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Unit information: Advanced Chemistry Project in 2021/22

Unit name Advanced Chemistry Project
Unit code CHEM30021
Credit points 60
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Davis
Open unit status Not open

CHEM20170 Intermediate Inorganic & Materials Chemistry

CHEM20180 Intermediate Organic & Biological Chemistry

CHEM20190 Intermediate Physical & Theoretical Chemistry

CHEM20480 Intermediate Practical & Analytical Chemistry (or CHEM20220 in place of CHEM20480)


Three out of four of the following units:

CHEM30019 Advanced Inorganic & Materials Chemistry

CHEM30011 Advanced Organic & Biological Chemistry

CHEM30006 Advanced Physical & Theoretical Chemistry

CHEM30018 Advanced Computational & Interdisciplinary Chemistry.

School/department School of Chemistry
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

Project work allows students to experience and learn from the challenge of performing an open-ended activity. Students not only become expert in a particular topic, but also develop a broad range of transferable key skills. By working with a member of academic staff on a current topic in chemistry or chemical education students will consolidate and extend their knowledge and understanding of chemistry. The project will also allow them to develop important transferable skills, becoming independent learners with excellent written and oral presentation skills, proficient in the use of IT and good at working both on their own and as part of a team. The format of the project may be flexible, but typically will consist of a literature investigation and/or a research project. Support for the project will be provided by a project supervisor and second assessor. The unit will be assessed through a problem-based learning project, a report and a combined poster and oral presentation.

Problem based learning aims to teach chemical concepts by starting with observations from real world contexts and relating them to the molecular and symbolic representations with which we typically describe chemical phenomena. The rationale for this approach is that it is more interesting and thus motivating for students, and it can use the students’ prior knowledge so they may build on their scientific literacy. Students have to simultaneously consider the chemical concepts as well as the contextual situation, and thus PBL requires them to operate at a higher level of thinking. A large number of problem based learning activities for chemists have been developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry and are free to use (and we will be using them).

Problem based learning uses the skills of problem-solving, team work and the ability to summarise and clearly communicate complex technical information which are highly valued by employers.

Students will work in teams on a contextual chemistry problem. Each team are asked to investigate and report on a number (ca 8) different areas relevant to the problem - these areas are set out as separate worksheets. There will be several formal facilitated workshops (and as many informal times as they wish) where they will coordinate the work and report back to each other.

The activity will be assessed through coursework - the final team report exercise should identify the multiple, interlocking failure factors hinted at or revealed in the worksheets. Other information may become available to the teams, via a number of routes, as the module progresses and they should take this new information into account in their report.

By performing an open-ended investigation, students will:

Become expert in an advanced topic in chemistry or chemical education, building upon their existing knowledge and understanding to learn about new concepts and applications

Develop key transferable organisational, communication and personal skills that will prepare them for possible careers in both the scientific and non-scientific sectors.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific learning outcomes

The unit will enable students to:

  • build on and apply their existing knowledge and understanding of chemistry through the study of a novel topic in chemistry or chemical education
  • explore new concepts and, in doing so, develop new knowledge and understanding of an advanced topic in either chemistry or chemical education
  • maintain a laboratory notebook or reflective diary as an accurate record of their work
  • where appropriate, gain experience of advanced practical techniques and equipment and/or computational methods

Generic learning outcomes

The unit will also help students to develop transferable skills in:

  • time management and other organisational skills
  • independent study, and the development of diligence, motivation and initiative
  • team working
  • research methods, including sourcing, reviewing, summarising and referencing existing literature
  • use of IT
  • poster and "oral" presentations

written work, including the presentation of introductory material, experimental details, results, discussion, conclusions and references in an appropriate format

Teaching Information

Students will work with a member of staff and their research group. Students will identify in advance several preferred project topics and supervisors. Academic performance will then be used to determine the final allocation to ensure an even distribution of students across academic staff. Students will be expected to work semi-independently under the direction of their project supervisor, using their initiative to develop the project. Students may also be expected to attend seminars and group meetings. Project work will be supported by regular formal and informal meetings with the project supervisor and a second assessor.

Assessment Information

Assessment Details

Please state the methods used for formative and summative assessment, including essay word length, length and type of exams, projects, etc. The relative contributions of the different summative assessments to the overall unit mark should also be included, e.g. 3-hour written exam (60%), 2000 word essay (40%).

Please link the assessment to the intended learning outcomes bearing in mind that it is expected that all intended learning outcomes are assessed.

Summative assessment:

Problem based learning: 25%

Project Report: 60%

Poster and "Oral" Presentation: 15%

Problem based learning is designed as a team exercise and an overall score will be given to each team. These will be weighted at 30% for the worksheet reports, and 70% for the final team report. Each team will be asked to suggest whether any members should be individually marked up or down one category, e.g., Team gets distinction, but 'free-loader' gets pass; Team gets pass, but outstanding contributor gets distinction. (Experience suggests that as soon as students are made aware that this procedure is in place, it prompts effort from everyone).

The project report will usually be between 40 and 50 pages in length. The report will normally be separated into a literature review and a section on the student's original research work. Although the subject of the two sections will usually be related, this need not necessarily be the case. Equally, it is recognised that there may also be occasions where it is more appropriate to produce a single integrated project report. Students will be assessed on their knowledge and understanding of the material presented.

The project supervisor will assess the laboratory component of the project. Second and third assessors will independently assess the project report, poster presentation and oral presentation through the application of detailed marking criteria, and will then come to an agreed overall mark.

Supplementary or resit assessment of this unit is only possible through engagement in the following academic year.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. CHEM30021).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.