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How much of the course do labs take up for Chemistry at Imperial College London

I'm considering an offer from ICL to study chemistry.

I've heard labs make up around 50 percent of the course. Is this true? If so, that is quite a lot. How often do you have them?

However, I'm quite interested in the theory as well. Does Imperial give you a good opportunity to understand the theoretical aspect? How does it compare to other universities like Edinburgh, UCL, or Kings?
1) Don’t go to to UCL for Chemistry
2) I imagine it varies, as you can pick laboratory modules as optionals but it’ll still be meaningful without them given you need x amount of hours in the lab
Learning at Imperial College London
Imperial College London
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Generally most chemistry degrees will have a fair bit of labwork. Note that "contact hours" does not translate into "proportion of the course". You're expected to spend around 30-40 hours a week on your studies on average in a full time degree, however of that often a relatively small amount will be timetabled contact hours, and a much larger proportion will be your independent study (which is part of the entire nature and point of studying at university). Things like labwork invariably will form part of the former rather than the latter though.

Also bear in mind the labs are inextricably part of the process of understanding the "theoretical" aspect - the entire point is that they illustrate in real life the topics you are lectured on, and allow you to evaluate that empirically (which is the entire point of science as a concept itself!). Divorcing experiment from theory and vice versa is setting up a false dichotomy. The two go hand in hand!
Reply 3
Original post by artful_lounger
Generally most chemistry degrees will have a fair bit of labwork. Note that "contact hours" does not translate into "proportion of the course". You're expected to spend around 30-40 hours a week on your studies on average in a full time degree, however of that often a relatively small amount will be timetabled contact hours, and a much larger proportion will be your independent study (which is part of the entire nature and point of studying at university). Things like labwork invariably will form part of the former rather than the latter though.
Also bear in mind the labs are inextricably part of the process of understanding the "theoretical" aspect - the entire point is that they illustrate in real life the topics you are lectured on, and allow you to evaluate that empirically (which is the entire point of science as a concept itself!). Divorcing experiment from theory and vice versa is setting up a false dichotomy. The two go hand in hand!

My main worry is that Imperial is too industry-focused so it wouldn’t give me a good grounding to pursue theoretical research.

Would this not be an issue at all?
Original post by Anonymous
My main worry is that Imperial is too industry-focused so it wouldn’t give me a good grounding to pursue theoretical research.

Would this not be an issue at all?


Imperial is a major research university, and labwork does not equate with industry. Chemistry research at major universities including Imperial, Oxbridge and similar will invariably involve a lot of experimental work, unless you do purely computational projects in physical chemistry areas. Theory is not the same as "academic" or "research" and experiment is not the same as "industry".

I've no doubt Imperial will prepare you very well for a career in academia in chemistry. Note also Imperial has an entire course in chemistry with molecular physics which is very oriented towards theoretical chemistry concerns if that is the area of chemistry you wanted to focus on (but since invariably you'll cover all major areas of chemistry in any chemistry degree including at Imperial, I wouldn't focus on a particular area or theoretical or experimental approaches when it comes to your prospective PhD as you have plenty of time over your undergrad to figure that out).
Reply 5
Original post by artful_lounger
Imperial is a major research university, and labwork does not equate with industry. Chemistry research at major universities including Imperial, Oxbridge and similar will invariably involve a lot of experimental work, unless you do purely computational projects in physical chemistry areas. Theory is not the same as "academic" or "research" and experiment is not the same as "industry".
I've no doubt Imperial will prepare you very well for a career in academia in chemistry. Note also Imperial has an entire course in chemistry with molecular physics which is very oriented towards theoretical chemistry concerns if that is the area of chemistry you wanted to focus on (but since invariably you'll cover all major areas of chemistry in any chemistry degree including at Imperial, I wouldn't focus on a particular area or theoretical or experimental approaches when it comes to your prospective PhD as you have plenty of time over your undergrad to figure that out).

Thanks. CwMP is exactly what I hope to do. Have you had any experience with it?
Original post by Anonymous #1
Thanks. CwMP is exactly what I hope to do. Have you had any experience with it?

No, although before I went in another direction I was very interested in physical and theoretical chemistry (and did a summer research project in a related area when I was doing engineering, albeit from a materials perspective) 🙂

The important thing to bear in mind is in pretty much any undergraduate chemistry degree you'll cover much the same core "theory" content, and have supporting labs for it. This should reasonable prepare you for a PhD project of interest in a specialism area you want to pursue. Of course at some universities you may have additional opportunities to get involved in research earlier than at other.

The main thing is just to go to a uni you're happy with the optional modules for and jump at the chance to do any research you can!
Reply 7
Original post by artful_lounger
No, although before I went in another direction I was very interested in physical and theoretical chemistry (and did a summer research project in a related area when I was doing engineering, albeit from a materials perspective) 🙂
The important thing to bear in mind is in pretty much any undergraduate chemistry degree you'll cover much the same core "theory" content, and have supporting labs for it. This should reasonable prepare you for a PhD project of interest in a specialism area you want to pursue. Of course at some universities you may have additional opportunities to get involved in research earlier than at other.
The main thing is just to go to a uni you're happy with the optional modules for and jump at the chance to do any research you can!
Thanks for your advice.

Right now, I'm not exactly sure what I want to at the graduate level. I like both chemistry and physics, but I might choose to go more into physics later.

How can I keep my options open? Do you think CwMP would set me up for another MSc or PhD in Physics?
Original post by Anonymous
Thanks for your advice.

Right now, I'm not exactly sure what I want to at the graduate level. I like both chemistry and physics, but I might choose to go more into physics later.

How can I keep my options open? Do you think CwMP would set me up for another MSc or PhD in Physics?

I think it might be hard to go into a physics PhD afterwards with that, although it'd probably be a very good basis for a PhD in physical chemistry. Bear in mind there's a fair amount of overlap between physical chemistry and certain areas of physics (i.e. quantum mechanics and statistical physics) just applied in somewhat different contexts.

If you like both equally and want to keep physics open as an option, maybe look into chemical physics courses - there are a handful of them around and it's a more even split between the two with an emphasis on the overlap (although the downside is you won't cover normally all the core areas of chemistry and you won't cover all the usual main areas of physics). That said also, bear in mind physics at degree level is a little different to A-level - it's much more mathematical using calculus fluently throughout for example.
Reply 9
Original post by artful_lounger
I think it might be hard to go into a physics PhD afterwards with that, although it'd probably be a very good basis for a PhD in physical chemistry. Bear in mind there's a fair amount of overlap between physical chemistry and certain areas of physics (i.e. quantum mechanics and statistical physics) just applied in somewhat different contexts.
If you like both equally and want to keep physics open as an option, maybe look into chemical physics courses - there are a handful of them around and it's a more even split between the two with an emphasis on the overlap (although the downside is you won't cover normally all the core areas of chemistry and you won't cover all the usual main areas of physics). That said also, bear in mind physics at degree level is a little different to A-level - it's much more mathematical using calculus fluently throughout for example.

Do you know if Imperial offers any chemical physics programs you're mentioning? I actually have an offer from the University of Toronto (I'm international) as well, which allows me to do a degree in chemical physics, or double major in chem and physics, but I'm less inclined to go there than Imperial.

I've found that Imperial offers a taught MSc Physics degree. Any chance I'd be eligible to take it after an MSci in Chemistry (with molecular physics)?
Original post by Anonymous
Do you know if Imperial offers any chemical physics programs you're mentioning? I actually have an offer from the University of Toronto (I'm international) as well, which allows me to do a degree in chemical physics, or double major in chem and physics, but I'm less inclined to go there than Imperial.
I've found that Imperial offers a taught MSc Physics degree. Any chance I'd be eligible to take it after an MSci in Chemistry (with molecular physics)?

The two main chemical physics programmes I am aware of were at UEA and Edinburgh, there were a couple of others but the numbers of dwindled in recent years. There are also various natural sciences courses that may allow you to combine chemistry and physics more equally - these are fairly common although not all allow you to combine all subjects in all possible manners. Imperial does not have either course to my knowledge however.

Regarding the MSc it's probably easiest to contact them and ask, however their requirements are a 1st in physics or electrical and/or electronic engineering or a related scientific discipline. So it's possible that it may be considered under "related scientific discipline" but realistically I am skeptical since I doubt you would cover much e.g. electromagnetism, relativity, classical mechanics etc in the chemistry with molecular physics course.

If you want to keep the option of either open then a double major at UToronto probably gives you much more scope there. Ultimately the chemistry with molecular physics course is a chemistry degree first and foremost. Unless chemistry is your primary interest (with a secondary interest in related physics topics specifically) it may not be appropriate to your interests.
Original post by JamieJacks
1) Don’t go to to UCL for Chemistry
2) I imagine it varies, as you can pick laboratory modules as optionals but it’ll still be meaningful without them given you need x amount of hours in the lab

Hi, came across your reply. Why someone should not go to UCL for chemistry? Would be great to know as still waiting for them to offer and it might the insurance choice.
Original post by Cat_lover987
Hi, came across your reply. Why someone should not go to UCL for chemistry? Would be great to know as still waiting for them to offer and it might the insurance choice.

Click on my profile and threads started by me. Read through them

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