Course: 407
Instructor: Dr. VanderKam
F 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

Inorganic Chemistry gives a broad overview of many theoretical frameworks in chemistry that range from how vibrational spectroscopy works to the inner designs of molecular orbital theory. Inorganic Chemistry differs from Organic Chemistry in that topics focus more heavily on metal complexes, and how these metal complexes can interact with specific ligands to give them different properties. Metals are very strange and fascinating, and the goal of the course is to acquaint you with these properties, as well as give you the techniques to analyze them.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Lectures are given early at 9 am for three days of the week. Dr. VanderKam talks extremely quickly, bypassing many details in order to get to the main point. It is slightly difficult to focus so early in the morning, but it is essential to put all of one’s attention in the lectures to make sense of the material, as many of the slides make little to no sense without context. It is difficult to keep up with note-taking at Dr. VanderKam’s speed, so an emphasis on actually understanding what she is saying should be prioritized over furious note-taking. Overall, make sure to pay attention to the main point of the PowerPoint she is going over that day. Do not get bogged down in the details. Any loose ends can be tied up later in office hours or in the problem sets.

Learning For and From Assignments

There are only three main graded components of this course: The first involves 9 total problem sets, each worth 40 points and due weekly on Mondays. The problem sets are fairly straightforward, and rarely cause trouble (beware problem set 5 however!). Dr. VanderKam can answer any questions that you have in her office hours, including questions about the problem set for that week. The problem sets are very effective in helping you learn the material, and if you spend a decent amount of time studying them and doing them correctly, then you will have little else to actually study for come midterm time. In addition, there are two midterms, each worth 190 points. The midterms are given at 7:30 pm, and are extremely long for the 100 minute time slot allotted. I have never worked faster on a midterm in my life. Oftentimes, much of the exam is actually left blank due to the sheer volume of it. For actually taking the midterms, I recommend rushing through it quickly initially, skipping anything that you are even unsure of how to do. I then recommend going back and attempting to do those problems if extra time is left. DO NOT GET BOGGED DOWN BY A QUESTION! This will be the death of your grade. Anytime you feel like you are spending too much time on a question, skip the question immediately and come back if there is time. The final component is the final exam, which is worth 300 points. Dr. VanderKam grades quite fairly, and will give you points on an exam even if it doesn’t match her answer exactly (assuming it’s a reasonable enough answer). The actual content on the exams is also straightforward – the biggest enemy is certainly time. Overall, use the problem sets as a framework for what to study for, and tie up any loose-ended questions in office hours. Take the exams intelligently, and pace yourself effectively. If you do this, you should do well in the class.

External Resources

Dr. VanderKam’s office hours are excellent. She really prioritizes you understanding the material, rather than simply giving you the answer. Try to go every week if you can, and if not, try to set up appointments on WASE. Additionally, Dr. VanderKam gives you one practice exam before each midterm to do on your own time. She does not post the key, but will have a review session to go over the answers later in the week. Go to these review sessions, and make sure to do the practice exam beforehand. Also make sure to time yourself while taking the practice exam to get a feel for the pace. Finally, the textbook for the class is not very helpful, as it can be worded in a very confusing manner. I do not recommend reading the textbook – only read the textbook as a last resort if you really do not understand something. Dr. VanderKam can answer your questions a lot better than the textbook can, so try to ask her in class or in office hours. The textbook can be good review material for the midterm, particularly if you understand most topics already. However, I do not recommend reading it for an introduction to material that you are unfamiliar with.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

Dr. VanderKam is an excellent professor who will make sure that you understand the material. She goes extremely quickly, but if you spend a lot of time on the problem sets and use the PowerPoints as supplemental material, you will know exactly what she expects you to know. The exams are fairly straightforward in terms of what you need to know as well – she rarely tries to trick you on questions or anything like that. The course is a little more math-intensive, but the math certainly is not at the forefront of the course. Overall, CHM 407 is a great course with a great professor, and I recommend it to anyone who has any interest in chemistry!
Inorganic Chemistry

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