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In this course we begin to explore the complex and subtle relationship between the structure of a molecule and its chemical properties; an understanding of this relationship is central to making sense of the physical and biological worlds. The ideas and concepts introduced in the course are relevant to all areas of molecular science, from biochemistry to materials science, and also form a foundation for more advanced study in chemistry in subsequent years. The course emphasises the underlying concepts in chemistry and how these can be used to rationalise and understand the behaviour of chemical systems and molecular interactions.

A knowledge of chemistry at GCE Advanced level or an equivalent course, is assumed. However, with extra support from their supervisors it is possible for students to follow the course without A level Chemistry. A knowledge of elementary calculus is also required; students who have not taken 'A' Level Mathematics (or equivalent), must attend the Elementary Mathematics for Biologists course in order to acquire the required skills.

The course begins by looking at how chemists use spectroscopy to determine the shape and structures of molecules, and then goes on to consider how modern theories of chemical bonding give us an understanding of why molecules adopt the shapes and structures they do. We will also look at how these theories point to the type of chemical reactivity that a particular molecule will have.

The consequences of these shapes and electronic structures are then explored in a number of ways. We will consider how the molecules react and how mechanistic ideas can be used to rationalise and predict the outcome of a chemical reaction. The way in which a qualitative study of the rates of chemical reactions sheds light on mechanisms will be discussed, and the way in which chemical equilibrium can be understood in a quantitative way will be introduced and illustrated. The course closes by drawing together all of these concepts and using them to make sense of the widely different chemistry shown by some key non-metallic and metallic elements.

Practical classes, which are synchronised closely with the lectures, form an essential part of the course. In them students will have the opportunity to try out and experience at first hand the consequences of the ideas introduced in the lectures. Some of the practicals involve "wet chemistry", and some involve making and interpreting quantitative measurements. Students are expected to attend one practical session every two weeks.