Chemistry

This is probably the most popular IA subject, because a lot of people think that it bridges the gap between the Physical and Biological subjects. The course includes:

Spectroscopy, Organic Chemistry, Thermodynamics, Kinetics, Inorganic Chemistry

The Chemistry course complements Materials and Mineral Sciences pretty well, although it isn’t quite as useful if you’re planning to take Biological options, as Biochemistry isn’t really covered much in the first year. You’ll have to wait for Part IB Chemistry for that…

Chemistry is nowhere near as mathematical as Physics, but there’s a bit of calculus in Thermodynamics and Kinetics in the Lent term. The lecturers go through this pretty slowly and, of course, your supervisor is there to help with any problems.

The practicals are held once a fortnight between 11-5, with an hour off for lunch, which is plenty of time to finish the practical and write up; most times you can be away by 4. The practicals are continually assessed (except the first one), so no practical exams at the end of the year. The marks are based primarily on you turning up and doing a competent job, so you’ll be fine as long as you don’t manage to drop a flask of sulphuric acid on your demonstrator.

You’ll work alone in Michaelmas doing some organic synthesis, then join up into pairs in Lent and Easter for some Physical and Inorganic experiments. You will learn some very useful lab techniques and get your hands on some cool equipment. The lab report you are required to write isn’t much and you will soon get used to the format required of you.

The lecture notes are more than adequate for IA Chemistry, but a good book by James Keeler and Peter Wothers (who will both lecture you in IA) is Why Chemical Reactions Happen. This is a paperback that summarises the IA course in a very chatty way. Organic Chemistry by Clayden, Greeves, Warren and Wothers (aka ‘The Green Bible’) is a monster of a book, which goes way beyond what is needed for IA but is written in an informal style and would be a very wise investment for anyone planning on taking Chemistry further because it covers material from all years really effectively. If you aren’t likely to continue with chemistry you probably don’t need to buy a textbook. The relevant sections for first year in Organic Chemistry are almost identical to the lecture notes as the lecturer wrote it! Both of these are available at discounted prices from the Chemistry department, or you might pick one up at the NatSci book sale, so don’t waste your money on the high street.

Link to course website: http://www.ch.cam.ac.uk/

The Natural Sciences Society of St John's College