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CH101 General Chemistry, Fall 2021


Welcome to CH101 General Chemistry. This is the first semester of a year-long course intended primarily for science majors, pre-medical students, engineering students who require a one-year course, and other interested students.

Course staff and online forum

The course is given by Professors Abrams (section A4), Chen (section A1), Ling (section A3), and Yang (section A2). Professor Shepherd (SCI/270) is the course coordinator and is in charge of the laboratory portion of CH101 as well as section scheduling.

Discussion sections are led by a talented team of discussion leaders (graduate students, lecturers, and post-doctoral faculty fellows) with the support of undergraduate learning assistants.

All course questions are answered on the Piazza online discussion forum. Sign up for Piazza at


All of us teaching the course follow this forum and so this is the the way to get your questions about the course answered and to help your classmates answer theirs. If you have questions of a personal or private nature, send them to ch101-questions@bu.edu We ask that you please do not email course staff individually.

Required course materials

The following materials are all available at the Barnes & Noble @ Boston University.

  1. General Chemistry Atoms First, 4e, McQuarrie, Rock, and Gallogly, ISBN 978-1-891389-60-3. Options for acquiring the textbook:
    • Print books ($98.50 retail; $83 with the discount from the publisher): are available from the BU Bookstore, or by ordering directly from the Publisher for a 15% discount off the retail price, plus shipping: BU students may request this discount by calling publisher warehouse at 703-661-1572, and providing their BU email address. Used copies of the textbook can also be purchased on sites like Amazon.com
    • Discounted eBook ($65 retail; $52 with the discount from the publisher): can be ordering directly from the BU GEN CHEM portal at https://redshelf.com/book/1830601
  2. The Turning Technologies ResponseCard RF Clicker (ISBN 978-1-934931-68-4) and an active Turning Technologies account and subscription are required. Instructions:
    • Log on to https://learn.bu.edu
    • Navigate to the course: CH101 General Chemistry 1 (Fall 2021)
    • Click on "Register Clicker" in the side navigation bar
    • Some additional details on how to license and register your clicker are given here.
    • Please note: many clickers purchased on Amazon (or other sites) will not function, as they are older models or from sets. Please do not purchase clickers from these sites. Clickers can be purchased directly from Turning Technologies, or the BU bookstore.
    • You must use only your own clicker. Using a clicker belonging to someone else will constitute academic misconduct.
  3. The Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS 2-Line Scientific Calculator. This is the only calculator that you may use in lecture, discussion, lab, quizzes, and the course final exams. Use of any other devices, including other calculators and cell phone, is a violation of the code of academic conduct.
  4. A spiral bound notebook for notes and for recording your solutions to all assigned problems in the course.
  5. Lab materials: please see the lab syllabus posted on Blackboard (under "Lab Content") for details of the required lab equipment and materials.
  6. An optional student solutions manual is available from the same sites as above. We do not recommend purchasing the solutions manual. If you do choose to purchase it, suggestions for how to get the most out of the textbook and solutions manual are here.

Course components

The course consists of five required components:

  1. Lectures: all students must attend the section for which they are registered. All lectures are held in SCI 109. Please register for the section that works with your schedule:
    • CH101 A1, Keying Chen: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9:05–9:55 am; the first lecture is Friday, September 3.
    • CH101 A2, Chen Yang: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 11:15 am–12:05 pm; the first lecture is Friday, September 3.
    • CH101 A3, Xi Ling: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 4:40 pm–5:30 pm; the first lecture is Friday, September 3.
    • CH101 A4, Binyomin Abrams: Tuesday and Thursday, 5–6:15 pm; the first lecture is Thursday, September 2.
  2. Discussions, which start Thursday and Friday, September 2 and 3 (even if you have not yet had a lecture). Like lectures, students are expected to attend and engage in their registered discussion section.
  3. Pre-lab lectures, which start Wednesday, September 8. Lab lectures will discuss the labs that take place the following week, and so it is perfectly alright to have a lab section that occurs earlier in the week than your pre-lab lecture. Like lectures, students are expected to attend and engage in their registered pre-lab lecture section.
  4. Labs, which start the week of September 13. Students are expected to attend and engage in their registered lab section.
  5. Quizzes will take place on some Monday nights at 6:30 pm. Details will be provided ahead of the first quiz. The quiz schedule includes the dates and topics of the quizzes.

Completely optional component of CH101:

Office hours (i.e., free tutoring): are a great way to get support in your work and learn more about chemistry. You never need an appointment or even a question, and all students are invited to attend any of the posted office hours (even with other instructors). Click here for the complete schedule of office hours.

Registering for all course components

Students are required to attend the sections for which they are registered. If you are registered for a section that conflicts with your schedule, please immediately correct your schedule so that you are able to attend all required sections.

Important note: if you are currently registered for a section that does not work with your schedule, please unregister from that section to make room for students who can take that section. If all of the sections that work with your schedule are currently full (or you are currently registered for a holding section: AX, BX, MX, or PX), please complete this form so that we can find you a spot in a section that works with your schedule (and add the appropriate holding section (CAS CH101 AX, BX, MX, or PX) in the meantime).

Questions about scheduling should be addressed directly to Professor Shepherd.

Quizzes and the final exam

The quiz schedule includes the dates and topics of the quizzes. There will be a total of six quizzes, and the five best quizzes will count towards your course grade. The quizzes will be given on Monday evenings at 6:30pm. The topics of each quiz will be posted during the preceding week.

The final exam will be on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 (6-8pm). The final exam will only be given at that time.

What we will cover

We have designed the course as an introduction to general chemistry that integrates laboratory explorations with the development of the analytical tools necessary to understand and guide those explorations.

Our goal is to help you share in our excitement for and the wonder of science, to challenge you to excel, to give you a sense of empowerment about science, and to encourage you to continue study in science—and hopefully chemistry. We intend to focus especially on what are the core ideas of chemistry.


In this semester we cover McQuarrie et al., chapters 1 through 14.

  1. Chemistry and the Scientific Method
  2. Atoms and Molecules
  3. The Periodic Table and Chemical Periodicity
  4. Early Quantum Theory
  5. Quantum Theory and Atomic Structure
  6. Ionic Bonds and Compounds
  7. Lewis Formulas
  8. Prediction of Molecular Geometries
  9. Covalent Bonding
  10. Chemical Reactivity
  11. Chemical Calculations
  12. Chemical Calculations for Solutions
  13. Properties of Gases
  14. Thermochemistry

The corresponding schedule lecture topics and assigned problems is here.


The detailed schedule of the laboratory component of CH101 is posted on Blackboard under "Lab Content."

The laboratory part of the course will let you see the chemical principles and processes in action. It will also give you experience with some of the methods scientists use to do chemical research.


The course grade is based on your overall course score; we do not assign letter grades to quizzes, labs, or the final exam. The components of the overall score are shown below.

Components of the overall score
Component Contribution
Quizzes (best 5 of 6; the lowest quiz will be dropped) 50%
Final Exam 15%
Lab 20%
Lecture participation based on clicker responses 10%
Discussion participation 5%

Course grades are assigned based on the distribution overall scores at the end of the course. The following (tentative) grading scheme will be used to assign course grades based on your score in the course. Please note that we reserve the right to lower cutoff numbers (making achieving a grade easier) but we will not raise them. However, please do not count on them changing.

  • Score range 930–1000: Grade A
  • Score range 900–929: Grade A-
  • Score range 850–899: Grade B+
  • Score range 800–849: Grade B
  • Score range 750–799: Grade B-
  • Score range 700–749: Grade C+
  • Score range 650–699: Grade C
  • Score range 600–649: Grade C-
  • Score range 550–599: Grade D
  • Score range below 550: Grade F

Overall score so far

Starting after quiz #2, we will provide each student with their "overall score so far." These overall scores so far will take into account all of the scores on the work completed so far (quizzes, labs, and participation) following the percentages listed above. In this way, you will have a measure of how you are doing at that point in the course.

Your overall score so far will be available on Blackboard

Please note that the overall score so far will not take in account dropping of the lowest quiz score, the lowest lab, or absences from lectures or discussion. This will all be done only at the end of the semester.

Example calculation: Consider, for example, a student with the following scores at some point during the course: 100% lecture participation and engagement, 100% in discussion participation, 80% quiz average, and 90% lab average. (Note: the final exam is worth 15% of the course score, but there will not be final exam data until the end of the semester. So, in the overall score so far, the quiz average is used as an estimate for the final exam score.) The overall score so far for this student would be:

  • 100% in lecture participation and engagement = 100/100 points
  • 100% in discussion participation and engagement = 50/50 points
  • 80% quiz average = 400/500 points (Quiz) + 120/150 (Final exam)
  • 90% in the laboratory portion of the course = 180/200 points
  • Overall score so far = 850/1000 (B+ in the course; grade brackets are above)

Questions about grading

Quizzes are graded and returned to the class immediately, and so there is no possibility for makeup quizzes. A missed quiz counts as 0; the lowest quiz score will be dropped at the end of the semester. A missed lab counts as 0; the lowest lab score will be dropped at the end of the semester. If, due to unusual circumstances, such as a documented prolonged illness, you miss more than one lab, please contact Professor Shepherd (nmshep@bu.edu) as soon as possible so that special arrangements can be made to catch up with your work.

Regrades on quizzes: To ensure fairness, all quizzes are graded with same rubric, so requests for additional credit for incorrect answers cannot be entertained. That said, if you have answered a question on a quiz correctly, but credit was not awarded, please print your quiz, annotate the question that did not receive the appropriate credit, and bring it to your discussion teaching fellow at the end of the first discussion after the graded quiz was posted. Requests for regrades are only accepted within one week of a quiz being returned.

Regrades on lab work: Any question concerning the grading of laboratory assignment must be brought to the attention of your laboratory teaching fellow during the next lab session after it was returned to you; material will not be accepted for regrading afterwards. Indicate on the face of the assignment the questions you wish re-graded and your reasons for believing that they were mis-graded. The entire work will be re-graded. Be sure you have made no alterations in your work. We occasionally photocopy your graded work as a check. Please note that the penalties for academic misconduct are severe, as detailed in Boston University's Academic Conduct Code.

Suggestions for success

Learning chemistry — the molecular basis for life — is a very rewarding endeavor, but also one that requires persistence, diligence, and hard work. The single most important thing you can do is to diligently work out answers to as many problems in the textbook as you can. At a minimum, you must complete the assigned problems, recording your work in your problem notebook. While these problems will not be collected, a good portion of each quiz will be comprised of problems from the assigned homework.

Participation and engagement in the classes (which counts for 15% of your course grade) is a good start towards your goals of learning chemistry, but it will also be crucial that you plan to spend a significant amount of time outside of class time. In general, instructors recommend that you spend 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour of instructional time. That means approximately 8-12 hours per week over and above the scheduled class contact hours.

Studying in groups has been shown to be very productive in courses like Chemistry. Working through problems with peers around is a great way to learn. If you get stuck, you have a friend to help you; and helping to teach others is one of the best ways to master the material. We highly recommend forming study groups and working together frequently on the problems.

If you are willing to devote this time, and you spend it wisely and effectively, you will be able to perform your best. The course teaching staff will hold office hours throughout each week. These office hours are a great place to work on problems with the support of instructors and peers. You never need an appointment to attend an office hour, and all students are invited and welcome to all of the scheduled hours. The schedule of office hours is here.

Working Problems

Chemistry is a quantitative science and understanding of its concepts is cemented by solving problems. The text offers many problems for you to attempt. For success you should do as many of these as you can. If you run into trouble with the problems (which is completely normal), you should come to office hours to get support.

Each chapter will have a minimum number of assigned problems. Completing these is a top priority in order to make sure that you've learned the material. A good portion of the quiz questions will come directly from the assigned homework problems.

A note about using the optional solutions manual: Having access to the full solutions for problems can be helpful if used properly, but if used improperly these solutions can have the opposite of the desired effect. It is important to remember that the solutions should be used as a last resort only. If you struggle to work through a problem, we recommend that you do not go directly to the solutions. Instead, we suggest that you do the following: First, re-read the corresponding section of the book; then look at similar worked examples in the text; collaborate with your study group and attend an office hours; and, finally, take a look at the solutions manual, if necessary. If you find that you are regularly needing to read solutions to problems in the solutions please come speak with an instructor during an office hour.

Important course details

As described below, we require that you abide by not using electronic communication during lectures, discussion, lab lectures, lab session, quizzes, and the final exam; that you adhere to the Academic Conduct Code; that you utilize the online Piazza discussion forum for your questions (and to help answers you classmates questions). Also described are our absence policy, the University policy on religious observances, the role of the Office of Disability and Access Services, and the policy on copyright.

No cellphones or computers in classes

Recent studies have shown that taking notes with laptops or having your cellphone out in class leads to lower performance by students in classes and on quizzes and exams. For this reason, we do not permit cell phones or computers in any component of CH102 (lecture, discussion, pre-lab lecture, or lab). It is strongly recommended that you take notes using the traditional pen and paper mode.

Make sure that your cell phones are kept in your bags at all times during class (lectures, discussion, pre-lab lecture, labs, and quizzes) so that you are able to get the most out of class time. Taking notes with tablets (iPad, Surface, and equivalent devices) is permitted provided that they are set in airplane mode before class.

We realize that some of you may want to use cameras to make images of the lecture slides, etc. However, since all lectures are recorded, you have full access to everything that is being presented. Moreover, since all of the lectures are recorded and posted, you can take the lecture time to take notes, solve problems, answer questions, and ask questions; if you miss something, you will always be able to go back and re-watch that part of lecture.

Discussions and group work

Each week, all students will participate in their scheduled discussion section. Each discussion will have two main parts: (1) a large group discussion for 15-20 minutes and (2) small group problem solving (30-35 minutes). During the small group work, students will work in groups (of 3-5 students) on problem solving (selected book problems and other problems), interactive exercises, and class-wide discussions. The discussion leader and undergraduate learning assistant (LA) will be facilitators and mentors in discussion, working with groups to help them on their work.

Students are expected to arrive on time and to actively participate in all of the lecture and discussion sections. A portion of your course grade (5%) will be awarded based on your discussion work, including (on-time) attendance and engagement (in group work and class-wide exercises) in discussion.

Participation in lectures

In addition to traditional lecture presentations, lecture time will also be comprised of interactive individual and group-based problem solving. Students will use Turning Technologies clickers to answer questions in class. A portion of your course grade (10%) will be awarded based on your participation in lecture through TurningPoint. You are not graded on answering these questions correctly, but on your effort and engagement. Please note: using another student's clicker, or giving your clicker to another student, is a violation of the Academic Conduct Code.

Academic Conduct

All students at Boston University are expected to maintain high standards of academic honesty and integrity. The Chemistry Department treats cheating with zero tolerance. Here, cheating refers to any violation of the student academic conduct code. There are no small infractions. All instances of misconduct will be reported to the Dean's office. It is the responsibility of every student to be aware of the Academic Conduct Code’s contents and to abide by its provisions, as detailed at:


Appropriate use of online resources

Students at Boston University are required to abide by all of regulations regarding academic integrity and conduct, including the proper use of technology and digital resources. Course materials are provided by faculty for your personal use in the course only. Any other use of these materials including, but not limited to, posting of materials online in forums or websites, is a copyright violation and a violation of the academic conduct code. Additionally, materials submitted for course credit (papers, exams, etc.) are similarly not permitted to be used or posted.

Absence Policy

Attendance at all lectures, lab lectures, discussions, and labs is mandatory. Students must attend their assigned lecture, lab lecture, discussion, and lab, and are expected to arrive on-time. Lecture and discussion participation and engagement will count for 15% of your course grade.

Your participation grade will be based on your engagement, prompt attendance, and contributions in lecture and discussion. It is completely understandable that some students may miss a lecture, lab lecture, or discussion due to unforeseen circumstances. As a result, we will make the following adjustments for all students in CH101:

  • Any student with more than 85% engagement and participation in lecture will receive full credit for lecture participation (at the end of the semester).
  • Any student with more than 85% engagement and participation in discussion will receive full credit for discussion (at the end of the semester).
  • The lowest lab will be dropped
  • The lowest quiz will be dropped

In this way, all students will be able to succeed in the course. Missed classes due to religious observances will never affect your score adversely.

Illness and prolonged absences

If you become ill, we require that you follow the protocols mandated by the University under those circumstances. The course attendance and engagement policies already reflect substantial flexibility to allow for absences of short to moderate length due to illness. Please make sure to contact your instructor immediately (ch101-questions@bu.edu) about any prolonged absences that are not already covered by the course absence policy (above). In such cases, we will work with the CAS Dean's office to determine the best course of action for any given student.

Policy on Religious Observances

Absences for documented religious observances will be excused according to the specifications of the University Policy on Religious Observance. Please make sure to communicate about religious observances as far in advance as possible (and no later than one week before the observance, per university policy) so that accommodations can be made.

Office of Disability and Access Services

The Office of Disability and Access Services (25 Buick street, Suite 300) is responsible for assisting students with disabilities. If you have a disability, you are strongly encouraged to register with this office. Lecture hall and discussion rooms are accessible and ADA compliant.

Learning and testing accommodation: Boston University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. If you are a student who needs academic accommodations because of a documented disability, you must present your letter of accommodation from the Office of Disability and Access Services directly to Professor Shepherd as soon as possible. If you have questions about documenting a disability or requesting academic accommodations, contact the Office of Disability and Access Services. Letters of accommodations should be presented as soon as possible to ensure that student needs are addressed from the start of the course. At a minimum, they must be submitted at least one week before any assessments to which they will apply. Instructors are not able to provide accommodations without documentation from Boston University's Office of Disability and Access Services.

Copyright Laws and Protection

The syllabus, course descriptions, lab manual, and all handouts created for this course, and all class lectures, are copyrighted by the course instructors. The materials and lectures may not be reproduced in any form or otherwise copied, displayed or distributed, nor should works derived from them be reproduced, copied, displayed or distributed without the written permission of the instructors. Infringement of the copyright in these materials, including any sale or commercial use of notes, summaries, outlines or other reproductions of lectures, constitutes a violation of the copyright laws and is prohibited. Please note in particular that distributing, receiving, selling, or buying class notes, lecture notes or summaries, lab reports or related materials, or similar materials both violates copyright and interferes with the academic mission of the College, and is therefore prohibited in this class and will be considered a violation of the student code of responsibility that is subject to academic sanctions.

COVID-19 Responsibilities and Regulations

We are all in this together, and we are committed to offering the best learning experience possible given the need for safety. To do this, we need your help. We must all be responsible and respectful. Faculty, staff, and teaching fellows will wear masks during class and other meetings to protect you and themselves; and we expect you to do the same. If you show up without a mask, you will be asked to leave. We also require that you follow the safety practices recommended by the CDC outside the classroom, including all state and university guidelines regarding sheltering in place while feeling ill, testing, quarantining, social contacts, and gatherings. If you cannot follow these guidelines, be responsible and respectful: do not show up for in-person learning. Do not put your classmates, staff, and instructors in danger.

If you have concerns

If you are experiencing difficulty, please contact your course instructor without delay. During the semester we will provide each student with an updated overall course score so far, on a 1000-point scale, that reflects their work completed in the course so far (quizzes, labs, and participation). In this way, you will have a measure of how you are doing at that point in the course.

If dropping the course appears to be in your best interest, we still would like to work through the decision with you. We are also happy to advise you on appropriate choices for your academic program. If you drop the course by Thursday, October 7, no record of it will appear on your transcript. After that date, until the end of the day Friday, November 5, you may drop the course but with a W grade (withdrawn). If you must drop the course, note that CH101 will be given during the Spring, Summer and Fall sessions of 2022.

The Chemistry department has a Digital Suggestions Box. If you have suggestions, feedback, or concerns that are best addressed directly to the department, please go online and leave your anonymous feedback here.

BU Hub Learning Outcomes

Scientific Inquiry I

Students will identify and apply major concepts used in the natural sciences to explain and quantify the workings of the physical world. These concepts include the following: matter is composed of atoms; elements form \families"; bonds form between atoms by sharing electron pairs; shape is of the utmost importance; molecules interact with one another; energy is conserved; energy and matter tend to disperse; there are barriers to reaction; and light and matter can exchange energy. Students will learn about the process by which scientific theories are developed, refined, refuted, and confirmed.

Quantitative Reasoning I

Students will demonstrate their understanding of core conceptual and theoretical tools used in quantitative reasoning, particularly mathematics, as a tool for the exposition and manipulation of chemical concepts and for formulating a connection between microscopic models of matter and its macroscopic properties.

Students will interpret quantitative models of how energy and light interact with atoms or molecules and understand a variety of methods of communicating these, such as graphs, including spectra, tables, formulae, and chemical symbols.

Students will communicate quantitative information about chemical and physical objects and their properties us- ing chemical symbols, visually with sketches, numerically with estimated or computed values, and verbally using appropriate chemical nomenclature.

Students will recognize and articulate the capacity and limitations of quantitative methods such as dimensional analysis and the risks of using it improperly.