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Unit outline_

CHEM3117: Molecular Spectroscopy and Quantum Theory

Semester 2, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This course will cover the fundamentals of molecular spectroscopy as a modern research tool and as a theoretical basis with which to understand everyday phenomena. This course is aimed at the student wishing a rigorous understanding of the fabric of nature -- electronic structure -- and the interaction between light and matter. The course teaches the quantum theory needed to understand spectroscopic phenomena (such as the absorption of light) at the empirical and deeper levels. A student completing this course will take with him/her an understanding of spectroscopy as both a phenomenon and a research tool. The course teaches application and theory, with descriptions of applied spectroscopic techniques. Alongside the coverage of modern spectroscopy, the course provides an accessible treatment of the science behind vision, flames, solar cells and photochemical smog.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Chemistry Academic Operations
Credit points 6
[(CHEM2401 or CHEM2911 or CHEM2915) AND (CHEM2402 or CHEM2912 or CHEM2916)] OR (CHEM2521 or CHEM2921 or CHEM2991)
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Girish Lakhwani,
Lecturer(s) Ronald Clarke,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Record+) Type B final exam Examination
Canvas examination made up of short answer questions.
36% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO9
Assignment hurdle task Investigative lab report and presentation
Lab report submitted on Canvas and Presentation done online.
40% Multiple weeks See canvas for details
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9
Assignment Written assignment 1
See canvas for details
6% Week 05 See canvas for details
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO8 LO9
Assignment Written assignment 2
See canvas for details
18% Week 09 See canvas for details
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO5 LO8 LO9
hurdle task = hurdle task ?
Type B final exam = Type B final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Theory: The theory course represents 60% of the unit mark. You must pass the theory component to pass the unit. Theory assessment comprise of final examination and written assignments. Final examination covers the whole of the lecture course and is made up of short answer questions. Past exam papers are available on the Canvas site for this unit. 
  • Laboratory: The laboratory course represents 40% of the unit mark. It is assessed through a variety of in-class and online activities. You must pass the laboratory component to pass the unit. In addition, you must attend 90% of allocated experimental sessions to pass the laboratory course.


NOTE: Due to the current circumstances, we are offering students with a reduced number of lab exercises.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Multiple weeks Symmetry and its treatment in wavefunctions, use of group tables Lecture (7 hr) LO1 LO8 LO9
Computational chemistry Lecture (8 hr) LO2 LO8 LO9
Molecular spectroscopy Lecture (9 hr) LO3 LO8 LO9
Lab exercises Practical (40 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9

Attendance and class requirements

Attendance: All students are expected to attend all lectures, practical classes and tutorials. A variety of notes, handouts, data sheets, and information provided throughout the Unit of Study are intended to supplement the lectures not to substitute for them. Absences from any scheduled practical sessions and tutorials must be explained and supported by appropriate documentation. Even if special consideration has been granted, it is the student's responsibility to know and understand the material covered in the missed sessions. Please note that the Faculty of Science has a minimum 80% attendance requirement for a student to pass any unit of study (see Faculty of Science Resolutions at

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.

  • Engel and Reid, Physical Chemistry, 2nd Ed. In particular, Chapters 27 (Molecular Symmetry), 26 (Computational Chemistry), 19 (Vibrational and Rotational Spectroscopy) and 25 (Electronic Spectroscopy).

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. understand to role of symmetry in chemistry and how to use group tables
  • LO2. compute molecular structure, molecular orbitals, energy levels and spectra
  • LO3. understand optical spectra in terms of symmetry and connect real spectra with the computations they have performed
  • LO4. perform safe laboratory manipulations and handle glassware
  • LO5. find and analyse information and judge its reliability and significance
  • LO6. communicate scientific information appropriately both orally and through written work
  • LO7. engage in team and group work for scientific investigations and for the process of learning
  • LO8. demonstrate a sense of responsibility and independence as a learner and as a scientist
  • LO9. demonstrate basic skills in computing, numeracy and data handling.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.