Chemistry

Chemistry seeks to understand our physical world on an atomic level. This microscopic picture uses the elements of the periodic table as building blocks for a vast array of molecules, ranging from water to DNA. But some of the most fascinating aspects of chemistry involve chemical reactions, where molecules combine and transform—sometimes dramatically—to generate new molecules.

Chemistry explores many areas of our physical world, ranging from our bodies and the air that we breathe to the many products of the human endeavor and including art and a plethora of consumer products. Students at Sarah Lawrence College may investigate these diverse areas of chemistry through a variety of courses: Atmospheric Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Nutrition, Photographic Chemistry, and Extraordinary Chemistry of Everyday Life, to name a few. In addition to these courses, the College routinely offers General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry to provide a foundation in the theories central to this discipline.

Just as experimentation played a fundamental role in the formulation of the theories of chemistry, it plays an integral part in learning them. Therefore, laboratory experiments complement many of the seminar courses.

2017-2018 Courses

Chemistry

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.

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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.

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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.

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Environmental Chemistry

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course provides an introduction to basic concepts of chemistry and their application to current environmental issues. Topics include acid rain, ozone depletion, air pollution, global warming, and surface water and groundwater pollution. We will then consider how human activities—such as transportation, energy production, and chemical industries—influence the environment.

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Organic Chemistry I

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: General Chemistry or its equivalent.

This course is a systematic study of the chemistry of carbon compounds. Introductory topics include bonding, structure, properties, reactions, nomenclature, stereochemistry, spectroscopy, and synthesis of organic compounds from a functional group approach. More advanced topics include reaction mechanisms, chemistry of aromatic compounds, carbonyl compounds, and biomolecules such as carbohydrates and amino acids. In the laboratory, students learn the basic techniques used in the synthesis, isolation, and identification of organic compounds.

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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

Organic Chemistry II

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Organic Chemistry I.

In this course, 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 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.

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Biochemistry

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Organic Chemistry and General Biology.

Biochemistry is the chemistry of biological systems. This course will introduce students to the basic principles and concepts of biochemistry. Topics will include the structure and function of biomolecules such as amino acids, proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids, RNA, DNA, and bioenergetics. This knowledge will then be used to study the pathways of metabolism.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open , Lecture—Fall

Mathematical prerequisite: basic high school algebra and geometry.

Correlation, regression, statistical significance, and margin of error. You’ve heard these terms and other statistical phrases bantered about before, and you’ve seen them interspersed in news reports and research articles. But what do they mean? And why are they important? And what exactly fueled the failure of statistical polls and projections leading up to the 2016 US presidential election? An introduction to the concepts, techniques, and reasoning central to the understanding of data, this lecture course focuses on the fundamental methods of statistical analysis used to gain insight into diverse areas of human interest. The use, misuse, and abuse of statistics will be the central focus of the course, and specific topics of exploration will be drawn from experimental design, sampling theory, data analysis, and statistical inference. Applications will be considered in current events, business, psychology, politics, medicine, and other areas of the natural and social sciences. Statistical (spreadsheet) software will be introduced and used extensively in this course, but no prior experience with the technology is assumed. Conference work will serve as a complete practicum of the theory learned in lecture: Students working closely in small teams will conceive, design, and fully execute a small-scale research study. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate work and/or research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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Mathematical Modeling I: Multivariable Calculus

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: successful completion of Calculus II or the equivalent (a score of 4 or 5 on the Calculus BC Advanced Placement exam).

It is difficult to overstate the importance of mathematics for the sciences. Twentieth century polymath John von Neumann even declared that the “sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which…describes observed phenomena.” This two-semester sequence will introduce students to the basic mathematical ingredients that constitute models in the natural and social sciences. This first course in the sequence will concentrate on extending the concepts and tools developed in single-variable calculus to work with multiple variables. Multivariable calculus is a natural setting for studying physical phenomena in two or three spatial dimensions. We begin with the notion of a vector, a useful device that combines quantity and direction, and proceed to vector functions, their derivatives (gradient, divergence, and curl), and their integrals (line integrals, surface integrals, and volume integrals). The inverse relationship between derivative and integral appearing in single-variable calculus takes on new meaning and depth in the multivariable context, and a goal of the course is to articulate this through the theorems of Green, Gauss, and Stokes. These results will be of particular interest to students pursuing physics, engineering, or economics, where they are widely applicable. Students will gain experience developing mathematical models through conference work, which will culminate in an in-depth application of seminar ideas to a mathematical model in the natural, formal, or social sciences, based on student interest.

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Mathematical Modeling II: Differential Equations and Linear Algebra

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: Mathematical Modeling I or the equivalent (college-level course in multivariable calculus).

At the center of many mathematical models, one often finds a differential equation. Newton’s laws of motion, the logistic model for population growth, and the Black-Scholes model in finance are all examples of models defined by a differential equation; that is, an equation in terms of an unknown function and its derivatives. Most differential equations are unsolvable; however, there is much to learn from the tractable examples, including first-order equations and second order linear equations. Since derivatives are themselves linear approximations, an important approach to differential equations involves the algebra of linear transformations, or linear algebra. Building on the study of vectors begun in Mathematical Modeling I, linear algebra will occupy a central role in the course, with topics that include linear independence, Gaussian elimination, eigenvectors, and eigenvalues. Students will gain experience developing mathematical models through conference work, which will culminate in an in-depth application of seminar ideas to a mathematical model in the natural, formal, or social sciences, based on student interest.

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Color

Open , Seminar—Year

Color is primordial. It is life itself, and a world without color would appear dead and barren to us. Nothing affects our entire being more dramatically than color. The children of light, colors reveal and add meaning, giving richness and fullness to all that surrounds us. A vehicle for expressing emotions and concepts, as well as information, color soothes us and excites us. Our response to color is both biological and cultural. It changes how we live, how we dream, and what we desire. Using a variety of methods and materials, this course will focus on an exploration of color, its agents, and their effects. Not a painting course, this class will explore relationships between the theory, perception, use, and physiology of color. Clearly defined problems and exercises will concentrate on understanding and controlling the principles and strategies common to the visual vocabulary of color, (hue, value, saturation, form, context, texture, pattern, space, continuity, repetition, rhythm, gestalt, and unity), as well as the personal, psychological, symbolic, expressive, and emotional consequences of that visual vocabulary.

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