Undergraduates: COVID impact on CHEM courses

UBC Chemistry and the Global Novel Coronavirus Crisis.

update: June 3, 2020

This is a message for undergraduate students who are taking or are planning to take Chemistry courses at UBC Vancouver.

This is an unprecedented and dramatic global situation. Our first priority is to make sure that students remain healthy and safe. We hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.

New Courses – Lectures and Laboratory Courses Have Been Split During the Coronavirus Epidemic. 

Most first and second year CHEM courses are described in the UBC Calendar as having a lecture and laboratory component. This is often described in the curriculum vector in the Calendar.

CHEM 121 (4) Structure and Bonding in Chemistry

Fundamentals of bonding theories and structural chemistry, with applications relevant to modern society. [3-3-0]
Prerequisite: One of Chemistry 12, CHEM 100.

The first number in blue is the lecture hours per week, the second is the laboratory hours per week, and the last number deals with tutorial sections.

With physical distancing and stay-at-home rules in place, the laboratory sections in which students learn and demonstrate fundamental practical laboratory skills in person cannot run in the usual way. For example, a student taking CHEM 121 without any laboratory work would not be able to pass the course and would not receive academic credit and could not move forward in their academic plan.

In response to this challenge, our Department has introduced new courses that enable students to take the lecture content and the laboratory content of these courses independently, so students may continue to progress by completing lecture courses. The new courses are summarized in this table:


Course (Credit)

Lecture Course (Credit)

Lab Course (Credit)

CHEM 111 (4)

CHEM 110 (3)

CHEM 115 (1)

CHEM 121 (4)

CHEM 120 (3)

CHEM 115 (1)

CHEM 123 (4)

CHEM 130 (3)

CHEM 135 (1)

CHEM 203 (4)

CHEM 223 (3)

CHEM 225 (1)

CHEM 211 (4)

CHEM 210 (3)

CHEM 215 (1)


For example, students who registered in CHEM 121 for Summer 2020 had their course registration transferred to CHEM 120, to reflect the fact that they did not take any lab component in this course. Similarly, registration for CHEM 123 will be transferred to CHEM 130.  

It is expected that students will make up these laboratory requirements when face-to-face instruction is allowed.

These new courses are responses to the Covid-19 emergency. The Department plans to resume its non-emergency curriculum--CHEM 111, 121, 123, 203, 211--when the Provincial government and UBC determines that it is safe to do so. It will commit to run the 1 credit lab courses for students to catch up with their programs.

For Students interested in Fall 2020:

The University has announced that “UBC will primarily offer larger classes online with selected smaller classes conducted in-person, adhering to physical distancing and other public health requirements”.

All of Chemistry’s undergraduate lecture courses in Term 1 of the 2020 Winter Session (2020W) will be offered in an online mode. No decisions have been announced regarding Term 2.

For students outside the Lower Mainland entering year 2 or year 3: Students will be able to enroll in lecture courses as they will be offered online. Unfortunately, students will not be able to complete the important technique-based laboratory classes in year 2 or year 3. These students will have to complete laboratory classes when they return to campus.

The Department is developing options to offer accelerated versions of these lab courses that may be offered in the future. 

For students entering year 4 or a graduating year:

For students that live outside B.C’s Lower Mainland, or in the event that UBC Department of Chemistry is not able to open its laboratories, the Department is considering:

a) CHEM 449 or CHEM 445 RLE research projects that can be completed using a ‘distanced learning’ model. The Department is committed to ensuring that there are enough ‘distanced’ CHEM 449 projects to ensure that HONS students can fulfill their graduation requirements.

b) credit for students who can carry out research activities at an Institution that is local to themselves.

c) for students who need a CHEM 445 (3) credit to complete their final year graduation requirements: a ‘distanced learning’-based, library research project and presentation within CHEM 445 (3).

Unknown factors prevent the Department from guaranteeing an ‘in-person’ HONS or RLE research experience in in 2020/21 Fall-Winter Session for students in certain disciplines.

Laboratory Courses.

The Government of British Columbia’s Restart Plan provides guidance and requirements for post-secondary institutions to reopen in Phase 3 for face-to-face instruction. British Columbia is currently in Phase 2.

If a) British Columbia will meet or has met the requirements for Restart Phase 3 by the 2020W term 1 and b) with the approval of the Dean’s office obtained, the Department plans to offer access to a variety of Chemistry laboratory courses for students who are able to be on campus.

During registration in June and July students will be able to register onto Waiting Lists for the following laboratory-based courses. The section size for these courses will be limited due to social distancing and health and safety requirements.

The laboratory courses to be potentially offered in-person include: CHEM 115, CHEM 135, CHEM 215, CHEM 225, CHEM 235, CHEM 245 (term 2), CHEM 3x5 (not CHEM 355), CHEM 445 RLE, CHEM 449

These courses may be cancelled anytime throughout the Fall Session if there is a substantial public health risk as determined by the B.C. Provincial Health Officer or UBC.

A cancellation could mean that a student would have to withdraw from the laboratory course or perhaps receive an “Incomplete (T)” standing that would require further laboratory work at a later date to receive full credit.

Students who are able to attend these laboratory classes can do so. Your safety is the forefront of our Department’s concern and measures to ensure a safe learning environment will be in place for students, staff and instructors.

The Department is developing options to offer accelerated versions of these lab courses that may be offered in the near future (late Summer-Fall 2020) and perhaps in the immediate post-COVID era. Once conditions allow, we are committed to helping students gain needed laboratory experience in as timely a manner as possible to continue progress toward their degrees.

Please note that access to in-person laboratory courses will depend on the amounts of space available, the physical distancing requirements set in place, and course scheduling requirements.

This page will be updated as new information becomes available.