Chemists' Toolkit

Unit code: CHEM10520
Credit Rating: 20
Unit level: Level 1
Teaching period(s): Full year
Offered by School of Chemistry
Available as a free choice unit?: N




The aim of this 20-credit module is to develop and extend a number of key skills used widely by practicing chemists. There are three main components: (i) spectroscopy and analytical chemistry; (ii) mathematics for chemists; (iii) transferable skills.

[NB. For students with A-level maths (or equivalent) the mathematics taught component is optional but the online exams are not.]

The material will be explored through a mixture of lecture/workshop sessions, example classes, briefing sessions from The University of Manchester Library staff, essay-writing and feedback, group poster design and poster presentation. It is also extensively linked into the CHEM10101 and practical labs programmes.



  • Arithmetic – basic rules (fractions & rearrangement, proportions and percentages, powers of 10)
  • Dimensions and units; conversion between units
  • Tables and Graphs
  • Significant figures and errors, propagation of errors and linear regression
  • Substitution – simultaneous equations
  • Quadratic equations
  • Powers, exponents and exponentials
  • Logarithms – base 10 and base e
  • Trigonometric functions
  • Differentiation (basics, product rule and chain rule, maxima and minima, partial differentiation)
  • Integration (rules, separation of variables, definite integrals, area under curves)
  • Complex numbers (arithmetic, complex roots, Argand diagrams, complex exponentials – Euler’s relation)
  • Hyperbolic functions
  • Further differentiation: maxima, minima and application to distribution functions
  • Scalars and vectors (addition and subtraction, vector algebra – basic laws, resolution of vector components, magnitude of vectors, scalar product, vector cross products)
  • Determinants

Spectroscopy and Analytical Chemistry

  • Practice in the interpretation of NMR, IR and mass spectra
  • Introduction to the three pillars of analytical science: separation, detection and quantification
  • Description of basic separations (physical separation and an introduction to chromatography)
  • Introduction to the detection of molecules and ions using physical methods and optical spectroscopy (UV-vis and IR, including Beer-Lambert law)
  • Basic elements of quantification (limits of detection, limits of quantification, accuracy, precision, statistics and errors (linking to maths and labs)
  • Presentation of analytical data

Transferable Skills for Chemists

  • Information and library searching skills.
  • Academic malpractice, plagiarism and the proper use of the scientific literature.
  • Scientific report writing and poster preparation/presentation.
  • Careers awareness and CV writing.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • apply basic mathematical skills to chemical problems in thermodynamics, kinetics, quantum mechanics, spectroscopy and error analysis
  • identify a range of small molecules from their molecular and mass spectra using a rational approach
  • state the basic principles of analytical chemistry and solve simple analytical chemistry problems
  • perform research tasks using literature resources and present their findings in written and oral forms to their peer group

Transferable skills and personal qualities

The following transferable skills will be developed or used:

  • Qualitative (searching and analysing scientific data) and quantitative (maths) problem solving skills.
  • Written (essay, poster) and oral (tutorial presentation) communication skills.
  • Various numeracy and mathematical skills.
  • Investigative skills (literature searching and critical analysis of databases and journals)
  • Analytical skills (interpretation and application of data)
  • ICT skills for scientific use (word processing, Chemdraw, Excel)
  • Time management and organisational skills (demonstrated through independent study hours and group posters).
  • Interpersonal skills (team work for posters)
  • Ethical behaviour (plagiarism and good academic practice)

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 20%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 15%
  • Oral assessment/presentation - 15%
  • Practical skills assessment - 50%

Recommended reading

  • A. Northedge, A. Lane, A. Peasgood, J. Thomas, 'The Sciences Good Study Guide', Open University, 1997.
  • T. Overton, S. Johnson, J. Scott, 'Study & Communication Skills for the Chemical Sciences', OUP, 2011.
  • S. K. Scott, 'Beginning Mathematics for Chemistry', OUP, 1995.
  • B. R. Johnson and S. K. Scott, 'Beginning Calculations in Physical Chemistry', OUP, 1997.
  • P. Monk, 'Maths for Chemistry', OUP, 2006.

Feedback methods

  • Majority of course is taught in a combined lecture/workshop form where students can attempt the exercises and receive immediate feedback.
  • The academics delivering the material are also available to see students and provide feedback on any particular aspects of the course as requested
  • For the maths components, weekly example classes with Q&A sessions allowing student problems to be solved on an individual basis.
  • For some maths components there are extensive online quizzes, where students can check their answers.

Study hours

  • Assessment practical exam - 5 hours
  • Assessment written exam - 5 hours
  • Demonstration - 2 hours
  • Lectures - 7 hours
  • Practical classes & workshops - 16 hours
  • Independent study hours - 165 hours

Teaching staff

Peter Gorry - Unit coordinator

Andrew Horn - Unit coordinator

Ralph Adams - Unit coordinator

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