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BSc Plant Science

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Fundamentals of Chemistry

Course unit fact file
Unit code CHEM10111
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
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.  

This course is specifically designed for Biology students who have not taken Chemistry at A level or equivalent. It aims to provide a basic introduction to the fundamental principles and concepts of chemistry that are relevant to biologists.




This semester 1 course aims to provide a description of: atomic structure and molecular structure using various models for chemical bonding; the structure and properties of aromatic and heteroaromatic molecules; the phenomena of electron delocalisation (resonance); to explain aspects of conformation, isomerism and chirality within molecules; to provide an introduction to the thermodynamics of solutions; and to cover key concepts in chemical reaction kinetics and redox processes.


Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students should be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of the basic principles of physical, inorganic and organic chemistry sufficient to recognise their involvement in biological and other areas. More specifically, students should be able to:

  • State or calculate values associated with a given atom or ion (e.g. atomic / mass number, number of protons / neutrons / electrons, relative atomic mass)
  • Determine the electronic configuration and draw orbital energy diagrams using Hund’s rule and the Pauli exclusion principle
  • Draw and interpret Lewis structures (including formal charges) for molecules containing H, C, N and O, and predict their geometry based on VSEPR theory
  • Identify characteristics of a given atom or molecule (e.g. hybridisation state, relative bond length, bond polarity, molecular dipoles, hindered bond rotation)
  • Identify characteristics of biologically-important molecules (e.g. conjugation, planarity, resonance forms, aromaticity, number of pi-electrons)
  • Identify chiral molecules and chiral centres of molecules with biological relevance
  • Assign groups of molecules as being identical, distinct or isomeric (including constitutional, geometric and optical isomers)
  • Identify simple functional groups and interconvert structures and standard names of simple, biologically-relevant molecules.
  • State and calculate equilibrium constants and describe the behaviour of reversible reactions using Le Chatelier’s principle
  • Calculate the pH of solutions of both strong and weak acids, and of solutions containing buffers
  • Calculate the Gibbs free energy from enthalpy and entropy, and from an equilibrium constant and relate this information to the equilibrium position of a reversible reaction
  • Calculate the enthalpy of combustion using Hess’s law
  • Use transition state theory to relate the free energy barrier and rate of a reaction
  • Determine the rate equation for a given reaction and use the concentration-dependence of an observed rate constant to determine the rate order
  • Characterise biologically-important reactions as oxidation or reduction reactions and determine reduction potentials from their Nernst half-reactions



  • Atoms, ions and molecules; the periodic table and periodicity; atomic structure; electron configurations.
  • Chemical boinding and non-covalent interactions.
  • Resonance and aromatics; stereochemistry and chirality.
  • Functional group recognition and properties.
  • Equilibria, pH and buffers; basic thermodynamics.
  • Oxidation and reduction; reaction rates.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Problem solving, analytical skills, time management.


Employability skills

Analytical skills
Analytical skills may be developed through problem-solving clinics and e-learning modules
Oral communication
Students are encouraged to ask and answer questions during lectures and workshops.
Problem solving
Students have the opportunity to develop their problem solving skills in problem-solving clinics workshops and eLearning modules

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 80%
Set exercise 20%

Feedback methods

Feedback is provided in regular in-class workshops, during which time there is the opportunity to discuss with lecturers the answers to worked problems and additional problem sets.

Each learning module is also supported by an online (blackboard) practice and assessed test, providing continuous feedback throughout the semester.

Lecturing staff will provide Office Hours during the course and will answer questions via email.

After the exam marking has been completed students are able to view their examination scripts.


Recommended reading

The main recommended general text is:

P. Y. Bruice, Organic Chemistry, 6th (or 7th) edition, Prentice-Hall, 2011 (2014 for 7th edn.).

The main recommended reading material used to be:

Holum JR Fundamentals of General, Organic and Biological Chemistry (6th edition) 1998 Wiley.  This is still suitable, but is becoming difficult to find.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sam Hay Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Assessment methods

A 2-hour examination in January contributes 80% to the Unit mark.ePBL assessment contributes 20% to the Unit mark.ePBL Content: 6 assessed modules will cover the material in the above sections.5 workshops and additional online material will support the assessed ePBL course work.

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