MSci Pharmacology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

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
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 22/23 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.




CHEM10111 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



  • CHEM10111 is taught as six topics, or learning modules (LMs):
    LM 1.  Atoms, ions and molecules; the periodic table and periodicity; atomic structure; electron configurations.
    LM 2.  Chemical bonding and non-covalent interactions.
    LM 3.  Functional group recognition and reaction types.
    LM 4.  Stereochemistry and chirality; resonance and aromatics;
    LM 5.  Equilibria, pH and buffers; basic thermodynamics.
    LM 6.  Oxidation and reduction; reaction rates.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

Problem solving and reasoning. 
Numerical skills (mathematical calculations).



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 via two in person workshop/problem solving clinics/revision sessions each week.  
There are also regular online quizzes (ePBL tests) that provide feedback via formative (practice) tests.
There are also drop-in sessions for CHEM10111 run by PASS Leaders throughout the semester. The leaders are higher year students in the School of Biological Sciences who took CHEM units in their first year.


Recommended reading

Bruice, PY Organic Chemistry, 6th, 7th or 8th edition, Prentice-Hall, 2011, 2014 or 2016.


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 task


Weighting within unit (if relevant)


LM1-LM6 ePBL blackboard tests



Exam - MCQ and multiple answer format hosted on blackboard.



6 x 10 MCQs


2 hours



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