jeudi 29 septembre 2022

Taking a course: what is it about?

As we are leaving an excellent physical chemistry course, given by a colleague in the framework of a master's degree, I notice that our colleague has pronounced technical words, in particular names of compounds but also terms that describe physics notions, and that I am almost certain that many students present do not understand them "perfectly".

I will explain this "perfectly" later, but here I insist that what I say is not a criticism, but only a factual observation.

In the heat of the presentation, our young friends did not interrupt the colleague incessantly, so that it all slipped away: one could say that "the course ended" with the end of the presentation... but I want to say here, on the contrary, that no, the course did not end as long as our friends did not go deeper into it.

For example, there was talk of "fluorinated group": do our friends know PRECISELY what it is? It was about sucrose esters: what are they? how are they obtained? what are their chemical and physical properties? There was talk about entropy of mixing: do our friends know what it is, how it is defined, how it is calculated?

In reality, following a course is not only listening to the speaker, but, above all, making a list of all the objects that we must work on afterwards in order to better understand them.

For example, when it comes to compounds, you will have to find the chemical formula, but not stop at an image. It will also be necessary to locate donor and acceptor groups, to use software to see the shape of electrical clouds, to detect dipoles, to accept, to look for orbitals, to see dipoles, and so on. For physics notions, too, there is a lot of work to be done and, for example, for the mixing entropy, it will be necessary to dive again into the definition and its handling.

 As a whole, we need a lot of time, personal work, in order to get the point of the course. And I estimate between one hour an many days (or weeks, months, years) the time needed to make the second part of the course.

Only when EVERYTHING, I mean everything, that has been heard is explained will the course be over. Not before.

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