Taking Physical Chemistry before formally taking Quantum Mechanics

In summary, taking Physical Chemistry without having taken quantum mechanics should not be a problem. The course will cover the principles of quantum theory, and you will be taught the necessary physics. However, it is important to have a strong foundation in math, particularly in differential equations and calculus 3. While it may be helpful to review some quantum mechanics principles beforehand, it is not necessary to take a formal course in it. Chemistry departments usually structure their undergraduate physical chemistry curriculum to accommodate students from various backgrounds, so it is not expected that all students have taken extensive physics courses before taking physical chemistry. If you plan to pursue physical chemistry in graduate school, it may be beneficial to also take a dedicated quantum mechanics course.
  • #1
amb123
98
0
I am considering taking Physical Chemistry next semester but my Physics courses at community college did not have quantum mechanics (so I have to take the quantum mechanics part of physics for part of the semester in Fall as well.)

So, is it a death wish to take Phys. Chem w/o having taken quantum mechanics? Would reviewing some principals of quantum mechanics on my own, without a formal course, before the beginning of the semester be preparation enough? Or, should I just hold off on Physical Chemistry until I'm done with QM? Here is a desc of the course:

*****************
Kinetic, potential, and total energy of particles and forces between them; principles of quantum theory, including one-electron and many-electron atoms. The course will be divided (fall semester) into a section for chemistry majors and one for chemical biology majors, both meeting at the same time, covering topics of interest to each group relating to molecules and chemical bonding, electrical properties, intermolecular interactions and elementary spectroscopy.
*****************

Advisement is appreciated. Thanks!
-A
 
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  • #2
No. Physical Chemistry is how chemists learn QM. The first half of P chem at most universities is thermodynamics. The second half is usually quantum chemistry and kinetics. The only physics chem majors usually take at most universities is just a basic physics course on mechanics and E&M. I'd say brush up on your math skills (since a lot of chem students have a lot of trouble with math). You will be taught the physics in pchem, there is no need to take QM before taking pchem. You will be bored if you do since it will just be rehash.
 
  • #3
Thanks! Glad to hear that. I was flipping my schedule all around trying to find other courses to fill in for this one but i'll just stick with it.

I've taken math through diff eq and linear algebra. Can you say specifically which parts I might want to review? Diff Eq formulas, integrals, anything specific?

I'm not a Chemistry major, I'm Chem E.
Thanks!
-A
 
  • #4
Same boat

I am in the same boat I am currently taking diff eq at a community college and am worried it is going to seriously cripple me as the course is being taught without any proofs. Is Diff EQ very important for PChem
 
  • #5
I hear you there. I think I took the same Diff Eq class. I considered retaking it at University, but I'm not sure how much i'll really be using it and can probably just pick up what I need when I need it realistically (well, hopefully.) If I retook all of the courses I felt I could use a better understanding of i'd have to practically start over (pretty sad you'd think, but these courses aren't really that in depth.)

-A
 
  • #6
At some universities, including Harvard, chem majors only take p chem, without a real QM course.
 
  • #7
It's really the other way around. One should have a knowledge of undergraduate (let's say at the level of Griffiths, Bransden & Joachain or Shankar) Quantum Mechanics before jumping into Atomic and Molecule Physics or Chemistry.

There's a very slim probability that a nonoutstanding student could have sizzling results in Physical Chemistry without solid background of mathematics and quantum mechanics (also some electricity & magnetism, undergraduate level again, wouldn't hurt).

Daniel.
 
  • #8
If we're talking about chemists (unless your specialty actually is p chem) - I don't know if it matters all that much. Ideally, yes, but in practice, probably not.
 
  • #9
dextercioby said:
It's really the other way around. One should have a knowledge of undergraduate (let's say at the level of Griffiths, Bransden & Joachain or Shankar) Quantum Mechanics before jumping into Atomic and Molecule Physics or Chemistry.

There's a very slim probability that a nonoutstanding student could have sizzling results in Physical Chemistry without solid background of mathematics and quantum mechanics (also some electricity & magnetism, undergraduate level again, wouldn't hurt).

Daniel.
Nonetheless, chemistry departments teach P Chem without ever requiring any QM courses. That was also how it was taught when I was in college. Though, I can't say how difficult it is to learn it that way since I dropped the chem major before taking the second semester of P Chem so never had to try it (I was curious to learn the material, but not quite masochistic enough to satisfy that curiousity).
 
  • #10
If the physical chemistry course requires that you take an undergraduate physics course which contains material on quantum mechanics, then yes, by all means take it and postpone your physical chemistry course. If, however, you were only required to have taken introductory mechanics and E & M in order to take physical chemistry, then your preparation should be adequate. The latter was my situation as an undergraduate and is what the department I currently belong to has as course prerequisites.

Chemistry departments usually gear their undergraduate physical chemistry curricula appropriately and do not expect that you are also taking lots of physics - physical chemistry is also frequently a requirement for chemical engineers and biochemists. Given that those majors - as well as a proper chemistry major - require plenty of other material to be covered, to expect that all prospective P.Chem. students to complete enough math and physics to first complete an undergrad physics course in QM is a bit much in my opinion. If you wish to pursue physical chemistry in graduate school, I would recommend also taking quantum mechanics as offered by the physics department when you are ready.
 
  • #11
Diff. eq. and calc 3 are the most important math classes in order to do well in pchem. I will have to disagree with some of the posters in this thread, I still don't think you need a course in physics of QM before taking Pchem. Before I took pchem (my junior year) the only physics courses I had in my entire life were in high school. Needless to say I got A's both semesters in pchem (although I am a math major as well which helped a lot). The engineering pchem may be a little different than the pchem chemistry students take with more of a focus on applied problems, while the pchem for chemistry students is more theoretical (at least that is the way it is at my school). At my school the only math prerequisites were calc 1 and 2. The professor will be more interested in teaching you chemical physics than bogging down the class with intense mathematics. Pchem is like general chemistry on steroids.

Just review on how to solve simple diff eqs (you will most likely not encounter tough DE or PDE's in an intro pchem course), iterated integrals, polar coordinates, and common integrals and derivatives.
 
  • #12
gravenewworld said:
Diff. eq. and calc 3 are the most important math classes in order to do well in pchem. I will have to disagree with some of the posters in this thread, I still don't think you need a course in physics of QM before taking Pchem. Before I took pchem (my junior year) the only physics courses I had in my entire life were in high school. Needless to say I got A's both semesters in pchem (although I am a math major as well which helped a lot). The engineering pchem may be a little different than the pchem chemistry students take with more of a focus on applied problems, while the pchem for chemistry students is more theoretical (at least that is the way it is at my school). At my school the only math prerequisites were calc 1 and 2. The professor will be more interested in teaching you chemical physics than bogging down the class with intense mathematics. Pchem is like general chemistry on steroids.

Just review on how to solve simple diff eqs (you will most likely not encounter tough DE or PDE's in an intro pchem course), iterated integrals, polar coordinates, and common integrals and derivatives.

Generally, as others have pointed out, the person teaching the class will do so with the specified prerequisites in mind. If a department doesn't require QM or diff eq's first, they will teach knowing you likely don't have that background.

As I mentioned before, I never took the semester of the course that covered QM, but the semester covering thermodynamics was far more intensive in terms of math than anything else. You needed to remember your calculus. I actually think the hardest part of the class for me was that due to the sequence of courses required, I took it too long after finishing my last calc class to remember all the calc I needed as well as I needed to know it, so had to struggle with relearning the forgotten calc (it's so frustrating how quickly you forget it if you don't use it regularly). Once I managed that, the conceptual part was a breeze.

So, it really is going to depend on your department and what they require. It may be different approaching the class from a physicist's perspective than from a chemist's perspective.
 
  • #13
even in physics don't you learn thermodynamics/statistical mech before QM? that's what physical chem is in canad(well half of it)
 
  • #14
Wow, sounds like I've got a lot of reviewing of mathematics to do. Not sure how to go about that, maybe I can solicit a Calculus teacher at my community college to provide tests since I don't have mine any longer. My diff eq class was less than great, so i'll go ahead and sift back through the Schaum's manual to review that one.

This is going to be a heck of a summer. I'm going to go ahead and take the P.Chem course. I'm not sure what the course's prereqs are, I actually am not sure on any of the courses I'm taking. It is letting me sign up, though, so I guess I've satisfied them.

thx!
Angela.
 
  • #15
neurocomp2003 said:
even in physics don't you learn thermodynamics/statistical mech before QM? that's what physical chem is in canad(well half of it)

I didn't. I had already had a semester of QM, by the time the equilibrium statistical mechanics began.

Daniel.
 
  • #16
For about two-thirds of an extensive P Chem program, you will "need" no knowledge of QM whatsoever. This includes topics like stoichiometry, kinetics, ionic and gaseous equilibria, colligative behavior, gas laws and possibly even (classical) stat mech/thermodynamics. The math you will need is not much more than basic algebra and calculus up to (usually just first order) linear, ordinary differential equations.

However, for structural P-chem and some aspects of analytical P-chem (particularly spectroscopy), you will need a good understanding of the basics of QM. The "necessary" QM often gets taught during the course of the program, and that is sufficient to meet the requirements of the course. But would you have really done all parts of the course equal justice ? Unfortunately not !

Also, for structural P-chem you will likely need some group theory and linear algebra.
 
  • #17
I took a 3-course series in Physical Chemistry as an undergraduate.
Physical Chemistry I - Thermodynamics
Physical Chemistry II - Quantum Chemistry
Physical Chemistry III - Kinetics

Knowledge of Group Theory and Linear Algebra is definitely helpful in P. Chem. II as mentioned above, but otherwise you should be okay. We did not take QM separately.
 
  • #18
amb123 said:
I am considering taking Physical Chemistry next semester but my Physics courses at community college did not have quantum mechanics (so I have to take the quantum mechanics part of physics for part of the semester in Fall as well.)

So, is it a death wish to take Phys. Chem w/o having taken quantum mechanics? Would reviewing some principals of quantum mechanics on my own, without a formal course, before the beginning of the semester be preparation enough? Or, should I just hold off on Physical Chemistry until I'm done with QM? Here is a desc of the course:

*****************
Kinetic, potential, and total energy of particles and forces between them; principles of quantum theory, including one-electron and many-electron atoms. The course will be divided (fall semester) into a section for chemistry majors and one for chemical biology majors, both meeting at the same time, covering topics of interest to each group relating to molecules and chemical bonding, electrical properties, intermolecular interactions and elementary spectroscopy.
*****************

Advisement is appreciated. Thanks!
-A

In an ideal world, yes QM is a basis for p-chem.

However, the way undergrad is taught these days the p-chem courses you will be taking are actually modified physics courses which teach the bare minimum required by chemists and go on to show some applications. Most intro p-chem courses are actually a blend of intro QM, thermal physics, + chemical applications. So no, QM is not formally required. In fact, the description you gave sounds like it will teach the necessary quantum mechanics.

I personally HATE this, as it gives chemists a very shallow knowledge of the underlying physics. As a result, chemists don't really know what's going on unless they read the physics books instead. This happens between math and physics as well. Physicists don't know jack about math.
 

1. What is the benefit of taking Physical Chemistry before Quantum Mechanics?

Taking Physical Chemistry before Quantum Mechanics can help you build a strong foundation in the fundamental concepts of chemistry, such as thermodynamics, kinetics, and spectroscopy. These concepts are essential for understanding quantum mechanics, which deals with the behavior of atoms and molecules at the microscopic level.

2. Will taking Physical Chemistry make it easier to understand Quantum Mechanics?

Yes, taking Physical Chemistry can make it easier to understand Quantum Mechanics. Physical Chemistry provides a solid understanding of the basic principles and mathematical tools used in quantum mechanics, making it easier to grasp the complex concepts in the field.

3. Can I take Quantum Mechanics without taking Physical Chemistry first?

While it is possible to take Quantum Mechanics without taking Physical Chemistry, it is not recommended. Physical Chemistry provides the necessary background knowledge and skills for understanding quantum mechanics, and without it, you may struggle to understand the material.

4. How does Physical Chemistry relate to Quantum Mechanics?

Physical Chemistry and Quantum Mechanics are closely related fields of study. Physical Chemistry uses the principles of quantum mechanics to explain the behavior of atoms and molecules, while quantum mechanics builds on the concepts of physical chemistry to describe the properties and behavior of matter at the atomic and subatomic level.

5. Is it necessary to have a strong background in math to take Physical Chemistry and Quantum Mechanics?

Yes, a strong background in math, including calculus and linear algebra, is necessary for understanding both Physical Chemistry and Quantum Mechanics. These fields use complex mathematical equations and models to describe and predict the behavior of matter, so a solid understanding of math is essential for success in these courses.

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