12 ECTS credits
320 h study time

Offer 1 with catalog number 1007107ANR for all students in the 1st and 2nd semester at a (A) Bachelor - preliminary level.

1st and 2nd semester
Enrollment based on exam contract
Grading method
Grading (scale from 0 to 20)
Can retake in second session
Enrollment Requirements
Om een inschrijving te kunnen nemen voor 'Biomedische chemie' moet men ingeschreven of geslaagd zijn voor 'wiskunde'
Taught in
Faculteit Geneeskunde en Farmacie
Basis (bio-) medische wetensch
Educational team
Anna Boyen
Hendrika Jaspers (course titular)
Kenno Vanommeslaeghe
Anissa El Arfani
Linus Donvil
Jeremy De Plecker
Jordy Peeters
Julie Vandewalle
Activities and contact hours

74 contact hours Lecture
64 contact hours Seminar, Exercises or Practicals
Course Content

The encompassing goal of the "Biomedical Chemistry" course for the students in the 1st year Ba in Biomedical Sciences (BMS) is to learn/train the necessary chemical background, analytical skills and scientific attitude to (1) be prepared for the further curriculum BMS and (2) be able to function successfully in the BMS major's diverse prospective jobs and lines of research. Therefore, the course is more focused on developing a deep intuitive understanding of a number of core chemistry concepts than on enumerating at length all possible applications of those concepts and the special points of attention that play a role in these applications. Nevertheless, applications that are of great biomedical importance are mentioned as illustrations where possible. More generally, links to other disciplines are accentuated so that Chemistry can function as a bridge between Physics and Biology, among others. Special attention is also paid to the limits of the applicability of the relevant mathematical relationships as well as the limits of current scientific knowledge. This way, the student is encouraged to question the correctness of scientific results at all times, and more generally to approach given "facts" with a critical mind.

The course runs over 2 semesters and is divided into 4 modules. In the first semester, the student learns to perform common chemical calculations and solve common problems in the module "Chemical calculations". In the next module "Physical Chemistry for the Health Sciences", the student gains understanding of chemical relationships in the observable world, and how these are caused by interactions between (non-observable) atoms and molecules. In the second semester, the module "Organic Chemistry for the Health Sciences" focuses on the rich chemistry of the carbon compounds, which play a central role in the biochemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry later in the curriculum. To throw a bridge to these disciplines, a select number of structures and reactions of pharmaceutical molecules as well as life's building blocks (amino acids, proteins, DNA, carbohydrates, fatty acids,...) are mentioned briefly as examples.


Chemical calculations (1st semester)

The focus of this part lies very pragmatically on being able to perform common and basic chemical calculations that are broadly applied in diverse disciplines that are taught later in the curriculum, as well as in biomedical practice. The underlying physics is not yet explored in depth; this happens in the next part, "Physical Chemistry for the Health Sciences". Rather, the emphasis lies fully on the deep understanding of the quantitative and analytical aspects of the chemical phenomena being studied, so that the student gains the ability to rapidly formulate a solution to any chemical problem that concerns these phenomena. Toward this goal, elaborate seminars are held about this part. By starting with this, the student is prepared in time for the calculations that are needed in the different seminars and practicals in the 1st year Bachelor in BMS. This part is also the subject of the test that is taken roughly halfway the first semester.


  • Introduction: position of Chemistry within the sciences; prerequisites from secondary education
  • Substances and states of matter
  • Nomenclature of inorganic compounds
  • Quantity of matter, stoichiometry and composition of mixtures
  • Equilibration of redox equations
  • Calculations with chemical equilibria
  • Acid-base equilibria in watery solution
  • Solubility of salts and precipitation equilibria

Physical Chemistry for the Health Sciences (1st semester)

This part starts with a description of matter at atomic level. Building upon this foundation, the student systematically discovers relationships that describe the observable world sufficiently accurately to be practically useful.


  • Atomic structure and the periodic table
  • The chemical bond
  • Non-covalent interactions
  • Chemical thermodynamics
  • Reaction kinetics
  • Electrochemistry and galvanic cells
  • Interactions and organisation of solutes in watery solution

Organic Chemistry for the Health Sciences (2nd semester)

This part focuses on the chemistry of the carbon compounds, which play a central role in both pharmaceutical and biomedical chemistry later in the curriculum.


  • Structure of organic compounds and functional groups
  • Nomenclature of organic compounds
  • Stereochemistry and absolute configuration
  • Reactivity in organic chemistry
  • Types of organic reactions
  • Properties and reactivity of alkanes, alkenes and alkynes
  • Properties and reactivity of aromatic compounds
  • Properties and reactivity of haloalkanes
  • Properties and reactivity of alcohols, ethers and thiols
  • Properties and reactivity of aldehydes and ketones
  • Properties and reactivity of carboxylic acids and derivatives
  • Properties and reactivity of organic amines

Seminars and practicals

40h of guided exercises that accompany the lectures. 7 practicals of 3 to 4h each: preparation of a solution, acid-base and redox titrations, organic synthesis: production of a chloroalkane by nucleophilic substitution, production of ethyl acetate by Fischer esterification and production of bromobenzene by Grignard reaction.

Course material
Course text (Required) : Algemene en Anorganische Chemie - Biomedische chemie, Chemisch Rekenen - deel 1, H. Jaspers, A. Boyen, VUB, 2220170008851, 2021
Handbook (Recommended) : Chemistry, The Central Science, T.E. Brown, H.E. LeMay, B.E. Bursten, C. Murphy, P. Woodward, M.E. Stoltzfus, 13de, Medische BIB, 9781292057712, 2014
Course text (Required) : Organische Chemie voor de Gezondheidswetenschappen, A. Boyen, H. Jaspers, VUB, 2220170002576, 2015
Practical course material (Required) : Labojas XS, VUB, 2220170002620
Practical course material (Required) : Labojas S, VUB, 2220170002613
Practical course material (Required) : Labojas M, VUB, 2220170002606
Practical course material (Required) : Labojas L, VUB, 2220170002590
Practical course material (Required) : Labojas XL, VUB, 2220170002583
Course text (Required) : Algemene en Anorganische Chemie - Biomedische Chemie, Chemisch Rekenen - deel 2, H. Jaspers, A. Boyen, VUB, 2220170008929, 2021
Course text (Required) : Fysische Chemie voor de Gezondheidswetenschappen – deel 2, K. Vanommeslaeghe, VUB, 2019
Handbook (Recommended) : Organic Chemistry, McMurry, 9de, Medische BIB, 9781305671218, 2016
Handbook (Recommended) : Chemical Principles, The Quest for Insight, P.W. Atkins, L. Jones and L. Lavermath, 7de, Medische BIB, 9781464183959, 2016
Practical course material (Recommended) : Bouwdoosje voor de constructie van molecuulmodellen, VUB en Medische BIB (ter beschikking voor plaatselijk gebruik), 9781090173843
Course text (Required) : Fysische Chemie voor de Gezondheidswetenschappen, Volume 1, K. Vanommeslaeghe, VUB, 2220170005980, 2018
Course text (Required) : Biomedische Chemie, Practicum, Boyen - Van Keer - Jaspers, VUB, 2220170008967, 2022
Additional info

The aforementioned volumes include all relevant tables and representative series of exercices from which the problems treated during the seminars are chosen. The numerical solutions to the problems and detailed solutions for selected problems of physical chemistry and for all problems of organic chemistry, along with hints for solving select problems.

The recommended volumes can be viewed or loaned at the Medical Library. Molecular Model Building Sets (for the study of molecular geometry, polarity, stereochemistry,...) can be used locally at the Medical Library.

Starting from the first lab session the students have to bring their personal lab coat.

Learning Outcomes

General competencies

  • The student has a deep intuitive understanding of core concepts in chemistry (further elaborated below).
  • The student approaches given facts and scientific results with a critical mind.
  • The student understands how the same laws and relationships that govern the behaviour of dead matter also lie at the foundation of structures and processes in living organisms.
  • The student can easily give/write down the name/formula of compounds. She/he can compose chemical equations and use these in stoichiometric calculations.
  • The student can correctly compose redox equations from equilibrated half-equations.
  • The student has insight into the structure if the atom and the energetic justification for the formation of bonds. He or she can use this insight to explain the properties thereof.
  • The student understands the concepts of resonance and resonance energy, and can write resonance structures and estimate their relative weights qualitatively where applicable.
  • The student understands which factors determine the strength of non-bonded interactions and can differentiate their different types; she/he also understands how they can give rise to spontaneous assembly into macroscopic structures.
  • The student can apply the aforementioned insights in bonded and non-bonded interactions to explain the chemical and physical properties of inorganic and organic compounds.
  • The student understands the criteria for spontaneity of chemical reactions and can infer from thermodynamic data whether or not a reaction will take place. He/she can calculate how much energy can be gained from a chemical process.
  • The student understands chemical equilibria sufficiently to calculate the situation at equilibrium from an equilibrium constant and vice versa. She/he can also describe the different equilibria that occur side-by-side in a complex medium in terms of equilibrium constants and conditions.
  • The student can calculate the acidity of solutions, and is familiar with the properties of buffers; he/she can prepare a buffer that complies with given specifications.
  • The student understands how different factors influence the rate of a reaction; she/he is familiar with the concepts reaction mechanism and rate-limiting step and can perform calculations involving 0th, 1st and 2nd order kinetics.
  • The student understands the reasons for reactivity of different classes of compounds and can explain these using reaction mechanisms.
  • The student can predict the final products of a reaction including possible side reactions, and can recognise different classes of reactions.
  • The student has acquired insight into the necessary control of reaction conditions and methods for purification.
  • The student can draw the stereo-isomers of compounds and establish their relationships.
  • The student has acquired a number of experimental skills: the usage of an analytical balance, the preparation and dilution of a solution, the correct usage of glassware, estimation of experimental error, usage of the pH-meter and spectrometer, usage of separatory funnels, Büchner funnels and distillation equipment.

This course hereby sustains the Programme Learning Outcomes 1,6,8,10,11,14, 15 and 17.


The final grade is composed based on the following categories:
Written Exam determines 80% of the final mark.
Practical Exam determines 20% of the final mark.

Within the Written Exam category, the following assignments need to be completed:

  • theory and exercises exam with a relative weight of 100 which comprises 80% of the final mark.

Within the Practical Exam category, the following assignments need to be completed:

  • daily work with a relative weight of 50 which comprises 10% of the final mark.

    Note: preparation, lab attitude and skills and the reports
  • written exam with a relative weight of 50 which comprises 10% of the final mark.

Additional info regarding evaluation

Note: although the chapters "Acid-Base equilibria", "Acid-Base titrations" and "Solubility of salts and precipitation equilibriacan be found in the syllabus "Chemical Calculations - volume 2", they belong with "Physical Chemistry for the Health Sciences" for all practical intents and purposes, including tests and the calculation of grades.

  • Partial grades in first attempt: 
    • Roughly halfway the first semester, a mandatory test is taken about "Chemical Calculations" (except "Acid-Base equilibria", "Acid-Base titrations" and "Solubility of salts and precipitation equilibria"). A passing grade for this part counts towards the final grade, and may be transfered to later years in case the student needs to retake the course. A non-passing grade is considered null and void and can under no circumstances counts towards the final grade.
    • In the exam period following the first semester, a test is taken about "Physical Chemistry for the Health Sciences" (including "Acid-Base equilibria", "Acid-Base titrations" and "Solubility of salts and precipitation equilibria"; note however that the material that was the subject of the previous test halfway the first semester does not re-occur on this test). Just like for the previous test, a passing grade counts towards the final grade, and may be transfered to later years in case the student needs to retake the course. A non-passing grade is again considered null and void and can under no circumstances counts towards the final grade.
    • The final grade is the weighted average of the written exam of the theory and exercises (70%), the written exam of the practicals (15%) and the day-to-day performance in the practicals (15%). Warning! If a partial grade was 7/20, the final grade cannot be higher than 7/20!
    • Second session: partial grades for written exams are transferred to the 2nd session if they were 9.50/20; the partial grade for day-to-day performance is always transferred to the 2nd session.
    • Next academic year: partial grades for written exams are transferred to the next academic year if they were 9.50/20; the partial grade for day-to-day performance is transferred to the next academic year session if it was 10.00/20. In the latter case, the student is exempt from participation in the practicals.
Allowed unsatisfactory mark
The supplementary Teaching and Examination Regulations of your faculty stipulate whether an allowed unsatisfactory mark for this programme unit is permitted.

Academic context

This offer is part of the following study plans:
Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences: Default track (only offered in Dutch)
Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences: Initial track (only offered in Dutch)