Physical Chemistry

What is physical chemistry? Most high school students probably have never had the title throw at them. If you recall the ideal gas law (PV = nRT) or enthalpy (ΔH, the heat of reaction) you have already seen some of what p-chem has to offer. P-chem is the most powerful of all the veins of chemistry because it answers many of the questions that ask WHY and How?

Students doing Chemistry Why does adding salt on ice lower its melting point? Why does a particular reaction tend towards products while another tends towards reactants? How exactly does any substance absorb or emit light? How do infrared night goggles work? How does an MRI machine work? Why does a drop of water 'bead' up? How does an enzyme speed up a reaction to microseconds that otherwise would take a million years? How does a laser work? Why does osmosis or diffusion take place? How does a photon of light from the sun get captured and utilized during photosynthesis? Why does mud once dried "stick" to objects so much?

At the heart of the answers of all these questions is energy. Physical Chemistry typically always starts with discussing what energy is and the laws of thermodynamics which are then used to explain most of what we can observe. Our two p-chem courses are calculus based and the textbook is David Ball's Physical Chemistry. We are the only college to our knowledge that teaches physical chemistry in a calculus based format. Interestingly, the average marks that students get in our p-chem have actually gone up since we brought the calculus back! As a result the delivery is much smoother and allows us to answer the why type questions much easier. Advantage to our grads.