Spring 2025

Physical Chemistry

Listed in: Chemistry, as CHEM-361


Jacob H. Olshansky (Sections 01 and 02)


The thermodynamic principles and the concepts of energy, entropy, and equilibrium introduced in CHEM 161/165 will be expanded. Statistical mechanics, which connects molecular properties to thermodynamics, will be introduced. We will spend significant time constructing, analyzing, and interpreting microscopic models of matter and will use these models to understand our macroscopic world. Examples will be drawn from chemistry, biology, and nanoscience and include non-ideal gases, solid-state materials, phase transitions, phase equilibria in multicomponent systems, properties of solutions, protein folding, and ligand binding. Appropriate laboratory work is provided. Three hours of class and four hours of laboratory per week.

Requisite: CHEM 161 or 165, PHYS 116 or 123, and MATH 121. MATH 211 is recommended. Limited to 24 students.

Spring semester: Professor Olshansky.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to Amherst College chemistry majors, others by class year.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Students will engage in low stakes group activities, problem solving (both quantitative and qualitative), laboratory work, and will be expected to attend lecture. Students will be assessed via weekly problem sets, formal laboratory reports, exams, and participation.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025