Why CHEM 100A is Underappreciated

May 10, 2023 | | 5 min read

CHEM 100A is a class notorious amongst the chemistry student community to be very stressful, with a seemingly never-ending workload of lab reports, excel sheet calculations, as well as the insane time crunch of trying to finish the labs within the allotted time you have. I remember when I first had to use Excel to finish an assignment; wow how stressful that was! I had no idea what to do! However, despite all of these challenges, I look back and am grateful for the experience, knowledge, and skills this class gave me.

For one, as a transfer student studying biochemistry, taking CHEM 100A as my first lab class at UCSD helped me to be much more comfortable in a lab setting at the university, especially in a post-pandemic academic setting. It prepared me for the other more time-consuming lab courses in my major like CHEM 109, where the lab sessions and reports are longer and contain more information. Additionally, the class refreshed my basic laboratory skills, such as pipetting and taking accurate measurements. 

Secondly, because Microsoft Excel is used so much in the course, I became much more comfortable using the software. Especially for students like me who barely knew anything about it and didn’t use it on a daily or even weekly basis, I am very glad to have learned a new transferable skill used in multiple industries. No matter what someone who has taken CHEM 100A decides to do in the future, whether that may be business, accounting, engineering, chemistry, or anything else, knowledge of Excel is a very valuable skill to have when looking for employment, as well as for any practical day-to-day operations, such as budgeting or organizing important information.1

Thirdly, the lab techniques students learn throughout the course are important skills for finding employment in any area of science. For instance, techniques you learn in the course, such as Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy and UV-Vis Spectroscopy, are widely used in many industries, such as in pharmaceuticals, mining, food and beverage, bacterial culturing, and in quality control.2-4 For example, understanding how UV-Vis spectroscopy works is important for being able to analyze the purity of an RNA or DNA sample that has been isolated from cells in a lab, since impurities in a DNA or RNA sample can affect the development of medicine and vaccines, the results of a paternity test, and the accuracy of genome sequencing just to name a few.4 Additionally, CHEM 100A delivers an added bonus for people who have to take future lab courses such as CHEM 109, which extensively uses spectrometric tests for the determination of DNA purity.

Chem 100A also brings to light other techniques that at first might not seem significant, but are also of use in the workforce. One particular example is the use of an ion-selective electrode to determine ion concentration, which is widely used in numerous industries such as food and agriculture. This is something I’ve experienced first-hand. Having knowledge of testing ion concentration by means of ion-selective electrodes not only made me a more competitive applicant for my internship position at an agricultural company, but also gave me introductory knowledge as to the type of work the company was doing. By having this prior knowledge about ISEs I was better able to understand the innovative ion sensors being developed and tested for agricultural purposes. My particular project at the internship was working on determining nitrate concentrations in soil to assess the amount of fertilizer that should be added to the soil in order to maintain crop health. Gaining knowledge of various analytical chemistry techniques such as ion-selective electrodes in CHEM 100A is something I never thought I would need again after taking the class, but after landing my internship position, I found that to be surprisingly (and pleasantly) untrue. In summary, to the students who need to take CHEM 100A for graduation, even though the class is challenging, it will be worth it, since you never know what kind of skills you can put into use in the future that might help you land possible internship or career opportunities. This is what happened to me, and it might happen to you too. 

  1. Herman, Lily. “Why Learn Excel? Here Are 4 Good Reasons.” GoSkills.com, GoSkills, 2 May 2017, https://www.goskills.com/Excel/Resources/Why-learn-excel. 
  2. 2022, Franklin NwugaMay 26. “Use and Applications of Flame Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy.” AZoM.com, 26 May 2022, https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=21704. 
  3. “UV/Visible Spectroscopy Market Growth Drivers & Opportunities.” MarketsandMarkets, https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/uv-visible-spectroscopy-market-243898303.html. 
  4. “UV-Vis Spectroscopy: Principle, Strengths and Limitations and Applications.” Analysis & Separations from Technology Networks, https://www.technologynetworks.com/analysis/articles/uv-vis-spectroscopy-principle-strengths-and-limitations-and-applications-349865.