Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 5.111 Principles of Chemical Science as it was taught by Professor Catherine Drennan, with assistance from Course Coordinator, Allena Mistral Goren, in Fall 2014.

This course 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.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Gain a working knowledge of chemical principles that will allow one to take advanced chemistry classes
  • Appreciate how chemistry is used to solve real-world problems
  • Make informed decisions about one’s health, environmental and energy issues, and science policy
  • Advance science and engineering through the application of chemical principles
  • Employ chemistry in one’s research in a non-chemistry department laboratory

Instructor Interview

In the following videos, Professor Catherine Drennan describes various aspects of how she teaches 5.111 Principles of Chemical Science.

Curriculum Information


This course has no formal prerequisites. At MIT, 5.111 is usually taken during the freshman (first) year and instructors assume that students have had only one year of high school chemistry.

Requirements Satisfied



Every fall and spring semester


The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 54% Four one-hour exams
  • 27% One three-hour final exam
  • 14% Problem sets
  • 5% Participation via clickers & pre-lecture questions

Student Information


325 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly freshman

Breakdown by Major

Most students have not yet finalized their majors.

Typical Student Background

Not all students who enroll in 5.111 Principles of Chemical Science come to the course already enthusiastic about chemistry. The course offers them an opportunity to see how chemistry is a modern subject shaping many fields and how it can offer tools useful for solving real-world problems. Learn more about how Professor Drennan conceptualizes 5.111 as a course in which students can develop a passion for chemistry.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

  • Met 3 times per week for 1 hour per session; 39 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • Class sessions included lectures, demonstrations, and clicker questions.
  • During lectures, students completed blanks in detailed handouts provided by the instructor.


  • Met 2 times per week for 1 hour per session; 26 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • Recitations included problem solving, review of concepts, and opportunities to ask questions about course material.

Out of Class

Students completed problem sets and prepared for exams outside of class. They also participated in pizza forums, which were opportunities to get to know the professor in small group settings.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

theaters Lecture Videos
notes Lecture Notes
assignment_turned_in Problem Sets with Solutions
grading Exams with Solutions
theaters Other Video
co_present Instructor Insights