We are all made of stardust and other things I learned in PChem

Vanessa Pangbourne Chemical, Vanessa, Viterbi Class

Hi everyone! This week we have all been writing about classes. As midterms have started, classes have picked up and the semester is in full force, more and more of my time has been dedicated to my classes. With that, I wanted to write about my favorite class I have taken at USC: CHEM 430 (Physical Chemistry).

Chem 430 has by far been the most impactful class I’ve taken at USC. Not only was it a part of my major coursework, it has easily been the class I have learned the most in and enjoyed every lecture (even on Friday mornings when I would want to go to brunch).

Physical Chemistry (PChem for short) is basically is the study of Thermodynamics. PChem was the class where I learned how important it is to have a professor that is enthusiastic about the subject and understands how his students learn. Dr. Dawalty (or Jahan) would explain things as many times as you needed him to, would find new examples, used videos and in class mini experiments, just so that things finally clicked. He even said he had struggled with Thermodynamics and understood that many of the concepts were difficult to grasp. This translated in his lectures because he always took as much time as necessary to answer questions and he invited participation. He also was always very excited to explain every concept and never failed to amaze us. My favorite quote all semester was after Jahan explained the energy it takes to form atoms in space he exclaimed, “We are all made of stardust!” I will also never forget Boltzmann’s constant which in PChem (and life) is the most important.

In the middle of midterms it sometimes felt like school is a lot of going through the motions, doing homework assignments and lab reports, taking midterms and finals and staying up late trying to fit it all in. PChem reminded me that what I am learning in these classes is fascinating and explains the very make-up of the universe! As an engineer, I get to take those concepts and apply them to pretty much any industry to solve global problems. If that isn’t a little mind blowing… you should take Jahan’s class, he is probably way more convincing.

Also did you know that the gas constant, R, (8.314) comes from multiplying Avogadro’s number with Boltzmann’s constant?! To this day, it is wild to think that I went through maybe 6 years of chemistry classes without ever knowing that.

Anyways, that’s all from me! See you next time

*I didn’t make the thermo meme thats from the Chem E meme page on facebook check it out for some quality memes about fugacity and matlab

About the Author

Vanessa is a junior studying Chemical Engineering. Lover of eggs benedict, traveling and facetiming her dog. Click above to find out more.


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