CHEM 100/100G : Molecules that Changed the World


2023 Summer School (1230) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

The impact of chemistry on the modern world will be explored by focusing on the stories of specific molecules, including penicillin, DDT and nylon. Their discovery, the underlying chemical principles that explain their behaviour, their impact on our lives including social and scientific issues that arise from their use, and their likely impact on the future will be investigated. No formal prerequisite, but the course assumes a science background at Year 11 or higher.

Course Overview

CHEM 100/100G is a general education course offered during the summertime that examines how particular molecules or chemical discoveries have had a dramatic impact on society.  This course has no formal prerequisites and restrictions, but the course assumes a science background at Year 11 or higher. Note that this course is also not intended as background for other chemistry courses. 
The course involves 12~15 two-hour lectures, covering four or five different topics. For the 2023 Summer School,  four topics will be offered including gold,  penicillin, alcohol, and Nylon.  Each lecturer will provide you with notes covering their topic, including details of learning outcomes. Note that the course requires the completion of assignments for all four topics.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Give examples of important chemicals that have affected modern society and are integral to modern civilisation and explain their importance (Capability 6)
  2. Explain the economical, social and historical context of selected molecules. (Capability 2 and 4)
  3. Use appropriate scientific language to discuss chemical phenomena . (Capability 1 and 4)
  4. Demonstrate a broad understanding of medicinal chemistry and natural product chemistry, including the role they play in drug discovery both in a contemporary and historical context. (Capability 1 and 6)
  5. Demonstrate a broad understanding of materials chemistry and the social implications of developments in this area. (Capability 1 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments (4) 40% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 60% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Assignments (4)
Final Exam


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of chemical sciences aims to provide a welcoming learning environment for and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacific students. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection) and hope you find a home here at the School. Students who have identified as Māori and/or Pacific will receive an invitation to our online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved.

Tuākana Chemistry runs a range of activities for students enrolled in this class. This includes weekly workshops, social activities, and opportunities to engage with senior students and researchers within the School of Chemical Sciences. Tuākana-eligible students will be added automatically to the Tuākana Chemistry program when they enroll in this course. For more information, please see the Tuākana program website or email

Key Topics

In 2022 the four topics explored will be as follows.
Gold: you will discuss the unique physical and chemical properties of gold, how these have influenced historical events, and their present consequences. You will also see how the special properties of gold underlie their applications in a range of modern and historic uses and describe the features of some modern uses of gold. 
Nylon: you will be introduced to key terminology relevant to polymer-based materials and discuss the properties of plastics. You will explore the historical context of Nylon development, and the social implications of both Nylon specifically, and plastics more broadly.
Alcohol: you will be introduced to the key chemistry terminology relating to alcohol molecules. You will discuss the effect of alcohol on the human body, including short-term effects (e.g. which receptors are involved) and long-term effects (e.g. addiction).
Penicillin: you will develop an understanding of the scientific background relevant to the mechanism of action of penicillin including definitions of key terms. You will see how this fits into the processes of drug discovery and natural product chemistry more broadly.

Special Requirements

No Special Requirement

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15-point course but is offered in Summer school.  There will be 4 lectures per week, each lecture is 2 hrs long.  Students are typically expected to spend 20 hours per week involved in each 15-point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect  30 hours of lectures,  10 hours of reading and study of the content, and 12 hours of work on assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at the scheduled lecture time. 
Lectures will be available as recordings. 
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Recommended reading:
Napoleon's buttons : 17 molecules that changed history by Penny Le Couteur
PUBLISHER :  New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin 2004.
ISBN: 1585423319
ISBN: 9781585423316

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

The delivery of the course that will be improved based on feedback from students in previous year.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2022 09:28 a.m.