Classical Physical Chemistry

By Pam Reponen

Professor: Jude A. Kelley

Department: Chemistry

Description: Required for chemistry majors, this advanced-level course is a study of the basic concepts, principles and methods of classical physical chemistry—with the emphasis on developing a deeper understanding of the macroscopic properties that govern chemical phenomena.

Format: Lecture
Text: Thermodynamics, Statistical Thermodynamics & Kinetics, by Thomas Engel and Philip Reid

Requirements: Completion of problem sets, three semester exams and a final exam

Class topic:  In building a toolset early in the semester for an in-depth understanding of the rules governing how chemical systems reach equilibrium, students considered the van der Waals equation of state, enthalpy and the first law of thermodynamics.

Professor quote: “Thermodynamics starts with a few basic principles and builds to an intricate explanation of how the natural world functions. Almost every aspect of chemistry … is governed by the laws of thermodynamics. Much of what we hear about in the news concerning the energy crisis, the viability of alternative fuels and the efficiency of hybrid cars, can be quantified using basic thermodynamics. Our science students are going to be among those pushing these fields forward, and I enjoy exploring the big picture with them.”

Professor’s bio: Joining the College staff in fall 2007 as an assistant professor of chemistry, Kelley received his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Yale University, New Haven, Conn., in 2002; he had most recently served as a postdoctoral appointee at the Sandia National Laboratory and senior applications scientist at RAPT Industries.

Student quote: “I decided to take classical physical chemistry to enhance my overall knowledge of chemistry and to help promote my laboratory skills,” says Alexandra Buga ’10. “I find it fascinating to learn about how things work, and this course allows me to gain a better understanding of things that I encounter in everyday life. I am a chemistry and classics double major with a premed concentration and plan to go into the medical field. I hope to become a doctor and use my knowledge of chemistry to help create medical devices.”

The Classical Physical Chemistry Laboratory course, offered in conjunction with this class, is also taught this semester by Kelley