BSc Chemistry

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Core Chemistry 1

Course unit fact file
Unit code CHEM30411
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Chemistry
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 21/22 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  

Stereoselective Synthesis (Dr Nathan Owston, 8 lectures)

1. Diastereoselectivity in ring systems: conformational analysis and stereoelectronics

2. Diastereoselectivity in acyclic systems


Reactions at C=O: Prochirality, Felkin-Anh model, Chelation control

Reactions at C=C: Houk model

Reactions of enolates: alkylation and aldol reactions, cyclic transition states

Diastereoselective reactions in synthesis: production of single enantiomers

3. Asymmetric synthesis

Chiral pool approaches

Chiral auxiliaries (alkylation/aldol reactions)

Chiral reagents


4. Introduction to Asymmetric Catalysis

Catalysis with transition metals (asymmetric reduction of ketones)

Organocatalysis (asymmetric conjugate addition)

5. Applications of stereoselective reactions in synthesis (fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals)


Reactive Intermediates (Dr Roger Whitehead, 8 lectures)


Neutral reactive intermediates

Carbenes, Nitrenes, Arynes              

2. Radicals

What are radicals?

The structure of carbon-centred radicals

The relative stability of different radical species

Historical aspects of radical chemistry

Sources of radical intermediates

Radical reactions in synthesis

Solving unseen problems involving radical intermediates


Pericyclic Reactions (Dr Daniele Leonori, 8 lectures)

1. Introduction

Covalent bonding

Frontier molecular orbitals (FMOs)

2. The Diels-Alder [4¿ + 2¿] cycloaddition reaction

FMO interactionsStereoselectivity and regioselectivity

Substituents effects

3. Other cycloaddition reactions

[2 + 2] Processes ('forbidden' and 'allowed' variants)

Other (4n + 2) and 4n pairings

4. Selection rules and orbital symmetry

Cycloadditions exemplified

5. Electrocyclic reactions

Introduction to electrocyclic reactions

Conservation of orbital symmetry in the ring-opening of cyclobutene


6. Sigmatropic rearrangements

[1,5] and [1,7] Hydrogen shifts

[1,3] Sigmatropic shifts

[3,3] Sigmatropic rearrangements

Cope and Claisen rearrangements



Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Structure and reactivity of organic molecules CHEM20412 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Organic Synthesis CHEM20411 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


The unit aims to develop further understanding of synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry with emphasis on reactive intermediates and elements of stereochemistry.


Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students should be able to:

  • Apply knowledge of molecular structure, reactivity and stereochemistry to both rationalise and predict the      stereochemical outcome of chemical reactions
  • Evaluate and propose strategies for the synthesis of complex molecules which include stereoselective reactions.
  • Describe the various types of reactive intermediates that are of importance in organic chemistry and explain the physical properties and chemical reactivity of such species;
  • Describe the factors that influence the structure, stability and reactivity of different radical species and explain the outcome of important reaction processes;
  • Describe the various reaction types undergone by synthetically useful free radicals;
  • Predict and rationalise the outcome of unseen transformations involving reactive intermediates;
  • Understand the fundamental of molecular orbital analysis in pericyclic reactions;
  • Be able to rationalise the stereochemical outcome of pericyclic reactions;

Teaching and learning methods



Transferable skills and personal qualities

Enhance transferable skills in the areas of problem solving and analysis


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

Example classes and individual feedback from tutors/lecturers


Recommended reading

• C.J.Moody and G.H.Whitham, Reactive Intermediates (An Oxford Chemistry Primer) ISBN: 978-0-198-55672-5

• A.F.Parsons, An Introduction to Free Radical Chemistry (Wiley-Blackwell, 2000) ISBN: 978-0-632-05292-9

• J. Clayden, N. Greeves, S. Warren and P. Wothers, Organic Chemistry (Oxford University Press, 2001) ISBN 0198503466  (Chapters 35 and 36).

• J. Clayden, N. Greeves and S. Warren, Organic Chemistry 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2012) ISBN 0199270295  (Chapters 34 and 35).

• I. Fleming, Pericyclic Reactions (Oxford Chemistry Primer, 2nd Edition) (Oxford University Press, 2015)  ISBN 0199680900 (affordable, thorough guidebook).

• I. Fleming, Molecular Orbitals and Organic Chemical Reactions: Student Edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)  ISBN 0470746599 (a comprehensive reference text).

• G. Procter,  Stereoselectivity in Organic Synthesis (Oxford Chemistry Primers) (Oxford University Press, 1998) ISBN 978-0198559573.

• Access to a set of Orbit molecular models is essential.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 21
Practical classes & workshops 3
Independent study hours
Independent study 74

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Daniele Leonori Unit coordinator

Return to course details