Physical Chemistry

How a Photon Is Created or Absorbed

Giles Henderson
Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920

Robert C. Rittenhouse
Walla Walla College, College Place, WA 99324

John C. Wright and Jon L. Holmes
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706

Clarifying Electron Configurations

We’ve all seen and use the so-called Aufbau Diagram. It is a mnemonic used to remember the order of “filling” of atomic orbitals during the construction of the ground state electron configurations of the elements. The presentation of this diagram is largely disconnected from any physical meaning. Here’s what we tell our students: “Memorize the diagram, learn to use it, and you’re guaranteed to get the right answer.”

Conversations, Confessions, Confusions (and hopefully some Clarity) on Electronic Configurations

A complete understanding of why each element has a particular electronic configurations is a very complex subject. Even so, some confusion regarding the electronic configurations of the elements may be alleviated by looking at the physical properties of the electronic orbitals.

JCE 92.12—December 2015 Issue Highlights

Best Practices in Chemistry Education

The December 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: learning in the laboratory; understanding structure–property relationships; using ACS exams data;  inquiry- and problem-based learning; foundation-level instruction; teaching physical chemistry; examining protein structure; interdisciplinary laboratory experiments; from the archives: chemistry and toys.

JCE 92.11—November 2015 Issue Highlights

Educational Opportunities and Challenges

The November 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: materials science; polymer chemistry activities; green chemistry; biochemistry in the laboratory; research on student attitudes and the transition from high school to college chemistry; assessment; computer-based learning and computations; from the archives: chemistry YouTube videos.

JCE 91.12—December 2014 Issue Highlights

Celebrating the International Year of Crystallography The December 2014 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available for subscribers online at The December issue includes content on: crystallography, assessment, career development for undergraduates, problem solving in organic chemistry, and teaching physical chemistry. This latest issue of JCE plus the content of all past issues, volumes 1 through 91, are available at

JCE 91.03—March 2014 Issue Highlights

Teaching Chemistry and Making a Difference The March 2014 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers at The March issue features: changing the curriculum to make connections, forensic chemistry, computer-based learning, hands-on activities and labs for introductory chemistry, teaching physical chemistry, organic and biochemistry labs, and the mole concept.

Turning on the Light

In this Activity, students investigate the luminescent properties of common items such as glow-in-the-dark stickers, wintergreen-flavored hard candies, and a chlorophyll solution made from spinach leaves. After making observations, they use a flowchart to categorize the luminescent items as fluorescent, phosphorescent, or triboluminescent.