Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are my options for chemistry GIR’s?

A: 3.091 (that’s us), 5.111 (Principles of Chemical Science), and 5.112 (Principles of Chemical Science [for students with advanced backgrounds in chemistry]).

Q: What’s the difference between 3.091 and 5.111/5.112?

A: We all teach the basic concepts and there’s a lot of overlapping material, especially early in the semester. All of these GIR’s will give you the necessary chemistry background. 3.091 does concentrate more on chemistry in the solid state, hence the name.

Q: Does taking 3.091 limit my choices of major?

A: No. We teach the same basic concepts as in 5.111 and 5.112. You’ll get the same necessary foundation.

Q: Can I take 3.091 and still be pre-med?

A: Yes. We teach the same basic concepts as in 5.111 and 5.112 and you’ll get the same necessary foundation.

Q: Is 3.091 better to take if my major is an engineering field instead of pure science?

A: Not really. While we cover engineering aspects in 3.091, you’ll get a good background in chemistry for engineering in all of the chemistry GIR’s.

Q: Is 3.091 only for Course 3 majors?

A: Nope! 3.091 is for everyone – you, your friends, your family. Some Course 3 students chose the major because they found the topics covered in 3.091 so interesting that they wanted to explore more. But 3.091 students extend throughout the different majors at MIT.

Q: What’s a goodie bag?

A: Glad you asked! Goodie bags are what we call mini-experiment kits which were used in the fall semester on-campus offering of 3.091. Prof. Grossman came up with them as a way to give students a “hands-on” way of “feeling” the chemistry, intended to bring key elements of the course material to life and encourage exploration of the course material.

Q: Why do I have to take a chemistry GIR? I’m planning to major in [something else I don’t think is related or which won’t use chemistry].

A: Well, there’s the obvious: because the GIR’s in aggregate (math, physics, biology, chemistry, and the humanities/arts/social sciences) give all undergraduate students at MIT the right background knowledge necessary to master the content covered in the different classes, including the ones that seem to have no relation to your planned major. Hence it’s a requirement to graduate.

However, consider too that many students arrive to MIT either with no idea what they want to study or with an idea based upon what they knew up to that time. Those students then discover new-to-them subjects that interest them, or interest them more. You may just find that chemistry and its applications is one of them.

Q: It’s been suggested that I should take exploratory classes and hold off on GIR’s, including chemistry. So why 3.091?

A: Besides preparing you well for success in other exploratory classes that may require knowledge of chemistry, you can consider us an exploratory class too. You can do all sorts of interesting things with a good working knowledge of basic chemistry, beyond what you may have learned in high school. Why not explore chemistry and materials science as well as take a GIR?

Q: I hated chemistry in high school. How is this going to be any different?

A: :) Besides not being your high school or high school chemistry teacher? :) More seriously, the faculty who teach 3.091 are among some of the best teachers at MIT. Their goal is to teach solid-state chemistry in a relatable manner that not only imparts the knowledge you need for success in a variety of classes and majors at MIT, but to show you aspects of it you may not have considered and encourage you to discover it for yourself. Discovery is enjoyable.