Welcome to...

General Chemistry I


Welcome to the first general chemistry course at the University of Waterloo.

I have prepared this Internet site for e-learning, and hope you enjoy learning at your own pace. If you have any question at any time, please e-mail me, cchieh@uwaterloo.ca, your question or problem. I'll do my best to answer your e-mail. Wish you a pleasant and rewarding term.

During this term, we will cover the following topics in CHEM120 or CHEM121 - both are similar in many respects.

CHEM120/121 Topics

The following are the major topics, your major summary at a galnce.

Reasons for Learning General Chemistry

From a student's point of view, you may ask "Why General Chemistry for Me?"

Well, you have your reasons for taking general chemistry, but if you simply follow instructions and end up in taking general chemistry, take a look at the following reasons.

There are many other reasons, but the above list gives you a general idea. In short, you start to build your foundation by getting some concepts about atoms, molecules, chemical elements, and how energy causes material to change.

Learning Chemistry

You have already heard something about chemistry courses. Whatever you have heard (or learned) about these courses are actually impressions of others (or the average impression). You may become an average student and will come away with the same impression, but you should have your own approach to learn general chemistry.

Studies, learning, and research call for an open mind. At the start of a course, it is also important to have an open mind, because the impressions others have told you will become a hindrance to your learning. For example, if you have being told not to touch any caterpillar in your childhood, you are afraid of the creepy and hairy animals. Yet, some of them are really fun to watch and study.

If you have been misinformed that chemistry is hard and difficult, the fear will hinder your learning. If you can identify the difficulties and find ways to overcome them, you may become a first class chemist. In fact, a few Chemistry Nobel Prize winners did not like chemistry in their youth, for example, Nobel laureate Dudley Herschbach have said openly that he did not like chemistry in his youth. He shared the Chemistry Nobel Prize with John C. Polanyi and Y.T. Lee. Their research and interpretations have led us to better understanding of the dynamics of chemical elementary processes.

Here are two more such people for your pleasure:

Jens C. Skou 1997 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry for the first discovery of an ion-transporting enzyme, Na+, K+-ATPase
Richard E. Smalley 1996 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry for the discovery of fullerenes
Exercise: Who are the Nobel Laureates in 1998 and why? Congratulate yourself if you have found out. I hope you realize that the technique of searching for information is part of the learning in any science.

Regarding Grades

If you have high grades in high school, I am glad for you. If you have average grades, you are not necessarily an average student. Many of you emphasize learning rather than grades, and that makes you special. Grades are only some indications of your work or ability to write examinations, they are not necessarily indications of your quality or ability. You earn your grades. They do not represent opinions of professors.

You earn 10% of Chem 120 marks by either writing tutorial quizzes or CACT quizzes over the Internet. The two methods are rather different, and you have to at least have a complete set of one or the other. The 10% will not affect your final grade much. You earn 30% from the two term tests, and the final examination is worth 60%. The term tests and final examination marks are important, because 90% of your grade are from them. The quizzes are designed to entice you to learn, and if you cheat to get 10%, you will lose during the examination time.

Be honest with yourself. It's the skills you have learned that counts, not the marks. Believe it or not, sometimes we reversed the two, got confused, and become dishonest to ourself.

Welcome to University Life

Entering a university is a giant step in anyones life. Things are very different from now on. A university is not an extension of high school. Be prepared! We professors take university life for granted, so we may not realize your difficulty at times. Welcome, however.

You begin to have more privileges and responsibilities. During your university years, you are not been watched, pampered, and guided all the time. You have to find your way and learn by yourself for your self. The CACT Internet site is a place you can learn at your own pace, but you have to find your way too. The menu organises the content in a logical order for learning, but you may access it in any random fashion to achieve true learning for yourself.

You have a dream to be a great scholar, scientist, mathematicians, engineer, writer, businessperson, lawyer, optometrist, doctor, pharmacist, or a unique person. You want to spend every joule of your energy to pursue your dream. While building your foundation for that wonderful dream of yours, make lots of friends, have a nice time, talk (including e-mail) to your professors, and discuss your idea with others to see what you can achieve in short term as well.

As soon as you entered the university, you have met and will continue to meet new people, who grew up in families entirely different from yours. You have met slightly older schoolmates during the week of orientation. They want you to have a good time, and get to know not only the campus but also campus life. In the mean time, you have met many new comers. Some have already become your friends, but some you do not care.

During the growing up process, you have to deal with unfamiliar surroundings by yourself. There are times your food is not ideal. You have difficulty in your study and you cannot sleep. The class is so big your professor seems neglect your existence. No one seems care about you at all. We instructors do care, although we are not professional counsellors. We try to help as much as we can.