Essential to 'learning' physical chemistry are problem-solving exercises that illustrate connections between theory and experimental observation and measurement. In some cases, these exercises require applications of theoretical concepts and mathematically formulated relationships and models to the analysis and interpretation of experimental data. In other cases, they require the use of theory and calculations to predict the properties and behavior of systems not yet subjected to experimental study, to predict the outcome of experiments being planned. Working problems in physical chemistry nearly always involves a combination of qualitative reasoning and quantitative calculations, and in many cases an essential part of the problem solving involves finding (or deriving) mathematical relationships appropriate for use in carrying out the calculations of interest. One of the characteristic features of physical chemistry is the extensive use of mathematics and mathematically formulated models to codify and relate in succinct, compact terms the findings obtained from multiple experimental observations and measurements, to express in explicit functional form the interdependencies of various physical and chemical properties (for static systems for systems undergoing physical or chemical changes), and in some cases to show connections between the microscopic and macroscopic properties of a system. One cannot 'learn' physical chemistry without developing some understanding of, and a facility for using, its mathematical models and formulations. Problem-solving exercises provide the best means for doing that.
Although sophisticated mathematical methods are used, the research is aimed at the interpretation and understanding of experimental data, often obtained at the research laboratories of the Yale Chemistry Department. Such is the case of the study of intensities of Franck-Condon transitions, studied in collaboration with the group of P.H. Vaccaro. This research is also part of a wider interdisciplinary research that covers areas both in Physics and Chemistry. Only that part of the research that is devoted to problems in Physical Chemistry is outlined here.
Title: Problems in Physical Chemistry
Simply having the mathematical or computer skills is not enough for a student to be successful in p-chem. Students must also be able to problem-solve. Problems in physical chemistry tend to be complex and idiosyncratic, unlike the "plug and chug" problems that often make up the bulk of the problems encountered in general chemistry courses. Many students appear at my office door complaining "I don¹t know how to start!" or "I didn¹t get the answer in the back, but I can¹t figure out what¹s wrong!" A major goal of this volume is to give students some techniques to deal with these difficulties, besides panic.