THE GRUEBELE GROUP

Chem 440 Course Description

Principles of Physical Chemistry

An introduction to classical and quantum mechanics in chemistry

We’ll start by comparing the postulates of classical and quantum mechanics. Then we’ll discuss where classical mechanics works in chemistry, and where it fails: there is no chemical bond in classical mechanics. Not even H2 can exist according to Newton’s laws!
Next, we go over some math related to things you learned in your (prerequisite 🙂 differential equations and linear algebra classes. Then the quantum theory of structure and dynamics of molecules will be developed. Topics covered include: basic concepts of quantum mechanics (6 weeks); vibrating and rotating molecules; how to use linear algebra to solve quantum problems more easily than with differential equations; molecular electronic structure at levels from the ‘particle in a box,’ to Hückel theory, to variational/SCF theory; basics of spectroscopy.
Quantum mechanics is a mathematically difficult subject. Many undergraduate courses try to go through a lot of applications, while leaving out a lot of mathematical fundamentals. This makes it possible to vaguely appreciate what’s going on, but it does not enable one to become a true ‘quantum mechanic.’ For this reason, we will be spending 6 weeks on the basics, including subjects such as Fourier transforms, vector spaces, quantum measurement, and Dirac notation. But fear not; these tricky areas will be introduced with a lot of visualization, movies and hands-on drawing and graphing.
The price we pay is that far fewer applications will be covered. The reward is that you can actually do quantum mechanics. If you know how to do something, it’s easy to apply it!