Syllabus 11000

City College of New York

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry





3 credits, 3 hours Approximately half these hours are devoted to dry labs: the treatment of data that illustrate points covered in the lecture part of the course, and understanding how the data and the lecture material relate.


The course has no prerequisites.


Textbook: Chemistry and Society: A Measurements Based Course. This book will be needed for essentially everything in the course. It is available directly from Akademos.  There are two ISBN numbers for the book: ISBN 13: 978-1-60797-772-8, or ISBN 10: 1-60797-772-9. There are no calculations beyond elementary arithmetic (we will use logarithms, but if you need to review this, don’t worry; the book covers everything you need to know). A simple calculator, with logs, would be useful in much of the course, and you should have one. It is permitted to bring the calculator to exams.


Course description: This is a fairly unique take on “Exploring Chemistry”. The course will cover the basics of chemistry, as is called for by any course that is called “Exploring Chemistry”. That said, the approach will be a little different. In most such courses you would be called on to memorize a fairly large set of facts, with the connections among them sometimes a little tenuous. It is relatively rare that it is made clear that extensive experimental work is required to produce these facts. Here we will learn at least something about how science is done, what it means to know something, and how certain we can be of what we know. The meaning of some words (hypothesis, theory…) as used in science, will have to be considered, so that we can understand when ideas are so well established that they must be accepted, and when more proof is required—and when the ideas are so poorly defined that they are not really ideas, or at least not scientific ideas, at all. To understand the kind of effort that is required to obtain significant evidence, the course has not only text, but experiments that teach chemistry. These require data analysis, error analysis, and understanding the principles of doing measurements. Ideally, the experiments would actually be done in a real lab. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to do this, so we will mostly go through the procedures as dry labs, and then analyze real data (the experiments actually have been done by technicians, so you will see real data, with real scatter in the data points). In the process you will learn not only the chemical principles (discussed in lecture) that the experiments illustrate, but also what it means to acquire facts. Simple memorization is not the point.


This said, it is not possible to learn even a little about all of chemistry in one semester. The most fundamental ideas needed to understand chemistry (the structure of atoms, for example) will be covered; by the end of the course, you will understand what is meant by chemical analysis, chemical bonding (putting atoms together to make molecules), and the iconic Periodic Table, as well as acids and bases, and other fundamental topics in chemistry. Instead of covering the many different types of molecules, however, we will concentrate on the general principles that govern chemical reactions, their equilibria and rates, and especially their energetics. We will then move to the “and Society” part of the course, considering a problem that is of general importance, and that has a major chemical component. At this point we will be able to put together the information that we have learned through the first approximately 2/3 of the course, and apply it to understanding climate change. This will require that some topics normally omitted in a course like this, particularly light absorption, and the vibrations of molecules, be discussed. Finally, we will have a chapter on nuclear energy, which will not only fit with the discussion of energy production, but be an occasion to review some of the earlier material on atomic structure. Taken together, the course forms a coherent whole, and covers a good deal of chemistry at a greater depth than usual in such a course; in addition, it will make it possible to understand how certain technical information relates to a problem that all citizens must face—not the only case of this kind, of course, but it does illustrate the point.



At the end of the course, you should know

  1. How scientific knowledge is acquired (the importance of experiments), and how it is used to create theories that correlate a great deal of information
  2. The rudiments of atomic structure
  3. What are elements, compounds, and mixtures
  4. Concentration—definition, and how to prepare solutions of a given concentration
  5. What are acids and bases; the definition and measurement of pH
  6. The Laws of Thermodynamics, in qualitative form
  7. The necessity of energy gradients to produce motion
  8. The definition of chemical equilibrium, with examples,
  9. What controls the rates of chemical reactions
  10. The pH of the ocean, and its importance
  11. Light: waves, radiation, absorption, and how to measure it. Radiation from bodies at high and low temperature
  12. Rudiments of nuclear power generation


Grading: There will be two hour exams. The lower grade will be dropped, and the better grade will count for 25% (if you miss an exam, that is your low grade; there are no make-up exams); The final counts for 35%; the lab reports will count for 40%. There are 11 lab reports, which count 4 points each; all of the first 6 must be turned in the week following the “lab” (none of the last 9 labs will be actually done in a laboratory in the course, but you will have real data, taken in a laboratory, to work from; the first two experiments illustrate the principles of measurements, and will be done in class with simple materials, so you will have your own data). Of the last 5 labs, you may miss one, but there will be extra credit (up to 4 points on your final score) if you do hand in all five (assuming you have attended the session in which the lab is presented—no credit for using someone else’s work). These are also due one week after the class in which the data are given.


The topics will follow the book, so the chapters and the experiments will follow in the order they are in the book.


Schedule: The schedule may be adjusted if needed. However, the initial schedule has the chapters of the book covered one per week, and the labs one per week, in order. The exams will take two weeks (tentatively March 23 and May 4, subject to adjustment). The final week can allow for discussion and review.   


Academic integrity:

Academic integrity is an essential part of the pursuit of truth, and of your education.  We are all responsible for maintaining academic integrity at City College – it is the rock on which the value of your degree is built.


If you cheat on a test or plagiarize by using someone else's work or ideas, you defeat the purpose of your education.  In addition, academic dishonesty is prohibited in the City University of New York, and is punishable by failing grades, suspension and expulsion.


Details of the CCNY Policy on Academic Integrity can be found here:



Attendance (specific to CHEM 11000):

Both portions of the course (lecture and lab) are required.  You are permitted one unexcused absence in the last 6 weeks of the semester; the first eight weeks are all required.  If you are absent for more than this, you will be automatically dropped from the course at the end of the semester.  You will be given a WU grade that converts to an F if not officially withdrawn within 3 weeks of the last day of the semester. Excused absences require a doctor’s note, or something providing equivalent proof that you could not have come to class. Note:  There will be no make-up semester exams; the lower grade will be dropped in any case. 


Attendance (general CCNY policy): (this is included for completeness; the paragraph above governs this course)

Students are expected to attend every class session of each course in which they are enrolled and to be on time. An instructor has the right to drop a student from a course for excessive absence. Students are advised to determine the instructor’s policy at the first class session They should note that an instructor may treat lateness as equivalent to absence. (No distinction is made between excused and unexcused absences.) Each instructor retains the right to establish his or her own policy, but students should be guided by the following general College policy: In courses designated as clinical, performance, laboratory or field work courses, the limit on absences is established by the individual instructor (see above). For all other courses, the number of hours absent may not exceed twice the number of contact hours the course meets per week. When a student is dropped for excessive absence, the Registrar will enter the grade of WU.



Noise and excessive chatter, eating, drinking, or use of unauthorized electronic equipment is not allowed in the classroom.



In compliance with CCNY policy and equal access laws, appropriate academic accommodations are offered for students with disabilities. Students must first register with The AccessAbility Center for reasonable academic accommodations. The AccessAbility Center is located in the North Academic Center, Rm. 1/218.  Tel: (212) 650-5913. Under The Americans with Disability Act, an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. If you have any such issues, I encourage you to visit the AccessAbility Center to determine which services may be appropriate for you.


Academic Appeals:

The faculty of each of the schools defines the degree requirements, academic standards, and rules, and in general has jurisdiction over all of the courses offered by that school. Each of the schools has a Committee on Course and Standing charged with overseeing enforcement of these matters and dealing with special cases and appeals. Students have the right to appeal to the appropriate Committee on Course and Standing any decision made by individual faculty members or administrators about these academic matters. Students must consult with their academic advisor for the appropriate appeals procedure. The Committees on Course and Standing are the final authority on enforcement of curriculum, degree requirements, academic standards, grades and academic rules. It should be noted that most academic rules are enforced without exception.



Students with grievances concerning classroom matters other than grades should first attempt to resolve the grievance at the department level through discussion with the faculty member(s) or department chair. If the matter is not resolved, the student or department may refer the problem to the appropriate academic dean, the Ombudsman, or the Vice President for Student Affairs, who shall, if necessary, refer it to the Office of the Provost for further consideration and possible action.


Make-up examination for INC grades:

INC may be assigned to students who have a passing grade (average on all the exams, lab and homework) in the course but who are unable to take the final examination due to conflict with another scheduled examination, death of spouse, injury or illness, etc. (proof is also required). An Incomplete Grade Agreement form must be signed by the Instructor before the student is allowed to take the makeup exam.  Payment of a fee at the Bursar's office is required in order to take the makeup examination. Makeup exam for INC grades in Chemistry courses will normally be completed no later than two weeks after the end of classes. 



If you find yourself suffering during this or any other semester from anxiety, stress, or issues related to mental health, this is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is recommended you seek help.  The Wellness and Counseling Center (WCC) at City College provides counseling and psychological services to all registered CCNY students.  There is no charge for these services, and sessions are confidential.



Last Updated: 03/19/2018 11:45