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Getting Help
CHEM 1810 (Lab)UVA Home

Chemical Principles Laboratory (CHEM 181L)

Getting Help

The rigor and pace of CHEM 1811 is possibly unlike anything you've experienced before. The content you''ll encounter is challenging, the skills you'll develop are advanced, and to be successful you'll have to work hard every day...and possibly seek out extra help. We want you to succeed and so we offer many opportunities for you to ask questions, grapple with ideas, and practice newly developing skills. We encourage you to take advantage of the many opportunities available to you as you work to meet the course learning objectives.
Some of the resources available to you are presented below in FAQ form. Answers to many other frequently asked questions about the course are also included. If you do not find the help you need or a sufficient answer to your question, feel free to send email.

What every CHEM 1811 student should know:

Other things worth knowing:

What Every CHEM 1811 Student Should Know

What resources are available to help me learn the material in CHEM 1811?

  • Office Hours: Office hours are a great way to get all your questions answered, no matter how simple or complex. A short meeting with your TA or instructor can save you a lot of time and frustration. In addition, office hours offer you an excellent opportunity to get to know your instructors personally, which can have a significant, long-term impact on your entire academic career, e.g. recommendation letters. Click here to see a list of Fall 2012 office hours.
  • Lab Review/Help Session: Whether you have questions about the background information on the lab experiement or the collection and analysis of your data, this semi-weekly review session is an excellent opportunity to get help before you write the report. This is not a structured review so plan to come with specific questions. Offered Fall 2012 in an ad hoc fashion on Sunday afternoons from 3:00-4:00PM in CHM 303.

  • Writing Tutorial/Workshop: Need additional help writing up your results? This structured writing workshop will give you practical tips and practice writing the different pieces of your research reports. A working draft of your write-up is required in order to attend. Offered Fall 2012 in an ad hoc fashion on Sunday afternoons from 4:00-5:00PM in CHM 303.
  • Other Resources: There are a number of resource on the website that are designed to help you succeed. Be sure to check out the research report rubric, research report guidelines, past finals, Help with Writing videos (coming soon!), and all the varied background information found in the wekly schedule.

What is the best way to prepare for this class?
There is no right way to prepare of CHEM 1811, but the strategy proposed below will help you spread out the work and promote effective learning. (N.B. The shaded boxes are just a few opportunities for help along the way.)

Study Guide

There is a lot of background material for the labs on the website. Should I read it all, especially since some of it is hard to understand?
The more you read prior to lab, the better off you'll be. It's not expected that you'll understand everything, but you'll be surprised if you take a little time and think through the material. While you're doing the lab, keep that information in the back of your mind, asking questions like, "How does what I'm doing in lab relate to the main ideas of the reading material?" When you get to the point you're ready to write the Research Report, re-read the material in more depth, again asking questions like, "How will this information help me understand the results of my lab experiments?" If at that point you still don't understand the main arguments of some reading assignment, please ask.

What is the best way to study for the lab final?
The final is not meant to test whether or not you've learned some arbitrary fact. Instead it is meant to assess whether you're able to solve an authentic chemistry problem utilizing the information and skills you've learned throughout the course of the semester. It gives you one last opportunity to show your instructors and yourself the ways in which you've begun to think like a scientist. If you've been working toward this goal all along, rather than memorizing information, then you're already prepared. Simply look over the lab experiments and your Research Reports. Understand the basic concepts explored as well as how you investigated those concepts, i.e. what "tools" did you use? Attempt solving the problems on past finals, first without looking at the solution and then compare the solution to your answer. Attend the review session and ask questions. You're set!

I really want to do well in this course. How do I earn an A?
If you're committed to the course and work hard to learn the material, an A in CHEM 1811 is possible. However, you will find out, if you haven't already, that learning is hard work and often frustrating. You'll need to dedicate yourself to struggling through some difficult concepts and new ways of thinking. If you do this, and your instructors keep up their end of the bargain — to create an interesting, engaging and challenging learning environment — then the work you put in will pay off and you will get your A. But don't take our word for it, read what past students have said about what it takes to get an A in CHEM 1811.

Course Materials

Why do we not have a lab text book?
There is no text book available which covers all the topics discussed in CHEM 1811. But, the course website serves as a "virtual" text book for the lab and the course packet contains handouts you'll need.

I see that the Course Packet is required; is the information also available online?
No. The Course packet is less than $10, well worth the price once you take into consideration the costs associated with printing and hole-punching the pages yourself and the time it will take you.

Do I have to buy Spartan?
Spartan, the software program used for roughly half of the labs, is owned by the Chemistry Department. You do not have to buy the program, but you may find it useful/convenient to have it installed on your personal computer. In this case, you will need to buy a copy directly from the company.


When I attempt to view some of the materials in the Schedule, I keep getting an "Authorization Required" error. What am I doing wrong?
Be sure you are using the course assigned username and password, not your UVa ID/password. You can find the correct username and password on the General Information page of your Course Packet.

Lab Lecture/Laboratory

The laboratory section I want to enroll in is full. What can I do?
The enrollment for each laboratory period is capped in order to keep the number of students in each section equivalent. Therefore, it is possible that the section you're interested in (or even all the sections) will appear full. Do not panic! Arrangements will be made during the first lab lecture to accommodate all students not enrolled in lab. Students with course conflicts will have first priority. Keep in mind that all lab sections will be capped at 25 students.

Is there a better day of the week to have lab?
In short, no. All the lab sections cover the same material, meet for the same length of time, and have the same assignments. You will have the same amount of time to finish each assignment regardless of section, typically one week. With that said, there are two (very slight) advantages of having your lab later in the week: 1) the little quirks of each lab seem to get worked out by the end of the week and 2)
you will likely have covered more material in CHEM 1810 which initially may help you understand the lab better.

I can't attend lab lecture because I'm required to take another course which meets at the same time. Can I miss lecture but still attend the weekly lab sections?
Much of the course depends on the lab lecture; therefore, it is necessary (and required) to attend the lab lecture in order to be successful in the class.

What happens if I have to miss lab lecture for some reason?
Attendance during lecture is required. If you have a conflict, arrange to have a fellow classmate turn in any assignments which are due and get any announcements, notes, etc. for that day's lecture.

What happens if I have to miss lab for some reason?
Attendance during lab is required. If you have a conflict, notify the instructor ahead of time and arrange to attend one of the other sections. You will not be allowed into lab if you fail to notify your instructor in advance. Under certain circumstances, allowances to make up labs at other times may be made.

Why don't we spend more time in lab lecture discussing how to do the weekly labs?
The lab lecture is designed to cover some of the "big picture" topics related to scientific inquiry, such as scientific inquiry and scientific writing. To help you get acquainted with the lab material, you are provided a number of resources on the course website, and details about the labs are introduced and discussed in your laboratory section by your TA. Additional background information and help with analyzing results can be obtained in the weekly review sessions and/or office hours.

I like doing laboratory experiments/computational experiments, why can't we do more of them?
CHEM 1810 is designed in such a way that many traditional laboratory experiments are not possible. Therefore, computational chemistry is an invaluable component of the lab experience. On the other hand, it is important to be exposed to a "real" laboratory environment. Consequently, a 50-50 combination of the two types of experiments is the best compromise.


This is a chemistry laboratory, why is there so much writing?
Writing is an integral part of science, and a critical tool for doing good science. It is a skill which must be learned and then practiced to get better.

Can CHEM 1811 count as my 2nd Writing Requiremment?
Unfortunately, department policy does not allow CHEM 1811 to count as your 2nd Writing Requirement.


My TA grades assignments harder than the other TAs. How does this affect my final grade?
Every attempt is made to grade student work consistently across different sections. A number of things aid this endeavor, including:
• TAs and instructor attend a writing workshop prior to grading the first Research
• TAs are provided a detailed grading rubric
• TAs and instructor discuss "things to look for" prior to grading each assignment
• some assignments are randomly redistributed between TAs

If significant differences exist in grades across sections at the semester's end, the grades will be adjusted accordingly. Note: This has never been necessary!

What can I do if I think I earned a higher grade on an assignment than the instructor/TA awarded?
First, look closely at the instructor's comments. Then compare your work with the comments and the grading rubric. Can you understand why you received the grade you did? Next, make an appointment outside of class with the grader to discuss the work and its grading. Finally, if the grade is accurate, make sure you learn what you need to do to improve on future assignments. Note: There is some leeway in grading each assignment and the final grade is at the discretion of the the grader.

Will the final grades be curved?
No. The grading scale for CHEM 1811 is a fixed scale. The fixed scale allows you to know exactly where you are at all times. This method of grading also allows students to focus on earning the highest grade they can rather than just earning a higher grade than everyone else. As such, it affords every student the opportunity to earn an A in the course not just the few with the highest grades.

Individual Assignments

Can I make up Participation Opportunities I miss?
No...but you can use the Scavenger Hunt to make-up for missing or low scores.


What should I do if I'm absent for an extended period of time because of health problems/family matters/et cetera?
First, you should contact your Association Dean (AD) and make him/her aware of the problem. The AD can generally offer advice on what to do or point you to the various support services available on campus. Next, arrange a meeting with the instructor outside of class to discuss options for making up any missed work. Be sure to keep the instructor informed of your in-class and out-of-class situation until you are fully caught up. (Note: You do not need to provide the instructor with the private details of your situation. He/she can simply confirm the situation with your AD.)

© 2004-2013 Michael Palmer