Skills for Chemists - CHE00019C

« Back to module search

  • Department: Chemistry
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Annie Hodgson
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20 to Summer Term 2019-20

Module aims

This module will provide students with vital skills required for their degree programme, and will introduce students to the more independent learning styles expected at university level. There will be a major focus on mathematical/quantitative skills and biological/physical background in one part of the module. The other part of the module will focus on developing the students’ skills in independent library research work; synthesising arguments to solve problems; team-working and presenting their findings succinctly both verbally and visually. The topics covered in this module aim to support and complement the subjects studied by the students as part of their individual A-level programmes.


Module learning outcomes

  • To carry out mathematical manipulation, including simple algebraic work, manipulation/conversion of units and propagation of errors.

  • To use mathematical methods to solve a range of chemically relevant problems, and be able to quantify uncertainties.

  • To use physical units to check the validity of equations, as well as to derive equations informally.

  • To carry out scientific calculations using units, and be fluent in manipulating units.

  • To gain the knowledge required to understand the areas of chemistry relying on the use of mathematical methods.

  • To appreciate of the molecular/chemical aspects of life processes, building the basic biological background needed for further chemistry modules.

  • To develop transferrable and problem-solving skills, with particular emphasis on communication.

  • To understand the options and opportunities available to gain the required skills for employability

Module content

  • The Happening (NDL, 1 day (6 hours)
  • Mathematics (DAW/TJD, 4 two hour workshops; as required following survey session)

The mathematics course is designed to support all the students in coping with the mathematical aspects of the chemistry course, but in particular those who do not have a post-16 maths qualification. All students are provided with support materials for private study. The survey identifies those who require additional support and who therefore need to attend the workshops. Other students may attend specific workshops as required to support particular topics they have difficulty with.

  • Errors and Uncertainty (TJD, 3 lectures, 1 drop-in session)

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Define, use & understand key terms :
    • error & uncertainty
    • precision & accuracy
    • systematic / random error
    • mean, median & modal average
    • sample, population & distribution
  • Quote & calculate an appropriate number of significant figures for a value.
  • Understand normal distribution
  • Calculate standard deviations
  • Combine uncertainties
  • Present graphs with error bars
  • Obtain a range of fits from data plotted with error bars
  • Calculate standard error for sample mean
  • Propagate independent, uncorrelated uncertainties
  • Understand method of least-squares fitting
  • Physics and Quantitative Skills (SS, 5 lectures)

“Quantitative Skills” deals with an essential skill for chemists: mastery over physical units. This art is not only useful in preventing mistakes, but also in quick justification, or even derivation, of various mathematical equations used in chemistry.

  • Becoming a Professional Chemist (ABH, 4 workshops, 10 min group tutorial, 3 hour symposium)

Students will develop transferable skills in team-working, problem solving, thinking/reading critically, working ethically and with integrity, independent learning, literature searching, referencing, handling information, synthesis of arguments from a range of different sources, abstract writing and oral/visual presentation skills. Students will use their independent learning approach to address key problems in cutting-edge chemistry or (in the absence of an A-level biology qualification) an aspect of biological chemistry.

  • Building a Biological Background (AMB/GJD, 4 lectures, required for students with no A-level Biology, online test for all students)

The lectures cover selected aspects of Biology/Biochemistry that are especially relevant for further core and option modules, familiarising students with biological/biochemical nomenclature.

  • Molecular Graphics & Protein Data Bank (PDB) (KSW, 3 hour workshop)

Students will use free-access graphics programmes for display and manipulation of protein/DNA structures. They will perform practical analysis of secondary, tertiary and quaternary structures, 3-D analysis of selected enzyme mechanisms and learn the basics of making figures of proteins for presentations and written work.

  • Mathematics for Chemists (PBK/SS, 12 two hour workshops)

Mathematics is taught in a chemical context and covers topics from calculus, power series, vectors and statistics. In the combined lecture and workshop sessions the students are introduced to a topic and then work through problems with guidance and supervision in order to develop their problem-solving skills in a 'hands-on' way.

  • Self-Directed Learning Skills for professional chemists (DSP 1 hour intro + online materials)

A lecture to introduce the various 'Self Directed Learning Packages' (“Chemists’ Toolkit”) available online, which are designed to equip students with some of the skills required as a professional chemist. These packages introduce skills needed throughout the degree programme and are designed to be worked through prior to the skills being required in other areas of the course. Those designed for Year 1 support basic IT skills (including word processing), the use of ChemDraw and Excel, and searching for information about chemicals.

  • Equality & Diversity workshop (PHW & LCJ 2 hours)

Looking at issues of Equality & Diversity as part of Becoming a Professional Chemist,

  • College Skills Workshops (2 hours)

An opportunity to review, consolidate and practice transferable skills.

  • Enhancing your Employability (LCJ, 1 hour workshop + online private study)

1 hour computer workshop to introduce the Employability Tutorial (to be completed online)

  • Revision workshops (5 hours)

Five 1 hour drop-in sessions delivered by college student mentors to revise the material covered during the previous half term.

  • Obtaining work experience session (1 hour)

Interactive 1 hour session (including role-play) to identify opportunities for work experience with organisations outside of the University and to gain confidence in applying for work experience.


Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Group Presentation
3 hours 30
University - closed examination
Errors & Uncertainty & Physics & Quantitative Skills
1 hours 30
University - closed examination
Mathematics for Chemists
1 hours 40

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The Group presentations take place in college symposia during Week 10 of term 1 (Groups A and C are on Thursday, Group B is on Friday). Each presentation lasts 10 minutes followed by 5 minutes of audience questions. The deadline for submitting the abstracts for these presentations is 09:00 of Monday of week 9, term 1.


Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Errors & Uncertainty & Physics & Quantitative Skills
1 hours 30
University - closed examination
Mathematics for Chemists
1 hours 40

Module feedback

Verbal feedback available in workshops; marks from presentations supplied at the start of the Spring Term.

Closed exam results with per-question breakdown are returned to the students, along with the marked scripts, via supervisors within 5 weeks (as per special approval by the University Teaching Committee). Outline answers are made available via the Chemistry web pages when the students receive their marks, so that they can assess their own detailed progress/achievement. The examiners’ reports for each question are made available to the students via the Chemistry web pages.

For the Mathematics for Chemists course, students need to submit homework on a weekly basis, which is checked and corrected by graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) and returned to the students during the next maths session where they have the opportunity to discuss their mistakes with the GTAs and the lecturer. The GTAs also organise weekly office hours during which the students can discuss the material and obtain further assistance with the problems.

The online Building a Biological Background test provides instant feedback after each question.

Indicative reading

Cockett and Doggett, "Maths for Chemists", RSC publishing, 2nd Edition

Voet and Voet, "Biochemistry", John Wiley and sons, 4th Edition

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.