Essay writing techniques

This pre-term course aims at preparing the new Harvey students for their future academic writing tasks. The course focuses on the writing of short essays on medical and scientific topics as such essays will be part of the examination format of the Harvey Medicine Course.
It will teach basic writing techniques covering topics such as format, style, grammar, syntax and referencing. In addition, the course will discuss the use of reference managers, information databases and other resources that will become an integral part of studying. The most important aim of the course is to make the students understand what examiners, review committees, or funding bodies want from them. This important awareness will allow more effective preparation for a grant application or an exam resulting in an increased chance of winning a fellowship or contest, more efficient performance during written examinations, better comprehension of the course material and, as a result, higher marks!  

During the course the students have the opportunity to write short essays in order to practice the acquired writing skills and bring common problems in writing to light.

Course ID: 506495
Credits: 1 

Instructors:Dr. Simona Viglio (General Chemistry, 2 CFU)

Office location: Department of Molecular Medicine, Biochemistry Unit, Via Taramelli 3, 27100, Pavia.


Office hours: by email appointment (contact me to arrange day & time).

Prof. Mauro Freccero (Organic Chemistry, 3 CFU)

Office location: Department of Organic Chemistry, Via Taramelli 12, 27100, Pavia.


Office hours: by email appointment.

Required textbooks:

Katherine J Denniston, Joseph J Topping and Robert L Caret. General, Organic & Biochemistry. 7th Ed. 2010. McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

H. Hart, L.E. Craine, D.J. Hart, C.M. Hadad. Organic Chemistry. A Short Course. 12th edition. Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston/New York.


A basic knowledge on Physics is required.

Course purpose

The aim of the Chemistry course is the acquisition of the chemical structure, the properties and the transformation of the different classes of substances (inorganic and organic) in order to understand the basic chemical properties and transformation of the molecules in living organisms.

Course topics

General Chemistry

Elements and compounds. Atoms and molecules (symbolic chemistry; molecular formulas). Periodic system of the elements and electronic configuration; element valence and oxidation state.

Intramolecular bonds: nature and polarity; molecular shape (structural formulas). Intermolecular bonds. Inorganic compounds: binary compounds of hydrogen and compounds containing oxygen. Nomenclature of inorganic compounds. Electrolytes. Acid base reactions and formation of salts.

Aggregation states of the matter: definition of the solid state and description of the different types of crystalline solids. Definition of the liquid states. Vapor pressure and surface tension. Definition of gaseous state. A brief presentation of ideal gases' laws and the kinetic molecular theory of ideal gases.

Solutions: definition, different types and qualitative and quantitative characterization. Thermodynamical considerations on solubility. Colligative properties: depression of the vapor pressure of the solvent and osmotic pressure.

Thermodynamical chemistry: how spontaneously large is the degree of conversion reactants to products? Enthalpy, enthropy and free energy. Chemical equilibrium. Kinetics: Collision theory, steric requirements, energetic factor and influence of concentration and temperature. Activated complex theory and activation energy. Catalysis.

Acid-base equilibria: Broensted and Lowry's theory on acids and bases. Self-ionization of water. Definition of pH. Calculation of pH in solutions containing strong acids, weak acids, strong bases, weak bases and salts. Buffers.

Oxidations and reductions: spontaneity and redox potential; electrochemical series; electrochemical potential; Nernst equation.

Organic chemistry

Organic Molecules in 3D. Functional groups: Nomenclature, Structure and Reactions. Aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, Alkenes, Alcohols, Aldehydes/Ketones, Amines; Carboxylic Acids and Derivatives. Enol and Enolate chemistry.

Examination format

Written exam including a) practical questions on acid-base reactions, calculation of pH of salt solutions and buffers and electrochemistry; b) theoretical q