CHEM410-001                                    Physical Chemistry Laboratory                                        Spring 2019

Professor Maria C. Gelabert                                             Sims 314A, x4939

W 2-4:50 (1 credit hour)                                                              Office Hours: M 12:30-1:30, TF 9:30-10:30


Course Synopsis and Goals

In this course, experiments are completed that connect with the CHEM408 lecture. Besides laboratory skills, techniques in data collection, error estimation and propagation, calculations, data presentation and scientific writing are practiced. Important corollary skills include keeping a clear, well-organized lab notebook and synthesizing all material into a comprehensive lab report. In addition, this course encourages the use of chemical literature for experimental development and contextualizing results.


Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will demonstrate their mastery with the following:


Required Materials

Barrante, Applied Mathematics for Physical Chemistry, 3rd ed.  Prentice Hall

The ACS Style Guide, American Chemical Society 2006 (

Non-spiral composition book, 80-100 pages

safety goggles


Lab Supplies

The bound, non-spiral lab notebook will be used to keep notes on all laboratory work and lab lecture notes as desired. Use only your lab notebook to write any pre-lab notes, take data, experimental problems and solutions, error analysis, etc.  By the end of the lab experiment, every person should have his or her own original data in their lab notebook. Your lab notes should be clear enough so that anyone can repeat your experiment.  Making thorough notes also facilitates the write-up procedure and helps you get established as a working chemist.


Safety Rules

Safety glasses in the lab at all times (goggles for any splash hazards), lab coat and gloves

No open-toed shoes


Students with Disabilities/Need of Accommodations for Access

Winthrop University is committed to providing access to education.  If you have a condition which may adversely impact your ability to access academics and/or campus life, and you require specific accommodations to complete this course, contact the Office of Accessibility (OA) at 803-323-3290, or Please inform me as early as possible once you have your official notice of accommodations from the OA.


Student Conduct Code

As noted in the Student Conduct Code: ''Responsibility for good conduct rests with students as adult individuals.'' The policy on student academic misconduct is outlined in the Student Conduct Code Academic Misconduct Policy of the Student Handbook. In this course, the constructive exchange of data analysis procedure and interpretation is expected and encouraged. However, all submitted writing should be your original writing. If no writing is ever exchanged between individuals, and if absolutely nothing from any source is “copied and pasted”, there should be no problem.

Grading and Guidelines for Spring Physical Chemistry Lab


Grading and Attendance

Each week we will have lab lecture at 2:00 for theory, experimental, data and error analysis or computational details. In order to receive a passing grade in lab, you may not miss any more than one lab lecture and experiment. If you miss a lab experiment for any reason, you MUST contact me no later than 24 hours after your session; only under those circumstances may a makeup lab be scheduled. The 100‑point lab grade is broken down as follows:


35 %      Formal Lab Reports (≈7% each, due one week after)                            Minimum letter grades

15 %      Pre-lab assignments (usually due 2:00 the first week of lab lecture)          100-90    A, A–

20 %      Post-lab assignments (due 4:50 on lab day, varies by week)                      89-80      B+, B, B–

      10 %      Notebook Check: at least 10 times (no credit for missing or                    79-70      C+, C, C–

                    nonregulation notebooks)                                                                        69-60      D+, D, D–

      10 %      Attendance, safety, competence and respect for others                            59 and below   F

      10 %      Final Exam (Thursday, 4/25, 3:00)

      –1 %     Per incident involving lack of safety glasses, wearing open-toed shoes, or any other incident judged by the instructor to be unsafe



Guided Inquiry


Besides fewer lab reports, there are two main differences between the fall and spring labs. First, students will have greater command and responsibility over experimental procedure and data analysis. Secondly, students are expected to connect to additional chemistry literature that pertains either to the experimental technique or the chemistry being investigated.


Writing is critical to any successful career, and for the sciences it is especially important to communicate data effectively, explain observed phenomena, handle data and calculate errors competently, and with all these skills synthesize a clear lab report.


Education literature addressing the science writing heuristic (1) provides a number of suggestions for moving away from the standard lab experiment (which arguably is more appropriate for general level classes) to a more guided inquiry approach with appropriate use of scientific literature. As you read the assigned material, either for pre-lab or lab report, feel free to use these questions for your own study.


After reading:

            What are the main findings of the work?

            What do I know about the theory behind the experiment?

            What are my questions?

            What instrumentation is available?

            What can I observe/measure with instrumentation?


After experiment completion:

            What can I claim or show?

            How is my claim supported?

            How have my questions been answered?


(1) Burke, K.A.; Greenhouse, T.J.; Hand, B.M. Implementing the Science Writing Heuristic in the Chemistry Laboratory. J. Chem. Educ. 2006, 83(7), 1032-1038.

Guidelines for the Formal Lab Report

Electronic: Lab reports consist of a single pdf document, include your first or last name in the file name and are emailed. Lack of the first two requirements will each result in a grade penalty of 2/24 points. Inclusion of entire Excel worksheets, large (>2 Mb) files and excessive typed equations/calculations is discouraged. Instead, excerpts of Excel worksheets, small image files and handwritten, scanned or photographed calculations will more effectively communicate calculations and error analysis. Email by 11:59 on the due date to

Paper: And…there’s always paper, which is entirely welcome. Submit by 4:50 on the due date.

Email acknowledgment will be sent as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours after submission. You are responsible for contacting me if you did not receive an acknowledgment. Graded out of 24 points, the penalty for late reports is 1 point per day, or one subletter letter grade per day. Written in past tense, passive voice, the report includes the following elements, each of which is described:

Abstract:                             A brief summary of the entire experiment, including “the final answer” error and comparison with literature. Your challenge: communicate the entire thing in a few sentences.

Experimental:                       “This is how it was done in detail.” (one-two paragraphs)

                                          A synopsis of experimental and/or computational technique. What instruments (company name and model), software (full name and version) and supplies were used? Was standardization performed? What data were taken? Anything unusual occur? Your challenge: include enough detail for a journal article, but make this section concise.

Data Presentation:                 Raw data and calculations leading to final result. Imported graphs and Excel worksheets, when applicable. One sample calculation. Your challenge: organize this so it’s easy to follow – your audience is chemistry peers.

Error Analysis:                    One sample calculation of propagated error. Your challenge: do it correctly, and understand what it means.

Discussion:                           For comparison to accepted literature value, report whether the difference falls within the propagated error. If error is beyond propagated error, explain what might have led to higher-than-usual errors. What are the systematic errors involved? If any experimental problems occurred, how would they change your results (high or low)? Your challenge: contextualize the “final answers” around any accepted values and your calculated error.

Cited References:                    You must use information and cite from assigned reading, plus at least one additional relevant, reputable, and specific source related to the experimental technique or chemistry being studied. Use in-text numerical citations according to the ACS Style ( Cite all “non-Dr. G.” sources you’ve used for your report, paraphrasing appropriately. Do not cite a reference you don’t use and do not use a reference you don’t cite. Your challenge: use your interests to guide your outside source, and let that engage you further.

Lab Report Grading Rubric

Abstract (3)                        Main purpose, brief description, final results and error

Experimental (3)                Clear, detailed description of procedures

Writing (3)                         Past tense, passive voice, third person

Raw Data (3)                     Clear presentation of data with units and spectra

Calculations/Graphs (3)    Correct calculations with clear graphs and units

Error calculation (3)           Assignment of random error, propagation as appropriate

Discussion (3)                    Results, comparison to literature value within error and connection to cited work

Citation (3)                        In-text numerical citations, ACS formatting, cited references at the end of report


Lab Schedule – Spring 2019 (subject to change)





·    Safety goggles

·    No open-toed shoes

·    Pre-labs

·    Lab notebook


Lecture Dates


Report Due

January 9

January 16

Rotational Barrier of N,N-dimethylacetamide

January 23

January 23

Particle in a Box

January 30

January 30

February 6

Synthesis and Spectroscopy of CdS Nanoparticles

February 13

February 13

February 20

Reverse Micelle Synthesis of CdSe Nanoparticles

February 20

February 27

February 13

February 20

Molecular Orbitals of Water

February 20

February 27

February 27

March 6

Vibrational-Rotational Spectroscopy of HCl and Morse Potential

March 20

March 20

March 27

Thermal Behavior and FTIR Analysis of Polymers

April 3

April 3

April 10

April 17

IR Spectroscopy, Thermogravimetric Analysis and X-ray Diffraction of Sulfate Compounds

April 23 (Monday)

April 25, 3:00

Lab Final