Submitted by Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College on Tue, 01/21/2020 - 17:35
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Specific Course Information
Course Area and Number
Chem 104
Harvey Mudd College
Claremont, CA, USA
Inorganic Chemistry, Pfennig
Course Meetings and Time
Number of meetings per week
3 meetings / week
Time per meeting (minutes)
50 min / meeting
Number of weeks
15 weeks
Lab Associated
Yes, optional, concurrently
Average Class Size
15 to 25
Typical Student Population
This course consists of approximately 1/3 "joint majors in chemistry and biology" (our biochemistry major), and 2/3 chemistry majors of a variety of flavors (we have 5 or so different emphases all with different requirements, though these are being phased out). All students have had one semester of organic with laboratory (about 2/3 have had two semesters), one semester of physical chemistry (thermo/kinetics) and about 1/2 have had a second semester of physical chemistry (group theory, quantum mechanics, and spectroscopy). As such, student preparation is highly varied. The course is taught as an advanced (in-depth) course, although technically (according to ACS-CPT) it is a foundation level course.

Inorganic chemistry interfaces and overlaps with the other areas of chemistry. Inorganic chemists  synthesize molecules of academic and commercial interest, measure properties such as magnetism and unpaired electron spin with sophisticated instruments, study metal ion uptake in living cells, and prepare new materials like photovoltaics. Inorganic chemistry is a diverse field, and we will only be able to touch on some of the chemistry of the 118 elements that currently reside in the periodic table. The major subdisciplines of inorganic chemistry are coordination chemistry, organometallics, bioinorganic chemistry, and solid-state/materials chemistry. Inorganic chemists study the s-, p-, d- and f-block elements, reaction rates, determine reaction mechanism, and prepare new compounds. In this course, you will get a broad overview of some areas, and a more detailed study of others.

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Learning Goals

By the end of the course you will be able to…

- explain the history and breadth of inorganic chemistry using the inorganic Nobel Prizes

- select and use an appropriate theory or model to describe the structure, bonding, reactivity, and physical properties of inorganic compounds 

- construct qualitatively correct MO diagrams for centrosymmetric molecules

- describe MOs as s/p/d, bonding, non-bonding or antibonding, and be able to draw them

- carry out high level quantum calculations on inorganic compounds

- describe the correspondence between qualitative and quantitative MO diagrams 

- explain bonding and magnetism in transition metal complexes using MO arguments 

- draw mechanisms for common inorganic/organometallic reactions

- explain why and how transition metals are used in biological systems

- describe the chemical reaction catalyzed by a metalloenzyme

- interpret spectroscopic methods (UV-Vis, Xray, NMR and IR) for inorganic compounds


Not all topics are addressed every year; some topics from prior years are below:

- describe how the common crystalline and ionic solids are derived from simple lattices

- describe the composition of more complex solids

- explain the trends in the chemistry of the representative elements

How the course is taught
2/3 lecture 1/3 in-class group/board work. 2-3 full class literature discussions per year
Grading Scheme
2 midterms (15% each)
7 quizzes (2 dropped, 5% each)
homework (10%)
in-class (20%)
Final exam (15%)
Creative Commons License
Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike CC BY-NC-SA