Robert Q. Topper

Professor of Chemistry

Ch 160: Physical Principles of Chemistry

Textbook for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019: Physical Chemistry for the Chemical and Biological Sciences by Chang (University Science Press, 2000). See here:

This is a unique course to the Cooper Union. Taught collaboratively by the full-time faculty, this course provides freshman engineering majors with a calculus-based course in chemistry focused on thermodynamics, phase transitions, electrochemistry and chemical kinetics. It provides an important intellectual link between chemistry, mathematics and physics during the crucial first year of studies and ensures a strong foundation in thermodynamics for engineers.

Beginning in the 1980s, Ch 160 used an innovative "crit model" for instruction. In this model students solved problems individually or in groups, and came together for weekly "crit" sessions where they chose which problems to discuss and then collectively reviewed and critiqued one another's work. Students obtained differential benefits from learning a variety of problem-solving techniques from one another, with faculty guidance and correction. They also learned to rely on one another and begin to build themselves into a learning community. This method of instruction is common among artists, and highlighted an important intellectual thread linking the separate disciplines of science and art at the Cooper Union. Unfortunately this model became impossible to utilize as of Fall 2018 due to an administrative decision to reduce the number of contact hours permitted for instruction.