First-Year Chemistry

Special resources to help you navigate your first year of our chemistry curriculum.

First-Year Chemistry

Students gather to study in the Bush Atrium. The Chemistry Department sponsors free tutoring three nights a week for students enrolled in first-year chemistry.

Before You Begin: How to Prepare for CHM 120, Chemistry I

We've found that a key determinant of success in CHM 120 is skill in elementary algebra.  In particular, students in CHM 120 need to be proficient in:
  • Unit conversions (also called dimensional analysis):  If you are a little familiar with chemistry from high school, practice conversions with the mole and Avogadro's number rather than things like feet to inches.  Make sure you can do one-to-three dimensional conversions (e.g. converting milliliters into cubic liters).
  • Fractions and percentages.
  • Scientific notation is the way that scientists easily handle very large or very small numbers. For example, instead of writing 0.0000000034, we write 3.4 x 10-9. You need to be completely proficient in scientific notation, including knowing how to add/subtract/multiply/divide numbers in this form and how exponents/roots are handled.
  • Logarithms: you need to be able to use both "log" and "ln" (both bases), and be able to solve something like "9 = log x" for x.
  • You should be able to very easily solve a problem like this: PV=nRT  Rearrange this equation to solve for "n". 
  • You should be able to graph simple linear functions and understand y = mx + b.
  • Significant figures: this is a big one that a lot of people have issues with.  You need to be able to identify the number of significant figures in a number and perform basic mathematical operations while retaining the correct number of significant figures.

Fun Stuff!

Ever wondered why bacon smells so delicious? It's chemistry, of course.