Colin D. Abernethy

BSc (Hons), Durham University, England. PhD, The University of New Brunswick, Canada. Current research interests include the synthesis of new early transition-metal nitride compounds and the development of practical exercises for undergraduate chemistry teaching laboratories. Author of publications in the fields of inorganic and physical chemistry, as well as chemical education. Recipient of research grants from The Royal Society, Nuffield Foundation, Research Corporation for the Advancement of Science, and American Chemical Society. Received postdoctoral research fellowships at the University of Texas at Austin and at Cardiff University, Wales. Previously taught at: Strathclyde University, Scotland; Western Kentucky University; and Keene State College, New Hampshire. SLC, 2010–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Chemistry

Organic Chemistry II: A Guided Inquiry Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Organic Chemistry I.

This course is a continuation of Organic Chemistry I: A Guided Inquiry Seminar. This semester, we will explore the physical and chemical properties of additional families of organic molecules. The reactivity of aromatic compounds, aldehydes and ketones, carboxylic acids and their derivatives (acid chlorides, acid anhydrides, esters, and amides), enols and enolates, and amines will all be discussed. We will also investigate the methods by which large, complicated molecules can be synthesized from simple starting materials. Modern methods of organic structural determination—such as mass spectrometry, 1 H and 13 C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and infrared spectroscopy—will also be introduced. In the laboratory section of this course, we will continue to develop the techniques and skills required to synthesize, separate, purify, and identify organic compounds. Organic Chemistry II is a key requirement for pre-med students and is strongly encouraged for all others who are interested in the biological and physical sciences.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Organic Chemistry I: A Guided Inquiry Seminar

Open , Seminar—Fall

No prior knowledge of chemistry is required. Students will be able to take this course and Organic Chemistry II (Guided Inquiry) in the spring semester and then take General Chemistry or other chemistry courses in subsequent years.

Research has shown that students learn much more effectively when they are actively engaged and when ideas and concepts are developed by the students themselves rather than simply being presented by a professor or read in a textbook. This course is designed as a series of interactive Guided Inquiry exercises. During each seminar, you will be presented with data and important observations regarding the topic being studied. The class will work in small groups to answer a series of directed questions designed to lead each student toward the development of a target concept or idea. These classroom activities are designed to follow the scientific process as much as possible. You will be asked to make predictions based on the model that has been developed by the class. Further data or information will then be provided that can be used to check your predictions. In this way, you will simultaneously learn both the course content and the key critical thinking skills that constitute scientific thought and exploration. After each topic has been developed in class, you will be asked to read the relevant section of the textbook and then answer a series of problems to reinforce your understanding of the material. You should consider taking this course if you enjoy highly interactive seminars, working in small groups, and figuring out problems yourself rather than simply listening to a professor while taking notes in class. Organic chemistry is the study of chemical compounds whose molecules are based on a framework of carbon atoms, typically in combination with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Despite this rather limited set of elements, there are more organic compounds known than there are compounds that do not contain carbon. Adding to the importance of organic chemistry is the fact that very many of the chemical compounds that make modern life possible—such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, pigments, and dyes—can be classed as organic. Organic chemistry, therefore, impacts many other scientific subjects; and knowledge of organic chemistry is essential for a detailed understanding of materials science, environmental science, molecular biology, and medicine. This course gives an overview of the structures, physical properties, and reactivity of organic compounds. We will see that organic compounds can be classified into families of similar compounds based upon certain groups of atoms that always behave in a similar manner no matter what molecule they are in. These functional groups will enable us to rationalize the vast number of reactions that organic re-agents undergo. Topics covered in this course include: the types of bonding within organic molecules; fundamental concepts of organic reaction mechanisms (nucleophilic substitution, elimination, and electrophilic addition); the conformations and configurations of organic molecules; and the physical and chemical properties of alkanes, halogenoalkanes, alkenes, alkynes, and alcohols. In the laboratory section of the course, we will develop the techniques and skills required to synthesize, separate, purify, and identify organic compounds. Organic Chemistry is a key requirement for pre-med students and is strongly encouraged for all others who are interested in the biological and physical sciences. In addition, the Guided Inquiry exercises will sharpen your analytical skills and teach you how to think like a scientist. Your experiences working as part of a team in this course will help you in future situations where the ability to collaborate to solve problems is a critical measure of success.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Inorganic Chemistry

Open , Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will investigate the properties of the chemical elements and some of their most important compounds. In so doing, we will discover the trends in structure, bonding, and reactivity that emerge as we move from one element to the next in the periodic table. Included in our survey will be discussions of the important roles that inorganic substances play in our everyday lives, particularly in the fields of bioinorganic chemistry, industrial materials, and nanotechnology. In the laboratory section of the course, we will prepare important examples of inorganic compounds and then investigate their reactivity. This will involve learning how to work with highly reactive and air-sensitive materials using vacuum-line and glove-box techniques. Chemistry plays a pivotal role in all of the natural sciences. Accordingly, this course will be useful for any students with an interest in the physical, biological, and medicinal sciences and for pre-engineering students.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Atoms, Molecules, and Reactions: An Introduction to Physical Chemistry

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will think about the most fundamental question in chemistry: Why do chemical reactions happen? To answer this, we will first discuss the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which determines whether any change in the universe can occur. Before we can apply the Second Law of Thermodynamics to chemical systems, we will need to investigate the structure of atoms and the ways in which individual atoms can bond to one another to form molecular structures of increasing complexity. Once we have mastered the modern, quantum mechanical theories of chemical bonding, we will be able to look at different types of chemical reactions, their rates, and the ways in which chemical equilibria may be established and influenced. In the laboratory section of the course, we will put these ideas into practice: building molecules with different structures and then exploring their physical properties and chemical reactivity. Chemistry plays a pivotal role in all the natural sciences. Accordingly, this course will be useful for any students with an interest in the physical, biological, and medicinal sciences and for pre-engineering students.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Previous Courses

Organic Chemistry II: An Interactive Guided Inquiry Seminar Course

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Organic Chemistry I.

This course is a continuation of Organic Chemistry I (Guided Inquiry). This semester, we will explore the physical and chemical properties of additional families of organic molecules. The reactivity of aromatic compounds, aldehydes and ketones, carboxylic acids and their derivatives (acid chlorides, acid anhydrides, esters, and amides), enols and enolates, and amines will be discussed. We will also investigate the methods by which large, complicated molecules can be synthesized from simple starting materials. Modern methods of organic structural determination—such as mass spectrometry, 1 H and 13 C nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and infrared spectroscopy—will also beintroduced. In the laboratory section of this course, we will continue to develop the techniques and skills required to synthesize, separate, purify, and identify organic compounds. Organic Chemistry II is a key requirement for pre-med students and is strongly encouraged for all others who are interested in the biological and physical sciences.

Faculty

General Chemistry II

Intermediate , Lecture—Spring

Prerequisite: General Chemistry I.

This course is a continuation of General Chemistry I. We will begin with a detailed study of both the physical and chemical properties of solutions. This will enable us to consider the factors that affect both the rates and the direction of chemical reactions. We will then investigate the properties of acids and bases and the role that electricity plays in chemistry. The course will conclude with introductions to nuclear chemistry and organic chemistry. Weekly laboratory sessions will allow us to demonstrate and test the theories described in the lecture segment of the course.

Faculty

Organic Chemistry I: An Interactive Guided Inquiry Seminar Course

Open , Seminar—Fall

Research has shown that students learn much more effectively when they are actively engaged and when ideas and concepts are developed by the students themselves rather than simply being presented by a professor or read in a textbook. This course is designed as a series of interactive Guided Inquiry exercises. During each seminar, you will be presented with data and important observations regarding the topic being studied. The class will work in small groups to answer series of directed questions designed to lead each student to the development of a target concept or idea. These classroom activities are designed to follow the scientific process as much as possible. You will be asked to make predictions based on the model that has been developed by the class. Further data or information will then be provided that can be used to check your predictions. In this way, you will simultaneously learn course content and the keycritical thinking skills that constitute scientific thought and exploration. After each topic has been developed in class, you will be asked to read the relevant section of the textbook and then answer a series of problems to reinforce your understanding of the material. No prior knowledge of chemistry is required. Students will be able to take this course and Organic Chemistry II (Guided Inquiry) in the spring semester and then take General Chemistry or other chemistry courses in subsequent years. You should consider taking this course if you enjoy highly interactive seminars, working in small groups, and figuring out problems yourself rather than simply listening to a professor while taking notes in class. Organic chemistry is the study of chemical compounds whose molecules are based on a framework of carbon atoms, typically in combination with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Despite this rather limited set of elements, there are more organic compounds known than there are compounds that do not contain carbon. Adding to the importance of organic chemistry is the fact that very many of the chemical compounds that make modern life possible—such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, pigments, and dyes—can be classed as organic. Organic chemistry, therefore, impacts many other scientific subjects; and knowledge of organic chemistry is essential for a detailed understanding of materials science, environmental science, molecular biology, and medicine. This course gives an overview of the structures, physical properties, and reactivityof organic compounds. We will see that organic compounds can be classified into families of similar compounds based upon certain groups of atoms that always behave in a similar manner no matter what molecule they are in. These functional groups will enable us to rationalize the vast number of reactions that organic re-agents undergo. Topics covered in this course include: the types of bonding within organic molecules; fundamental concepts of organic reaction mechanisms (nucleophilic substitution, elimination, and electrophilic addition); the conformations and configurations of organic molecules; and the physical and chemical properties of alkanes, halogenoalkanes, alkenes, alkynes and alcohols. In the laboratory section of the course, we will develop the techniques and skills required to synthesize, separate, purify, and identify organic compounds. Organic Chemistry is a key requirement for pre-med students and is strongly encouraged for all others who are interested in the biological and physical sciences. In addition, the Guided Inquiry exercises will sharpen your analytical skills and teach you how to think like a scientist. Your experiences working as part of a team in this course will help you in future situations where the ability to collaborate to solve problems is a critical measure of success.

Faculty

General Chemistry I

Open , Lecture—Fall

Chemistry is the study of the properties, composition, and transformation of matter. Chemistry is central to the production of the materials required for modern life; for example, the synthesis of pharmaceuticals to treat disease, the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides required to feed an ever-growing population, and the development of efficient and environmentally benign energy sources. This course provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts of modern chemistry. We will begin by examining the structure and properties of atoms, which are the building blocks of the elements and the simplest substances in the material world around us. We will then explore how atoms of different elements can bond with each other to form an infinite variety of more complex substances called compounds. This will lead us to an investigation of several classes of chemical reactions, the processes by which substances are transformed into new materials with different physical properties. Along the way, we will learn how and why the three states of matter (solids, liquids, and gases) differ from one another and how energy may be either produced or consumed by chemical reactions. In weekly laboratory sessions, we will perform experiments to illustrate and test the theories presented in the lecture part of the course. These experiments will also serve to develop practical skills in both synthetic and analytic chemical techniques.

Faculty

Organic Chemistry I

Intermediate , Lecture—Fall

Prerequisite: General Chemistry or its equivalent.

Organic chemistry is the study of chemical compounds whose molecules are based on a framework of carbon atoms, typically in combination with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Despite this rather limited set of elements, there are more organic compounds known than there are compounds that do not contain carbon. Adding to the importance of organic chemistry is the fact that very many of the chemical compounds that make modern life possible—such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, pigments, and dyes—can be classed as organic. Organic chemistry, therefore, impacts many other scientific subjects; and knowledge of organic chemistry is essential for a detailed understanding of materials science, environmental science, molecular biology, and medicine. This course gives an overview of the structures, physical properties, and reactivity of organic compounds. We will see that organic compounds can be classified into families of similar compounds based upon certain groups of atoms that always behave in a similar manner no matter what molecule they are in. These functional groups will enable us to rationalize the vast number of reactions that organic reagents undergo. Topics covered in this course include: the types of bonding within organic molecules; fundamental concepts of organic reaction mechanisms (nucleophilic substitution, elimination, and electrophilic addition); the conformations and configurations of organic molecules; and the physical and chemical properties of alkanes, halogenoalkanes, alkenes, alkynes and alcohols. In the laboratory section of the course, we will develop the techniques and skills required to synthesize, separate, purify, and identify organic compounds. Organic Chemistry is a key requirement for pre-med students and is strongly encouraged for all others who are interested in the biological and physical sciences.

Faculty

Spectroscopy and Chemical Structure Determination

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: one semester of General Chemistry or General Physics.

Every time a chemist conducts a reaction or isolates a compound, his or her first task is to identify the molecular structure of what has been made or isolated. To help do this, chemists have a powerful array of modern instrumental techniques that are used to quickly and accurately determine the structures of compounds. One of the most challenging (and entertaining) parts of chemistry is to use the information obtained from these techniques to assign structures to unknown compounds—a bit like Sherlock Holmes using clues to solve a murder mystery. In this course, we focus on the three most widely used techniques: mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. All of these techniques provide valuable information about the structures of molecules, and all are used on a day-to-day basis by most chemists. Once we have a sound understanding of each of these techniques, we will become chemical detectives and use the information that these techniques provide to solve chemical puzzles in order to elucidate the identities and structures of unknown molecules.

Faculty

Transition Metal Chemistry

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prior study of chemistry or permission of the instructor is required.

The transition metals include some of the most familiar and important of all of the chemical elements. In fact, the properties of the transition metals shape much of the world around us. For instance, iron and copper have been known since prehistoric times, and their use has influenced much of human history. Nine of the transition metals are essential for life, as their atoms form the active sites of many key enzymes. Furthermore, compounds of transition metals such as titanium, chromium, ruthenium, and iridium are used as catalysts, pigments, and advanced materials, while platinum and technetium form the basis of powerful drugs and medical imaging technologies. Due to their many uses and economic importance, the preparation of new transition metal compounds remains one of the most active and exciting areas of modern chemical research. This course will be devoted to an exploration of the unique chemical, physical, and biological properties of the transition metals. Transition metal chemistry is one of the most colorful fields of chemistry. In the laboratory section of the course, we will prepare many scientifically important transition metal compounds and then observe and measure their properties.

Faculty

Physical Chemistry: Why Chemical Reactions Happen

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

Prior study of chemistry or permission of the instructor is required.

Chemists are always trying to make new molecules or devise better ways of making useful ones. Chemists do this partly out of curiosity and partly because new chemical compounds are needed in every aspect of our lives, from pharmaceuticals to novel materials such as ceramics and semiconductors. To be successful, a chemist needs to understand both how and why chemical reactions occur. Physical chemistry describes the bonding in molecules, how molecules interact, what factors determine whether a reaction is favorable, and what the outcome of a particular reaction will be. In this course, we will explore the tools and concepts of physical chemistry. In so doing, we will develop an overview of chemical processes and an understanding of the mechanisms of important chemical reactions. In seminar, we will discuss topics such as quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and molecular orbital descriptions of common organic reaction mechanisms. This course will be useful for premed students, as well as for those who wish to develop a fuller and deeper understanding of the physical and biological sciences.

Faculty

General Chemistry I

Open , Lecture—Fall

Chemistry is the study of the properties, composition, and transformation of matter. Chemistry is central to the production of the materials required for modern life; for example, the synthesis of pharmaceuticals to treat disease, the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides required to feed an ever-growing population, and the development of efficient and environmentally benign energy sources. This course provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts of modern chemistry. We will begin by examining the structure and properties of atoms, which are the building blocks of the elements and the simplest substances in the material world around us. We will then explore how atoms of different elements can bond with each other to form an infinite variety of more complex substances called compounds. This will lead us to an investigation of several classes of chemical reactions: the processes by which substances are transformed into new materials with different physical properties. Along the way, we will learn how and why the three states of matter (solids, liquids, and gases) differ from one another and how energy may be either produced or consumed by chemical reactions. In weekly laboratory sessions, we will perform experiments to illustrate and test the theories presented in the lecture part of the course. These experiments will also serve to develop practical skills in both synthetic and analytic chemical techniques.

Faculty