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Chem for physicists

  1. Aug 5, 2014 #1
    In the following semester I have to take a Gen Chem course. I've read the book, but it doesn't connect to anything we have been taught as physicists so I'm really unmotivated to read it.

    I have the option to take a course on physical chemistry, which seems a pretty course since it uses thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. If I take physical chemistry, will I be able to pass the general chemistry course without much difficulty?

    Thank you :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2014 #2
    Most likely yes, but not because the two courses are that related. Physically chemistry would teach you roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of general chemistry.
  4. Aug 5, 2014 #3


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    Question is - will you be able to follow physical chemistry course not knowing anything about general chemistry? I mean - sometimes they will refer to chemical properties of substance, not knowing what they are talking about you risk being completely lost.
  5. Aug 5, 2014 #4


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    My General Chemistry sequence connected to my physics courses in quite a few ways. We talked about Conservation of Energy, the Laws of Thermodynamics, some optical properties, nuclear chemistry, and various other subjects that tied into my physics courses.

    There is of course a lot of material that really has nothing to do with the material in physics courses. Some of the stuff like acid-base titrations and the endless ICE charts were really just tedious, and fairly uninteresting (in my opinion).
  6. Aug 5, 2014 #5


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    THIS ONE!......

    Physical Chemistry deals with thermodynamics, true. A physics background from the courses and the supporting mathematics will help very much. On the other hand, you still must go through the full course on General Chemistry as prerequisite. The physical chemistry professor will not instruct how to balance chemical reaction statements, will not instruct on elementary/fundamental equilibrium calculations nor theory, and will expect you had at one time (either in Gen Chem or Quantitative Chem) learned about electrochemical reactions and the Nernst Equation.
  7. Aug 5, 2014 #6


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    I've never taken physical chemistry. I'd like to, because it sounds like a really cool class, but it isn't likely that I ever will.

    From the little that I do know of it, I think it would probably be very difficult to take it without having taken a general chemistry course. As already stated, the basics of chemistry are going to be assumed knowledge, and they aren't the kinds of things you can simply pick up in a day or two with a little cramming.
  8. Aug 5, 2014 #7


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    Part of the reason you're required to take classes outside of your major is to show you can learn subjects that are, well, outside of your major. Your education may make you a specialist, but you still should know a bit about related topics.

    But back to your question. Consider an analogy: if you took Statistical Mechanics with no previous physics (and somehow managed to pass), would you be able to pass an exam on Electricity and Magnetism? Probably not.
  9. Aug 5, 2014 #8

    Dr Transport

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    As a practicing physicist, I went back to take general chem 1 & 2 last school year. I am taking organic in the fall, chemistry will tie together some of the concepts you learn or will learn in physics.

    on a side note, in my work group, we do so much materials work, we needed a someone with a background in organic materials to keep us on the straight and narrow since our resident chemist is not a formulator but more an analytical chemist.
  10. Aug 6, 2014 #9
    Thank you guys for the advice. Maybe I'll take them both and see where it leads. :)
  11. Aug 10, 2014 #10
    I am doing semiconductor interface research in a chemical physics program and just got out of a MS in physics. You should know both chemistry and physics to do materials research. Even inorganic chemistry help explain magnetic properties of some transition metal oxides.

    I took undergrad physical chemistry. The class is pretty nice and it did cover many applications and concepts I did not learn in physics. However, those require some chemical intuition, which you will not get if you jump directly into physical chemistry.

    It is almost like saying "why take undergrad quantum? Graduate quantum is the same thing with more sophisticated math. All I need to do is know the math and go straight to graduate quantum." It can be done but it is MUCH harder.
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