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Topic: Is physical chemistry harder in America  (Read 20386 times)

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Offline zilalti

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Is physical chemistry harder in America
« on: July 14, 2008, 12:08:18 PM »
I'm currently studying for a Bsc Chemistry in a uni in the UK and am thinking of changing my course so I do my third year abroad.

I really want to go to America but I have heard the Physical chemistry is much harder than here in the UK. Is this true?

Another possibility is to go to Australia, does anyone know how the courses there compares to the ones here in the UK?

Offline macman104

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2008, 02:50:32 PM »
There are so many schools in the US, I can't imagine being able to generalize the "difficulty" of physical chemistry in all of the US (being able to generalize the difficulty, and in such a narrow scope).  That's just my opinion, I don't really have anything to back it up.

Offline enahs

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2008, 05:46:16 PM »
What are the typical pre-req's for Physical Chemistry at your school?

That said, most good chemistry programs world wide tend to follow the ACS guideline for what to cover at the B.S. level; so I am not really sure there should be any major difference in the actual material. Professors just vary majorly though from university to university.




Offline tamim83

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2008, 10:13:09 AM »
At my school the pre-requesites are
Organic Chemistry 1 and 2
Calc based Physics 1 and 2
3 semesters of calculus (the last being multivariate calculus)

Offline sjb

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2008, 07:43:26 AM »
Just throwing names of courses as pre-requisites probably won't help much, in my opinion, as surely different universities will cover different topics (to an extent) under broad outlines. I don't honestly recall Organic Chemistry as such being much use to Physical Chemistry.

Zilalti, you mention that you are currently in the UK - what's your Maths / Physics like - do you have e.g. A-Level, AS-Level, GCSE..?

S

Offline enahs

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2008, 08:24:34 AM »
Quote
Just throwing names of courses as pre-requisites probably won't help much, in my opinion, as surely different universities will cover different topics

If you are not required to have at least 2 semesters of calculus and 2 semesters of the calculus based Physics course(s) then your Physical Chemistry course will be very much different the the ACS guideline for Physical Chemistry, and much easier. If somebody is coming from a place like that (the easy Physical Chemistry) to a place that follows the ACS guidelines, yes it will be harder.


Offline DrCMS

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2008, 08:51:23 AM »
enahs tamin83

The world is not the same as the USA and not all world universities follow ACS rules. 

The education system in the UK and USA are quite different so you're just talking at cross purposes without realising it.

When I was an university we had some exchange students from the USA and they really struggled in some subject and excelled in others.  Back then at their university in the USA they studied a whole year on the same subject, say Organic chemistry then a year later Physical or Inorganic.  In the UK we did all three each years getting harder each year.  So it was very hard for them to sit in on 2nd or 3rd year Organic lectures if they'd not done that yet in the USA or quite easy if they had.  Things might have changed since i don't know.

When friends of mine from my PhD days went postdocing in the states they complained about the poor skills of the graduates starting PhD's that they had to help.  Their take was that US highschool kids starting university knew very little chemistry and maths and those with degrees had very little practical experience.  By the end of the PhD they were as good as anywhere but it took them 8 years from leaving highschool compared with 6 in the UK.

Offline tamim83

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2008, 10:02:40 AM »
I wasn't implying that everyone in the world follows ACS guidelines, I was merely listing our pre-reqs. for p-chem.  I have little knowledge about how other countries handle their chemistry curriculum.  I know that at my school there is a limit on how many course credits that a major area of study can take up.  It is 60 out of 120 required credits for graduation.  The chemistry major currently has around 63 credits which is slightly above this limit due to the fact that nearly every required chemistry course (3 credits) has a 1 credit lab that is a separate course all in itself.  The remaining credits are for general education requirements  in other areas such as english cmposition and literature, the arts, and "international foreign cultures" just to name a few.  We had specific requirements to fullfill in these areas to graduate, the idea is that this makes us "well rounded"  Yes, students who majored in the humanities needed to take science courses as well.  This may be the reason why some US students may seem unprepared for graduate school in chemistry; we have less courses in chemistry.  The material is mostly crammed in to these courses and learning retetion goes down.   I talked to some of the grad. students here that are from other countries and they say that they have less "gen. ed." requirements and more science courses.  They are mostly from China or Japan so that may or may not translate to the UK.   

As for organic chemistry being a prerequisite here; organic chemistry courses here spend a lot of time talking about qualitative molecular orbital theory and using it to explain chemical reactions.  MO theory and other bonding theories don't see a lot of time in our gen. chem courses (for the most part; my advisor spends a lot of time on bonding), so you learn most of it in o-chem.  That is why ochem is a prerequisite, to insure that students have been exposed to bonding before pchem.   

Offline DrCMS

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2008, 10:33:07 AM »
tamim it know it was enahs that mentioned ACS guidelines.

In the US you major in chemistry but do other things as well for it seems ½ your time.

In the UK if you take chemistry that's all you study, with only bits of other subject added to be used on the chemistry course.  As I said before we did inorganic organic and physical chemistry each year plus analytical, industrial chemistry/chemical engineering, along with some maths, physics, computing and english/report writing.  You had no choice in what you took when, except for some extra modules in the final year.  We spent 1-2 days a week in the lab and the rest in lectures.  The course started in year 1 and finished in year 4 (I did a sandwhich course with two 6months placements working in industry).  You had to pass every subject in each year to continue.  Every student on the course did the same subjects at the same time in the same order.

So in a 3 year UK degree you'd be doing chemistry for >25hrs a week 30weeks a year.  How much chemistry do US students do in a 4 year degree course?

Offline tamim83

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2008, 01:26:53 PM »
Lab courses are typically 1 day a week for 4 hrs (1 credit).  Inorganic lab is 2 credits and about 5 hours a week.   Lecture courses are 2 hours and 30 minutes a week for 3 credits.   If you are only taking 1 chem course and 1 chem lab as most students do, it is about 6.5-7.5 hours not counting studying which is recommended at 1 hour per credit.  So yes, we spend much less time on chemistry here it seems.  I think some additional coursework in chemistry would be beneficial,  I actually enjoyed most of my humanities courses and understand the well rounded education apporach here.   Of course, other schools in the US vary with their chem major, typically using the ACS approved curriculum as a guide.   

Offline zilalti

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2008, 07:09:01 PM »
Sorry for the delayed reply.

Anyway no I did not study A-level maths or physics. However in my first year I took  'catch up' modules in maths and physics that covered everything that would be required for my course i.e. calculus, matrices etc.

 For the exchange I want to transfer to go to America but I have been told that it is highly recommended that I have studied A-level maths. However If I want to transfer to Australia for example, A level maths is not required.

While I am not terrible at physical chemistry I am not great either and I am worried that if I do go to America as opposed to Australia that the physical chemistry might bring my grade down.


Offline Mitch

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2008, 08:09:39 PM »
There is really no way for us to know. Most people do not take physical chemistry twice and even then not in different countries.
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Offline enahs

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2008, 08:45:44 PM »
I understand the countries are different. The the ACS is the worlds largest chemical organization, and by no means limited to just the US. And the Royal Society of Chemistry (The UK's largest Chemistry organization in Europe) has pretty much mirrored the ACS in material to be presented to undergraduates.


My original train of thought still stands. If you have not had at least two full semesters of calculus and the calculus based physics (or know the material on your own), and the school follows the ACS guidelines, it will probably be pretty hard, regardless of where you are at; unless the teacher makes exceptions.


That said, even though you need a years worth of math and physics before it, not all of it is used in Physical Chemistry, and what you need to know can be learned on your own. And if you pick up math really fast you can learn it while you take the course.

If you are that worried, find a cheap book and start studying now though.
It is always easier to learn something after you have already learned it :).



Offline SM30

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2008, 12:20:04 PM »
define "hard". Harder grading? harder subject material? more difficult to understand the professors? Some people have touched upon the fact that difficulty in these things are heavily dependent on the school and professors. Where I went there were plenty of classes taught by 2 professors and one was faaaar easier as a grader than the other. Same material but stingier prof.

Offline Hunt

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Re: Is physical chemistry harder in America
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2008, 01:38:20 PM »
How many pchem courses do the american undergraduates take ? 2 - 3 courses ?

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