CHEM 120 : Chemistry of the Material World


2024 Semester One (1243) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

The chemistry of the elements and their compounds is explored. The relationship between molecular structure and reactivity, the role of energy, concepts of bond formation and chemical equilibrium are discussed. Issues such as sustainability, energy and fuels, and the creation of new materials are also discussed. It is recommended that students with a limited background in chemistry take CHEM 150 prior to CHEM 120.

Course Overview

Why take CHEM120:
Chemistry is considered a central science because it connects physical sciences with life sciences. CHEM120 focuses on the connection between chemistry and physical sciences. CHEM120 explores how chemistry helps create the world around us. The course discusses alternative energy sources, batteries, the carbon cycle, and more. In the laboratory, we explore organic light-emitting diodes, electrolysis, water quality, and so on.
CHEM120 also introduces students to scientific thought processes. This ranges from big-picture thoughts (such as how chemists came up with the current scientific model of an atom) to skills-based thought processes (such as using thermodynamic tools to predict whether or not a reaction will take place).
Who CHEM120 is designed for:
This course aims to prepare students to confidently engage with chemists in their academic journeys and in their future careers. This course is good preparation for students in biological sciences, biotechnology, and food science. This course is essential for students in chemistry, green chemical sciences, and medicinal chemistry.
Where CHEM120 may lead to:
CHEM120 enables students to reflect on which areas of chemistry they find interesting. The topics covered in CHEM120 are presented more in-depth in Stage 2 courses in the School of Chemical Sciences. CHEM120 is a prerequisite for CHEM251 Structure and Spectroscopy, CHEM252 Properties and Analysis of Matter, and CHEM254 Modelling Chemical Processes. CHEM120 is an optional prerequisite for CHEM260 Introduction to Green Chemistry.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Predict the extent of physical or chemical processes at given temperatures and pressures using energetic principles. (Capability 2, 3 and 4)
  2. Critically discuss models of atoms and bonding theories and their limitations. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  3. Identify and describe the chemical reactivity and physical properties of inorganic compounds using scientific vocabulary and chemical equations (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  4. Collect and analyse experimental datasets and evaluate the dataset's validity. (Capability 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)
  5. Communicate experimental results in technical report writing. (Capability 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Test 20% Individual Test
Final Exam 40% Individual Examination
Checkpoint Quizzes 10% Individual Test
Practical 20% Group & Individual Coursework
Assignments 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Final Exam
Checkpoint Quizzes

A student must pass both the practical component and the other theory component to gain an overall pass. The practical component is composed of laboratory experiments and assignments. The theory component is composed of quizzes, term tests, and final exams. 

Regular, demonstrated engagement in the course will allow students to qualify for plussage; details on ways to demonstrate engagement are available on Canas. Plussage allows students to reweigh the test/exam contribution of their final grade from 20:40 to 0:60 if their exam mark is higher than their mid-term test mark.


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 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

  1. Phases
  2. Thermodynamics
  3. Chemical equilibria
  4. Atomic structure
  5. Chemical bonding
  6. Reactivity
  7. Transition metals
  8. Electrochemistry

Special Requirements

Attendance at laboratories is a compulsory part of this course. Students who miss more than two labs (without a formal excusal) or three labs (with formal excusals) will not be eligible to pass the course. Wearing a laboratory coat, covered footwear, and suitable eye protection (e.g. safety glasses) is compulsory at all times when present in the laboratory. If a student does not wear adequate eye protection, appropriate footwear, or a laboratory coat at all times, the student will be asked to leave the laboratory and will receive a fail for that laboratory.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, on Even Weeks, you should complete the following:

  • 3 hours of lecture
  • 1 hour of tutorial
  • 0.75 hours for quizzes
  • 1.25 hours of reading and thinking about the content
  • 1 hour for laboratory preparation (reading lab intro and reviewing relevant coursework)
  • 3 hours for experiments

For this course on Odd Weeks, you should complete the following:

  • 3 hours of lecture
  • 1 hour of tutorial
  • 0.75 hour for quizzes
  • 5.25 hours of reading and thinking about the content

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including labs and tutorials to complete and receive credit for components of the course.

Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials and labs will not be available as recordings.

The course will not include live online events.

Attendance on campus is required for the test and 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.

The CHEM120 course folder is required for all students and can be purchased from the University bookstore (UBIQ). This contains the shell of the lecture notes as well as the laboratory manual. A PDF copy is available for students who use a tablet with annotation capabilities. Students need to bring a copy of the course folder to lectures that they can annotate both with drawings and writing.
The CHEM120 lab manual is required for all students and can be purchased from the University bookstore (UBIQ). All students must have a hard copy of the lab manual as you are not permitted to bring tablets or computers into the laboratory. Printable versions are also made available on Canvas.
The recommended textbook for the course is Silberberg & Amateis, Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter and Change, 9th Ed. Previous editions are also suitable.

Health & Safety

Wearing a laboratory coat, covered footwear, and suitable eye protection (e.g. safety glasses) is compulsory at all times when present in the laboratory. Students are expected to bring these to each laboratory session. If a student does not wear adequate eye protection, appropriate footwear, or a laboratory coat at all times, the student will be asked to leave the laboratory and will receive a fail for that laboratory.

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.

Students in the past suggested that the Section 3 materials be reorganised to make the overarching themes and concepts more apparent. Students enjoyed the practical component, spatial models, and demonstrations and encouraged even more concepts to be explored in this way. Therefore, our lecturing team will re-structure Section 3 handouts and corresponding lecture slides and our teaching teams will continue to build our array of experiments, spatial models, and demonstrations in the course. 

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 for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, 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 31/10/2023 10:51 a.m.