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,
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.
The following are the major topics, your major summary at a galnce.
Stoichiometry - quantitative relationships between materials
Gases - properties common to most gases
Thermochemistry - energies associated with chemical and physical changes
Quantum Theory and Atoms - a neat and unconventional view of atoms
Quantum Theory and Molecules - some ways to look at chemical bonds
Oxidation and Reduction Reactions - balancing chemical reaction equations
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
Many disciplines demand you to have a general concept about materials,
their properties, reactions, and applications. You have to pass these
courses in order to proceed to higher level courses.
General chemistry covers a large number of chemistry topics to provide you
a foundation for understanding what is going on around you.
The courses provide you with basic concepts so that you will be
able to learn on your own. The learning process builts your skill to learn.
What you have learned is less important than how you have learned the
You will acquire concepts such as atoms, molecules, chemical elements,
periodic table, atomic structures, electrons and chemical bonding
in CHEM120, and these concepts are useful in interpreting and describing
the properties of material. You will need the skills to describe natural
phenomena due to physical and chemical changes.
The universe consists of material and energy. Science is our interpretation
or perception of their behavior. Chemistry is a basic science, and you
acquires tools (concepts) in general chemistry for doing science.
General chemistry gives you many problems to solve. While solving these
problems, you analyze the key information required to solve the problem.
The practice help you developing skills for problem solving.
With a good chemistry background, you will be able to provide a solution
that is chemically sound (satisfying the environmental sensitivity and
From time to time, you learn stories related to important scientific
discoveries. The background, thinking, and reasoning pave the way for
developing an effective strategy for great projects.
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
have said openly that he did not like chemistry in his youth. He shared the
Chemistry Nobel Prize with
John C. Polanyi
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
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.
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
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.