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First‑year Concepts in Chemistry program

A day in the life

First‑year Concepts in Chemistry program


It made the first year program so organized, having your textbook, notes and assignments, everything, all coordinated to fit together.

Inventing a better way to teach first-year chemistry

A few years ago, all 27 faculty members in the Department of Chemistry decided to reinvent the way they taught first-year chemistry. The result is a first-year textbook called Concepts in Chemistry. The textbook sits at the core of a unique first-year program in Canada designed to help first-year students adjust to the challenges of university-level scientific study.

Concepts in Chemistry contains “only the stuff you need to know, and none of the other extraneous information that most first-year textbooks have," say Assistant Professor Heather Andreas.

Students use it as a textbook and a notebook. There’s room to copy solutions, and instructor’s slides in class match those in the book.

“With a first year course, you have people who come from really good high schools with a really good grounding in chemistry,” explains Dr. Andreas. “You also have people who have come in with big holes in their fundamental knowledge. We bring everybody to the same level.”

Everybody leaves our first-year program prepared to enter year two as a chemistry major.

First-year chemistry program features

  • Textbooks: Custom texts and lectures designed by faculty.
  • On-line assignments set up both for practice and grades.
  • Vignettes: Vignettes are downloadable on-line video tutorials between 3 minutes and 40 minutes that describe more than 200 topics in chemistry.
  • Drop-in tutorials in the Concept Room and Resource Centre.
  • Laboratories break down larger classes into small working groups where students enjoy close attention from teaching assistants and faculty.

Student stories

“I was really inspired in my first year,” Lauren Longobardi says. “Chemistry professors went out of their way to tell first years about the awesome opportunities after graduation, about research, what classes they were going to take and really got the students excited about a major in chemistry.”

“It made the first year program so organized, having your textbook, notes and assignments, everything, all coordinated to fit together."

Fourth year honours student Maneesha Rajora, who worked as a teaching assistant in first year labs and as a mentor in the help room, says she was “blown away” in her first year by the Chemistry program.

“The amount of support that students got, it’s incredible. I found that book amazing. It was exactly what I needed. Staff and professors were always there when you needed them.”