Group Theory: Fundamentals and Applications

Unit code: CHEM20311
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 2
Teaching period(s): Semester 1
Offered by School of Chemistry
Available as a free choice unit?: N




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

  • understand the fundamental principles of Group theory as used in Chemistry
  • apply Group theory to interpret, to predict and to understand spectroscopic data
  • apply Group theory to develop models for, and to understand, chemical bonding
  • apply Group theory to describe the electronic structure of d-transition metal complexes


 (David Collison, 9 lectures and 9 workshops)

  • to identify symmetry elements (the identity, proper and improper rotation axes, mirror plane, inversion centre) in a given molecule and hence to assign the molecule to its point group, based on knowledge of its shape
  • to understand the content of point group character tables and how to extract information from them
  • to understand how to obtain the symmetries of the degrees of freedom in a molecule
  • to understand how to use Group theory to perform a complete or partial vibrational analysis of a given molecule and to use that analysis together with experimental data to deduce molecular structure
  • to use the concepts of high and low symmetry and the relationship between them to solve structural and spectroscopic problems
  • to understand how to obtain the symmetries of groups of orbitals in a molecule
  • how to set up a Walsh correlation diagram
  • to use Group Theory to set up a molecular orbital bonding scheme for a d-transition metal complex
  • to understand the ordering of ligands in the spectrochemical series
  • to predict distortion based on symmetry considerations

 (Dr Mike Ingleson, 5 lectures and 1 online workshop)

  • to understand the symmetry origin of the isolobal theory
  • to apply the isolobal theory to link inorganic and organic chemistry
  • to understand and be able to use Walsh correlation diagrams and second order Jahn-Teller effects to explain key chemical trends in the p-block.
  • to understand and be able to use the concept of the antibonding effect to explain key chemical trends in the p-block.

Teaching and learning methods

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials
  • In-class problems
  • Workshops
  • On-line quizzes
  • On-line practice tests
  • On-line interactive symmetry web-sites 

Knowledge and understanding

  • use concepts of molecular symmetry to identify physical properties
  • construct molecular orbitals and understand their role in determining molecular properties and reactivity

Intellectual skills

  • Reflective skills on prior learning
  • Chemical problem-solving
  • Spectroscopic data analysis
  • Structure analysis and prediction
  • Understand the principles and application of spectroscopic techniques to the determination of molecular structure

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Numeracy
  • Analytical skills
  • ICT skills
  • Interpersonal skills

Assessment methods

  • Other - 15%
  • Written exam - 85%

Assessment Further Information

Other - Three online tests  - 15%

Recommended reading

Interactive web-sites for symmetry:

Feedback methods

  • Immediate feedback will be provided by staff during 9 workshop sessions
  • Students will also be able to attempt problems and receive feedback as part of 4 tutorials associated with this unit
  • On-line Blackboard practice tests will provide instant feedback
  • On-line Blackboard quizzes will provide instant feedback
  • Each lecturer will provide weekly office hours
  • Pre-examination revision session

Study hours

  • Assessment written exam - 2 hours
  • Lectures - 14 hours
  • Practical classes & workshops - 10 hours
  • Tutorials - 4 hours
  • Independent study hours - 70 hours

Teaching staff

David Collison - Unit coordinator

Michael Ingleson - Unit coordinator

▲ Up to the top