MicroBachelors® Program in University Chemistry

Learn the foundations of chemistry in HarvardX’s University Chemistry MicroBachelors Program.

Taught by Harvard Professor James Anderson, learners in this program are given a robust understanding of chemistry, atomic structure, thermodynamics, and more.

Featuring faculty from:
9 months
4-8 hours a week
Certificate Price
Program Dates
Enroll in University Chemistry Today.

What You'll Learn

What technical forces are shaping the modern world? Revolutionary developments in the union of chemistry and physics hold the key to solving unprecedented global problems; however, understanding the central role that chemistry plays in addressing these problems and shaping our modern world requires a fundamental grasp of fundamental concepts of energy and energy transformations. Learn the foundations of chemistry in HarvardX’s University Chemistry MicroBachelors Program. 

Taught by Harvard University Professor James Anderson, learners in this MicroBachelors program are given a robust understanding of chemistry, atomic structure, the principles of energy, thermodynamics, and electrochemistry. Each course builds on your prior coursework, applying concepts and analysis to real-world case studies and your daily lives. 

In addition to chemistry, learners in this program will study industrial advances in solar cells, energy storage, and molecular imaging — and how international policies relate to these innovations. In addition, you will learn the role of energy in climate change and exactly how irreversible global climate change causes sea levels to rise and storms to become more powerful. You’ll explore how large-scale shifts in the climate structure trigger water and food shortages, as well as how technology advances to address these global issues.

Physical chemistry is fundamental to an understanding of worldwide energy sources and constraints. By the end of this MicroBachelors program, learners will have the quantitative reasoning and critical thinking skills to link the foundations of chemistry to the current global strategies for energy forecasts, technology connecting energy and climate, and role of modern materials science.

The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Explain the fundamentals of chemistry, energy, and other elemental forces shaping the modern world
  • Describe the evolution of chemistry's role in addressing global challenges
  • Identify core concepts of energy and energy transformations, including thermodynamics, chemical equilibria, acid/base and redox reactivity, and electrochemistry
  • Understand the central role of chemistry in addressing global issues such as energy and climate change

Program Structure

This program is made up of three individual courses plus a final exam. 

Energy and Thermodynamics

  • Describe the different forms of energy, such as mechanical (kinetic and potential), electrical, chemical, electromagnetic, thermal, and nuclear
  • Interpret the units of energy and power and how to convert between them
  • Understand different subatomic particles (proton, electron, neutron) and the major experiments that led to the modern concept of the atom and its structure
  • Recognize the nature of a chemical bond and compare and contrast the different methods of representing the chemical bonds in a molecule
  • Explain the Second Law of Thermodynamics and apply it to chemical reactions
  • Gain an understanding of enthalpy, water condensation, geothermal energy, and thermodynamic pressure

Entropy and Equilibria

  • Explain and apply the Second and Third Laws of Thermodynamics
  • Determine spontaneity of a process or reaction based on entropy and enthalpy
  • Understand how Gibbs free energy relates to other chemistry concepts
  • Explore fundamental competition between energy and disorder that determines the state of materials at equilibrium
  • Compare and contrast different methods of energy generation and storage
  • Explain how different types of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, could be used to meet global energy demands


  • Describe key concepts of acid-base chemistry and equilibrium reactions involving acids and bases
  • Understand the significance of electrochemistry, how it relates to other fields of science, and how it is applied in real life
  • Understand what it means for an element to be "oxidized" or "reduced"
  • Identify the differences in efficiency between renewable primary energy from electrochemical energy sources with primarily fossil fuel-based energy ones
  • Describe the reactions occurring in an electrochemical (voltaic) cell
  • Identify how different types of batteries differ in their energy storage efficiency

Energy to Electrochemistry Final Exam

  • Demonstrate your chemistry knowledge in the final exam.

Your Instructor

James (Jim) G. Anderson is the Philip S. Weld Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Earth and Planetary Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1992, the American Philosophical Society in 1998, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1985 , a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1986 , and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 1989.

The Anderson research group addresses four domains at the intersection of the physical sciences with global climate change: (1) chemical catalysis sustained by free radical chain reactions that dictate the macroscopic rate of chemical transformation in Earth’s stratosphere and troposphere; (2) mechanistic links between chemistry, radiation, and dynamics in the atmosphere that control climate; (3) the design and development of new climate observing systems including solar powered stratospheric aircraft and the StratoCruiser Flight System; and (4) chemical reactivity viewed from the microscopic perspective of electron structure, molecular orbitals and reactivities of radical-radical and radical-molecule systems.

edX MicroBachelors® Program

In order to be eligible for credit and a program certificate, you must purchase, complete and pass with a 70% or higher in all University Chemistry MicroBachelors® Program courses.

edX has partnered with Thomas Edison State University, a public university in New Jersey that specializes in adult education, who provides credit for MicroBachelors programs at no additional cost.

Please note, credit for this program is not provided by Harvard University. This program is awarded eight (8) academic credits at Thomas Edison State University towards a general elective course.

In order to redeem your credits please refer to these step-by-step directions. Learn more about credit.

Each course in the MicroBachelors® Program in University Chemistry can be audited individually for free, without credit. Learners who Audit the courses for free have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate or credit for learners who earn a passing grade.

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