First-Year Students

Your first year in Arts & Science is a time for exploration. A time to try new things and find your passions.

As a first-year student, you have access to a wealth of academic opportunities. Our larger introductory chemistry classes (CHM 135H, CHM 136H and CHM 151Y) offer a dynamic experience and are all supported with tutorials and labs geared to smaller groups. In addition, our First-Year Foundations seminar-style courses for first-year students can help with your transition to university by giving you the chance to make friends and connect with professors, while also filling a breadth requirement. Be sure to explore the wide range of academic experiences available to you!


First-Year Opportunities

With so many options available, you are encouraged to try new things and discover new interests. Just remember, you apply for your program(s) at the end of first year, so read below about the required first-year courses if you want to be considered for a program in the Department of Chemistry.

These small classes give students the chance to engage in discussions and develop strong written, oral and teamwork skills, while also building relationships with professors. First-Year Foundations Seminars (FYF Seminars) are also a way for you to explore a new field or try something novel, while also filling a breadth requirement.  These seminars are not required for, but may count towards, your Program of Study. Check with your college registrar for details, and read more about First-Year Foundation Seminars. The four FYF Seminars listed below will be hosted by the Department of Chemistry during the 2021/22 academic year:


  • CHM194H: Science and Human Values. There is a tension between creativity and the search for truth, which in science can be looking for patterns in nature. With examples drawn particularly from reports of scientific discoveries that have generated controversy, this seminar course will introduce the underlying principles and history of science, as well as how science and its boundaries are evolving, and how these influence human values.
  • CHM196H: The Quantum World and its Classical Limit. While quantum mechanics provides a reliable description of the behavior of atoms, molecules and photons, most people are uncomfortable with some of its predictions, such as "quantum entanglement" between distant particles. In this course key aspects of quantum mechanics and its more comfortable classical limit are explored, focusing first on its manifestations in nature and then on fundamental issues such as uncertainty, interference, entanglement, and decoherence. This course will appeal to students with enthusiasm for physics.
  • CHM197H: Environmental Chemistry in a Sustainable World. Rapid and widespread industrialization is changing the chemical nature of the planet. In order to have a sustainable future, chemicals released by humankind need to be managed and their effects on the environment and on humans need to be understood. Each year, this seminar course will address the fundamental science behind a specific topic in this field, such as the interactions of our energy choices and the environment, changes in water and air quality, or exposure to biologically-active synthetic chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or personal care products.
  • CHM198H: Biosensor Technology and Applications for the Non-Scientist. This breadth course introduces uses of and key ideas behind biosensor technology. Sensors will be familiar to all, playing key roles in our everyday lives, for example in touch screens or in automotive technology. Biosensor devices are fabricated from an electrical transducer which is intimately connected to a biochemical probe such as an enzyme or antibody. Such a device offers many applications: these range from the detection of biological markers in blood and serum to test for genetic and infectious disease, to the selective monitoring of biomolecules for public safety, or in biotechnology or other industrial processes.


Students wanting to pursue a program in the Department of Chemistry are required to take either CHM151Y (Chemistry: The Molecular Science) or CHM135H (Chemistry: Physical Principles) + CHM136H (Introductory Organic Chemistry I). For enrollment in all the specialist and major programs the strongly recommended first year chemistry course is CHM151Y.

However, students who take CHM135H + CHM136H are by no means excluded from Chemistry's programs!


  • CHM151Y (Chemistry: The Molecular Science): this full-year course is highly recommended for students who are likely to enroll in one of the six chemistry specialist programs, or who will include a substantial amount of chemistry in their degree (such as those planning to enroll in the chemistry major or environmental chemistry major program). The first section of the course is an intensive study of the principles of structure and reactions of organic molecules, as well as an introduction to the importance of organic molecules in biological processes. The next section introduces methods of structure determination, and the properties and uses of inorganic elements including novel materials and catalysts. Finally, the last section covers the physical principles that underlie molecular structure, reactivity and energy. 

    CHM151Y has a unique "Course Community" where the undergraduate experience in chemistry is greatly enhanced through a series of biweekly workshops, research seminars, departmental tours, career guidance and social activities.



  • CHM135H (Chemistry: Physical Principles): this half-year course is recommended for students in many biologically oriented life and health science programs that require a small amount of chemistry. After a brief review of reaction stoichiometries and other important fundamentals from high school chemistry, the course proceeds with a discussion about the structure of the atom and its relation to fundamental concepts in spectroscopy. The phases of matter - gases, liquids, solids and beyond - are then presented. The solution state is examined with an emphasis on properties of solutions including chemical equilibria in solution, particularly those of acids and bases. The course concludes with an examination of the principles of reaction thermodynamics, kinetics and electrochemistry, using systems of both chemical and biochemical interest.

    Note that as of September 2020, CHM135H is a pre-requisite course for CHM136H.



  • CHM136H (Introductory Organic Chemistry I): this course is recommended for students in many biologically oriented life and health science programs that require a small amount of chemistry. The course commences with a review of fundamental principles of covalent bonding to understand the structure and shape of organic molecules, where concepts of molecular conformation as well as the "handedness" of shape are introduced. The connection between the structure of organic molecules and their reactivity is then presented. This relationship is illustrated by examining the mechanisms by which reactions of alkenes, alkyl halides and alcohols take place. The role of acid/base chemistry in these transformations is presented throughout.

    Note that as of September 2020, students must have taken and passed CHM135H prior to enrolling in CHM136H.


FLCs (pronounced “flicks”) are groups of 25 students registered in the same courses, labs and tutorials who meet bi-weekly for academic, developmental and social co-curricular activities (not for course credit). Facilitated by senior students, with the guidance of faculty and staff advisors, FLCs provide students with the skills and resources to be successful, while helping them form friendships and maintain a healthy life balance. Every year around 850 students participate in FLCs, or 15% of all first-year undergraduate students in Arts & Science, and several of our Chemistry faculty act as advisors of life science FLC groups!

For more details about this initiative, visit:

Each year, Chemistry offers multiple research opportunity program projects as undergraduate courses (CHM299H & CHM299Y). These courses may be taken during summer at the end of first-year studies or during second-year. Eligible students have the chance to join a professor’s research project and earn credit towards their degree and program requirements. They learn research methods, get to know fellow students and share in the excitement and discovery of acquiring new knowledge. They develop relationships with faculty members who can act as mentors during their undergraduate years and assist them in applications to graduate schools or professional faculties.

Applications are due during March of first-year studies: more information is available at:

No matter which first-year chemistry course(s) you are enrolled in, the course instructors will announce student hours during which they can be consulted about problems with class material. Tutors and laboratory demonstrators are also very useful sources of extra help. In addition, the departmental Chemistry Learning Centre (CLC) provides students with invaluable opportunities for further study or to review background material. The facility is open to undergraduates  at scheduled times and upper-year tutors are available through a partnership with Victoria College ( Details regarding the CLC are announced in class at the beginning of each semester. Please do reach out for help as often as you feel you need it!

Have questions? Please contact your College Registrar’s Office for general advising and support, and Nicole Treston, our Chemistry Undergraduate Counselor ( with any specific questions about our courses and/or programs.