visible absorption spectroscopy. We talked about spectral shapes as a function of electronic structure. We also talked about Tanabe-Sugano diagrams and Racah parameters.
  5. Organometallic chemistry. We counted electrons using the 18-electron rule, and analyzed a number of complexes. We also looked at the NMR of fluctional complexes.
  6. Electrochemical methods, specifically cyclic voltammetry.

The course had a number of problem sets and lit reviews built in.

Now, the question is, which topics should I leave out or shift focus on? The biggest problem I had (in that I wasn't sure I should have covered it) was visible spectroscopy, and the depth in which I covered it. Is it "necessary"? To be honest, I would rather give focus to other methods such as EPR and, maybe, crystallography. However, we only have one semester (regretably).

All this being said, I'd like to get some feedback from others about what they think is important, and what their experiences have been teaching inorganic. I will say this-- I'd like to keep the course as "molecular" as possible at the moment, i.e. not delve into solids. I know this might upset some, but I don't want to cram too many things into the semester.

 Thanks for reading this (very long) message!

 Happy New Year!


Lori Watson / Earlham College

Hi Jason.  I teach a very similar course (Adv Inorganic, Juniors/Seniors, and the only Inorganic course in the curriculum) and have many of the same topics, including a pretty heavy emphasis on MO theory.  I do teach visible spect. but I think not at the level you do.  I basically do most of one lecture, briefly introduce Tanabe-Sugano diagrams, and then incorporate it into some of the labs we do.  I also don't do anything with electrochemical methods (the students get some of it in Advanced Analytical).  I think crystallography is important, at least to the point where the student can see a crystal structure in a paper and know what they're looking at, and I usually have 1-2 lecture on it, plus a literature assignment.  I also do a small unit on solids (3 lectures) and on bioinorganic (3-5 lectures) so they get some exposure to those fields. I do bioinorganic near the very end of the semester and use it partially as a "review" of some key ideas (HSAB, formation constants, oxidation states, etc.).

Best of luck in the new semester!


Fri, 01/02/2009 - 13:20 Permalink
Nancy Williams / Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College

Boy, it seems like this is the question any two inorganic chemists always end up discussing after they finish the "what textbook do you use?" conversation. My course is also similar to the one you and Lori describe, but I'm an organometallic chemist. It sounds like my solids and bioinorg section is somewhere in the middle of yours and Lori's, and I'd like to expand these. I'd agree that if you're looking to "cut", visible spectroscopy is a likely target. As cool as it is, it's an area that had more salience in decades past than decades yet to come IMHO. This last time I taught the course, I actually backed off on some of the MO theory (yes, it's my baby, but because of that, there was a lot of slack to cut) to make room for some of the ideas that you describe (though I didn't do EPR....I'm a bad person, and I'm going straight to hell, I know...). 

At the end of the day, the most important thing they come away from the course with is the ability to think like a chemist and the big ideas that inorganic chemists use to approach chemical problems, so any set of topics you pick will deliver the goods, but I think the direction in which you're moving is a healthy one. Over time, I think we all aspire to make our courses broader; I sure do.  

Sat, 01/03/2009 - 22:48 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

I have never taught Visible spectroscopy in my class because

a)  they get it in our instrumental course

b)  not much meat on them bones, at least, not at the level at which I would teach it.

Last spring, I incorporated a "physical methods" unit in my course, and while it needs work and structuring, I did mini-lectures on a variety of techniques.  Off the top of my head, I think I did EXAFS, EPR, NMR (of non- 1H and 13C, i.e., inorganic nuclei), X-ray... and a few more.  Basically I presented the basic experimental principles (light source, detector, sample prep, etc) and what you got out of the detector (spots on a computer screen, peaks on an NMR spectrum, energy levels, etc) and how you used that info (so, for EXAFS, you can tell that there are 3 P's 2.7 Å from the Mo, and 2 P's 5.4 Å from the Mo.... and for X-ray, you know bond angles and distances... and for nMR, coupling constants inform geometry (Karplus angle) and # of bonds between nuclei)

it worked pretty well, the students like seeing the cool techniques.  However, it was difficult to assess their knowledge.  This year I am going to try to use the techniques on a "real" problem.  some big metalloenzyme that used a number of techniques (MMO or nitrogenase perhaps) to discover the structure. 


Sun, 01/04/2009 - 10:36 Permalink
Michael Lufaso / University of North Florida
Topics #1-3 are, in my view, the core of inorganic chemistry.  I include coverage of visible absorption spectroscopy because of the corresponding laboratory experiments.  I also consider magnetism an important topic and perhaps you included it in the coverage of crystal field theory. I minimize the coverage of electrochemical methods as it is covered elsewhere in the curriculum. One challenge you face is the limitation of one semester, which would influence what I would cover in the course. My view on course content is given below.

Inorganic Chemistry: general electronic structure, Lewis/VSEPR, nuclear chemistry, NMR, mossbauer, symmetry/group/MO theory, valence bond/crystal field theory/electronic spectra/magnetism.  Chapters 1-5, 20, 21 in Housecroft and Sharpe 3rd ed.  I consider Inorganic Chemistry a 'depth' course at the junior and senior level.  

I left out a few important topics in Inorganic Chemistry because I have been able to supplement the Inorganic Chemistry course by developing two additional elective courses that have Inorganic Chemistry as a prerequisite: 1) Advanced Inorganic Chemistry and 2) Solid State Chemistry.

Advanced Inorganic Chemistry:  acid-base, oxidation-reduction, main group chemistry, organomatallic (s p and d), f-block, inorganic reactions, catalysis, solid state, and bioinorganic.   Chapters  6-8,10-19, 24-29 in Housecroft and Sharpe 3rd ed. I limit the coverage of solid state chemistry because I teach a semester long course on the topic. I consider the Advanced Inorganic Chemistry course a 'breadth' course. 
Wed, 01/07/2009 - 09:06 Permalink
David Atwood / University of Kentucky
Relative Energies of Atomic Orbitals as a Function of Atomic Number---I've seen this figure in a couple of textbook but cannot find the original source in any publications. I would like to make some good powerpoint slides to show how the "building up" principle depends on the filling of the orbitals and shielding (leading to the 4s-3d reversal at Z = 21). I really don't want to create the figure myself! The figure is Cotton's Basic Inorganic Chemistry and Shriver's Inorganic Chemistry. If anyone can point me to an original source, or how I can easily draw the diagram myself, I would be happy to upload the ppt slides to the website so other people can use them. Thanks!
Wed, 01/19/2011 - 20:30 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College
not sure if this is what you are thinking about, but I just happened to see the ref at the bottom of the table of appendix B.9 in Miessler and Tarr, 4th ed, which gives orbital potential energies.  The ref is:  Mann, Meek and Allen, JACS, 2000, 122, 2780.  Hope that helps.
Fri, 01/21/2011 - 20:04 Permalink
David Atwood / University of Kentucky

Thanks Adam. This is very helpful. I can plot the energies myself to create a nice graph. The figure I'm thinking of is on page 47 of Basic Inorganic Chemistry (3rd Edition, Cotton, Wilkinson, Gauss).



Fri, 03/18/2011 - 18:28 Permalink