Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Labs: Open hours for the entire semester

Course Overview

Welcome to the final and culminating experience in your formal chemistry laboratory instruction at MIT. This subject, 5.33, is intended to synthesize a number of concepts you have encountered in lecture subjects, introduce you to techniques and procedures not encountered in earlier laboratory subjects, and in addition stimulate you to think about the following ideas:

  • Spectroscopy is more than group frequencies and chemical shifts. You will analyze a spectrum at high resolution to obtain structural information about a molecule, use intensity data to determine relative populations of species, relate line widths to lifetimes, perform ultrafast spectroscopic measurements in the time domain, and find out how optical properties of simple molecules are changing the world in which you live.
  • Quantum mechanics is good for something. You will use computational chemistry to predict or verify quantities that you measure in the laboratory.
  • Laboratory safety and proper waste disposal are necessary but not sufficient. In your laboratory work, you should always strive to reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, synthesis, use, and disposal of chemical substances.


There are four experiments in 5.33. Completion of all experiments is required.

  • Molecular spectroscopy of acetylene and methane
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy and ESR spectroscopy
  • Time-resolved electronic spectroscopy
  • Nitrogen scission by Molybdenum (III) Xylidene Complex

Laboratory Partners

Students will carry out all experiments with two laboratory partners. The importance of having lab partners with whom you can work compatibly and communicate conveniently cannot be overemphasized.

Working Hours

On average you should expect to spend the equivalent of three full afternoons a week in the lab. In some experiments more than this amount of time will be needed, and less in others. In some experiments, it may be possible for parts of the analysis, calculations, and discussion to be done outside of the lab. Reading about the experiments in advance is absolutely essential in 5.33.


Your grade in 5.33 will depend on the sum of scores for each of the four experiments. The grade for each experiment will be determined by several factors including the report, in-lab assignments and an experimental technique grade. There is no predetermined percentage of letter grades to be awarded.

The breakdown is as follows:

1 IR spectroscopy: written report 30 points
2 NMR and ESR: oral report 30 points
3 Time-resolved spectroscopy: written report 40 points
4 Nitrogen scission: Microsoft® PowerPoint® presentation 40 points
  Total 130 points

Teaching assistants will grade the individual experiments according to the following principles. The number of points given will primarily reflect the understanding of the experiment (in theory and practice), the analysis and interpretation of the data, and safe laboratory practice. The data quality, presentation, and the experimental skill of the student will also be considered, although to a lesser extent.

The manner in which these guidelines are implemented will vary somewhat with the type of report. The grade is partially subjective since the TAs must weigh the quality of the laboratory technique (including note taking) and the use of proper safety precautions in lab.


Although they are demanding of laboratory skills and do introduce a number of new experimental techniques, the experiments in 5.33 are more oriented toward fostering a synthesis of your understanding of the concepts and theory being a phenomenon than was the case in 5.32 or 5.311. In other words, you cannot come into the lab without having read the experiment. Moreover, oral presentations will be expected to show a real grasp of the concepts underlying the lab work.

The TAs assigned to each experiment will have worked on the experiment before the start of the term. They will have been chosen because their area of graduate work corresponds roughly to the area of chemistry related to the experiment. You are encouraged to ask lots of questions while you are working on the experiment. This will be most effective if you have done your homework and know useful questions to ask.