OCW Scholar

« Previous | Next »


Principles of Chemical Science provides an introduction to the chemistry of biological, inorganic, and organic molecules. The emphasis is on basic principles of atomic and molecular electronic structure, thermodynamics, acid-base and redox equilibria, chemical kinetics, and catalysis.


There are no formal prerequisites for the course. At MIT, 5.111 is usually taken during the freshman (first) year and assumes that students have had only one year of high school chemistry.

Site Structure


This OCW course site, designed for independent study, follows the sequence of topics covered in the MIT course 5.111 Principles of Chemical Science as taught on campus. The content is organized into five units:

  1. Unit I: The Atom
  2. Unit II: Chemical Bonding & Structure
  3. Unit III: Thermodynamics & Chemical Equilibrium
  4. Unit IV: Transition Metals & Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
  5. Unit V: Chemical Kinetics


Curriculum Resources

Each unit has been further divided into a sequence of lectures that cover an amount you might expect to complete in one sitting. Each lecture page has:

  • video recorded in the on-campus classroom
  • lecture notes
  • clicker (concept) questions
  • textbook reading assignment
  • related problems with solutions

The OCW site also includes links to Behind the Scenes at MIT, a collection of short videos that feature current and former MIT researchers explaining how a particular chemistry topic is essential to their research and to an inspiring real-world application.

MIT expects its students to spend about 150 hours on this course. More than half of that time is spent preparing for class and doing assignments. It's difficult to estimate how long it will take you to complete the course, but you can probably expect to spend an hour or more working through each individual session.

Aims and Objectives

The overall aims of the course are for students to develop a unified and intuitive view of how electronic structure controls the three-dimensional shape of molecules; the physical and chemical properties of molecules in gases, liquids and solids; and ultimately the assembly of macromolecules, as in polymers and DNA.

Instruction emphasizes the relationships between chemistry and other fundamental sciences (such as biology and physics) and the applications of chemistry to environmental science, atmospheric chemistry and electronic devices.

The learning objectives are for students to:

  • have a working knowledge of chemical principles that will allow them to take advanced chemistry classes
  • appreciate how chemistry is used to solve real-world problems
  • make informed decisions about their health, environmental and energy issues, and science policy
  • advance science and engineering through the application of chemical principles
  • employ chemistry in your research in a non-chemistry department laboratory


The following textbook was used when this course was taught on the MIT campus:

Buy at Amazon Atkins, Peter William, and Loretta Jones. Chemical Principles: The Quest for Insight. 5th ed. Macmillan, 2010. ISBN: 9781429239257.

Textbook references are also provided for those using the earlier, fourth edition:
Buy at Amazon ———. Chemical Principles: The Quest for Insight. 4th ed. W. H. Freeman & Company Limited, 2008. ISBN: 9780716799030.

Problem Sets and Exams

Students on the MIT campus complete nine problem sets. In this OCW course site, the problems are interspersed in the individual lecture sections. Solutions are provided.

There are four exams and several practice exams, all with solutions, found in a separate section near the end of this OCW course site.

Clicker Questions

Clickers (student response devices) are used in the on-campus classroom during lectures to:

  1. Give the instructors additional feedback on whether the class as a whole understands a given concept or when their explanations need to be expanded or clarified.
  2. Provide students feedback on how well they understand the material and how fast they are able to solve problems. For example, if students are able to solve the homework problems but run out of time on in-class clicker questions, it is a good indication that they will be pinched for time on the exam and may need to work through more practice problems to increase their speed.
  3. Reward students that consistently come to class and participate. This allows students on the borderline between two grades to be pushed into the higher grade category based on excellent effort. In addition, because attendance is taken automatically by clicker, the instructors can post lecture notes online without worrying that students are being tempted to skip class.
  4. Create an interactive lecture and promote team building within recitation sections. Clicker competitions between recitation groups motivate students to work together to learn the material. Winning clicker competitions does not affect students’ grades, but there are small prizes (usually snacks) for the winning recitation teams.

« Previous | Next »