Hey Everybody, I was considering taking Physical Chemistry 1st semester next year. My question is about what kind of math does it require? I took calc 1, 2, & 3 along with Differential Equations but my calc 3 was kind of a bastardized version of calc 3. At my school calc 3 is a prereq to physical chemistry, and because I had an easier version of it will I have missed some important math topics for physical chemistry? What important math topics are needed to make it through physical chemistry? TP

Calc 1-3 should be a mandatory. Diff Eqs and Linear algebra might help a little bit. Some abstract algebra like group theory may help too if you prof. decides to do some group theory. Be familiar with complex numbers too-demoiver's formula etc. In order to do well in PChem you HAVE to be good at simple algebra and Calculus. The reason why people do so bad in pchem is because they forget how to do integrals, derivatives, and algebra. Just be sharp on your calc and you will do fine.

I only had Cal 1 and 2. You can figure out the math (partial derivatives) or ask someone if you have a question. I think having had some Cal-based Physics was helpful because it introduces closed integrals. Anyway I was very happy with my grade and glad to be done with the course (alot of work). I only need the first semester and I hear the second semester is much more math intensive.

it really depends on your professor. You should obviously have a strong calculus background - lots of partial derivatives are going to be done. Some may or may not require you to use linear algebra. My professor just showed us how it related to p.chem in class, but never put any of it on an exam. Ask around your university.

Why in an AP Chemistry class in high school is calculus factored out of the cirriculum when from what I gather from you guys it is a calculus intensive class? I mean how can they award college credit to a kid based on a chemistry class that doesn't resemble the cirriculum of college chemistry. I know a friend who took the first semester of P. Chem at a big state school this semester while in high school and she got like a 98 in the class.

I agree with novawildcat. I thought linear algebra and complex variables were absolutely WONDERFUL to have for Pchem. I wish I'd had abstract algebra before I took PChem, but I did have combinatorics and graph theory, so that was some help.

AP Chemistry is NOT physical chemistry. AP chem. gives credit for General chemistry. I highly doubt anyone in highschool took P chem since the pre reqs at most univeristies require a full year of inorganic chem (or Gen Chem I and II), organic chem, calc based physics, and calc 1-2 (3 possibly and sometimes diff eqs) before taking P chem. At nearly all universities Pchem is a Jr. year class. Are you sure your friend took a real P chem class while in highscool? AP chemistry does mostly cover what is covered in a normal Gen Chem I and II class.

oh, perhaps we should expand the acronyms: PChem = Physical Chemistry I think astrife is still in high school and is somewhat unfamiliar with the curriculum of a chemistry major. In my opinion, AP Chem is not reminiscent of college chem at all. I know too many kids who took "AP Chem" and got an A in high school and then struggled mightily for a C in general chem in college. Perhaps there are high schools out there that teach a reasonable AP Chem course, I just haven't run into one in yet.

It all depends on the quality of your instructor. After just graduating in mathematics and chem, the hardest class I have ever had in my life was AP calc in high school. The teacher I had was absolutely brutal, the averages on the tests were always in the 20s. Needless to say for 10 years straight, everyone who took his AP calc class got 5's on the exam (both AB and BC). On the other hand, I did see a lot of kids who took AP chem, got 1450+ on Sats, etc. fail out of Gen Chem I& II and Calc III.

My P Chem professor only put complicated math problems on homework (I was in the help room a lot), and we just need concepts and set up for exams. He was pretty new to teaching P Chem, so I don't think he knew how evil he could be. Taking calculus based physics was definately helpful for me because it introduced applying calculus to the situations. My high school APs seemed much harder than the same classes in college. Maybe not harder so much as more time consuming. Anyway, they didn't really prepare me for what it would be like in college.

I've taken 2/3 of the P-Chem sequence (I took Thermo and Quantum...ps I'm on the quarter system). I did not need calc for Thermo, although I had a prof who was very conceptual. Quantum on the other hand was very calc based, and I would say Calc 3 vector stuff is essential. There wasn't much in the way of computation, but a lot of the equations and stuff are set up using vector calculus. (My quantum prof even gave us a calc diagnostic exam at the beginning since this stuff was so important). I haven't taken Kinetics yet, but I hear there's some calc in that too... But I agree with other posters that it will depend on the prof.

Thanks for the replies everybody. I did partial derivatives and triple integrals and all that stuff in calc 3 so do you think I should be fine with that stuff? I haven't taken linear algebra, but when you talk about the topics for that do you mean just doing laplace/fourier transformations? Btw, I have taken calculus based physics already. Thanks TP

Ahhh.... I didn't realize there was a difference between Physical Chemistry and General Chemistry... that'll help me a bit when I sign up for class next fall... lol

basically all you need for pchem thermodynamics is to master the total derivative and partial derivatives (Calc III) for pchem quantum everything makes much better sense if you have linear algebra and diff eq. You better be able to take an integral or two as well. what you reall need to understand from linear algebra for quantum is the idea of a basis and how it relates to eigenfunctions... I won't elaborate any more on that because it's just nonsense to you now but make sure you understand bases.

What precisely does PChem involve? I've never heard anything about it (other than it being listed as a recommended course).

as my freind says who is a biochem major "its worse than putting all the classes you have taken together" i havent taken the class, i wont need to unless i change my major. But iv heard that it got a little more math.... which is bad thing for me...

Physical Chemmistry incorporates three topics: (1) theoretical and statistical thermodynamics Basically further elaboration of gen chem. More in depth with the gas laws, phase changes/diagrams. (2) quantum mechanics in a nutshell, how to determine the energy spectra of atoms using eigenfunctions and operators. a lot of math. (3) kinetics an expansion of gen chem kinetics: rate laws etc.

That is interesting, I just did about 2.5 weeks of solving systems of differential equations with eigenvalues/vectors. TP

I thought biochem was MUCH worse than PChem. but my biochem prof had essay exams and wanted every tiny stinkin' detail possible. PChem was pretty easy for me, mainly I think due to my math background. But then I took PChem the same semester as OChem and advanced calc (aka real analysis) and a few other classes. PChem was about my lowest priority.

Pchem and advanced calc at the same time? That must have been fun taking the 2 classes undergrads despise the most. Just imagine General chemistry on steroids x 1000. That gives you pchem. Seriously though, Pchem was actually the most interesting chem class I ever took. It isn't that bad if you are comfortable with basic calc. That should be good enough. Your instructor will not make you do infinite dimensional linear algebra/calculus (in infinite dimensions you can't use matrices and determinants etc. to find eigenfuctions/values) for a intro P chem class. Chemistry wise though, you better know your Gen chem I and II well. Just remember your basic thermodynamics, how to work with equilibriums, etc. Interesting. I didn't think doing thermo in pchem was possible with out using calc. One of the biggest concepts used from linear algebra is the idea of a linear transformation (i.e. a linear operator, or just "operator".) If you apply an operator A to a function(or vector) f such that Af=cf, where c is just a scalar, then c is said to be the eigenvalue for the eigenfunction f. Determining eigenvalues (which correspond to different energy levels for an atom) is probably one of the hardest parts of trying to do quantum.

You may need linear algebra for point group theory. Other than that, the math isn't too hardcore. It all depends on the emphasis of your professor. You'll usually find the professors divide into two groups: 1) Chemists 2) Engineers The former are more concerned that you know the theory and how to use the theory in a given situation, the latter are more concerned with you being able to solve the situations numerically. In my experience, learning the theory is more important than knowing how to do math like a robot. This is especially important in PChem lab.

Just wondering.... is P.Chem considered by most students (not just chem majors)to be the most difficult undergraduate level course? No bias, please! BTW, i think probably most upper level physics and engineering courses are much more hardcore than p.chem.

It is definitely up there as one of the most difficult (it is simply too hard to compare "level of difficulty" across disciplines). Don't let the chemistry title fool you. P Chem basically=Chemical Physics. I know lots of engineers. The one course chemical engineering students struggle a lot with is PChem (P chem is a required upper level engineering course for chem e's).

One of the reasons I was considering taking P-Chem is that my dad thought it would be a good idea. He has been an engineer for 28 years and told me the employees he has had that knew their thermodynamics took p-chem, not thermodynamics (through the engineering department). I figured I need one more course for a chemistry minor, and the next semester I will be taking thermodynamics for my engineering degree so might as well see it from both perspectives and pick up a minor as well. I also enjoy calculus/differential equations so I think this would be a good way to do some tricky math. TP

You have some serious problems if you are considering taking PChem "for fun". There are so many more worthwhile things that you could do with your time. PChem and AChem were both required for my major, so I was forced to suffer through the eternal torment of all-night lab sessions and Schrodinger's cat/wave equation (my neurotic prof's high-pitched voice still haunts me to this day). PChem is one of those classes that should be avoided at all costs - you will work your a$$ off and learn absolutely nothing in the process, except how to kill a cat in a box with a hammer. If you are stupid enough to take PChem, don't say I didn't warn you.

I would consider the two semester quantum mechanics sequence in physics to be one of the toughest since it is PChem on roids.

Quantum Mechanmics...Ugh. Biggest crap shoot i've ever taken. Learned how to solve all kinds of equations, and by the end of the course, had no freakin clue what Quantum Mechanics was. Took structural inorganic chemistry this semester, covered alot of topics we went over in Q.Mechanics, only they were much more conceptual and i feel i learned alot more. Just fyi.

At my school, no. Organic is much more challenging than pchem. Although I think that speaks more to the difficulty of my organic sequence than pchem.

What ever you do, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT take Pchem lab if you do not have to. Pchem labs require an INSANE amount of work. I would easily spend 30 hours-40 hours writing up each 20 page pchem lab. One report I had for pchem was over 50 pages long. The error analysis required for each lab is rediculous. Imagine taking a measurement, say like temperature, but the thermometer you are using has +/- .01 degrees uncertainty. The lab report requires you to do a calculation with the temperature. In order to get the +/- uncertainty in your calculation you have to do another calculation with just the uncertainty. When ever you have to do an operation like add, subtract, multiply, take square roots, etc. you have to do a special calculation for the error. So if your teacher gives you an equation that you have to plug temperature into, which has say 4 or 5 operations, just to get the uncertainty in your answer will require 4-5 more calculations with the +/- from the thermometer. Now you can imagine for a 4-5 hour lab how many measurements you will be taking. Having to carry the error through each calculation from every single measurement for each lab report easily took me at least 10-15 hours each report. I know most of the people in my lab just simply made up the numbers for the error since it take a ludicrous amount of time to calculate. Its not like the prof. is going to check it anyway...

Oh, p.chem lab I think it's a universal truth that it is a PAIN. I spent more hours on p.chem lab reports than I did for every other schoolwork related studying/assignment COMBINED. P.Chem lab gave me 4 all-nighters over the course of 1.5 months. The funny thing is, is that i'm doing bad in it. It's going to probably put a dent on the good 'ol gpa-ouch!

Okay, first let me give you my background (which may bias my opinion!). I currently teach engineering chemistry...so my graduate work was in chemistry (organic) although my undergrad degree is in Civil Engineering. (Long story) As part of my graduate work I was required to "pick up" physical chemistry which I had not taken in my engineering undergraduate days. I was 16 years out of calculus when I took p chem, although I had an outstanding background in calculus when I took it. Now, my thoughts on P-chem...........OUCH, PAIN, AGONY, DISTRESS. It was by far the most difficult course I HAVE EVER TAKEN. However, with a great deal of work (like 25 hours A WEEK) I managed to end up 4th in my class......even the memory of this class causes my stomach to knot up. I AM glad I took it though. At my defense I was asked a P Chem question and after looking blankly at my committee and asking "do I know this?" I realized that I DID indeed "know this" and was able to field their question. In my humble opinion, p chem is a bridge that combines chemistry, calculus, engineering, and physics all in one class. While it was a worthwhile course I wouldn't take it "just for fun" Fun it is NOT. Worthwhile yes, but enjoyable? NO!