Chemical and Materials: A Survival Guide for 2nd year!!

Welcome back to the 2nd half of sem 2! A few more weeks and then we’re freed for a few months! No doubt that the stress of choosing a specialisation is slowly kicking in. This time last year, I was even more lost than I had ever been regarding which courses I liked and disliked. Don’t worry, you are definitely not alone! If you want to know more about what studying our specialisation will actually be like, stick around!

In this blog, I will go on a quick run through of the courses we tackle in sem 1, a few tips and tricks and let you know what you’re getting yourself into.


Process Engineering 1: Introduction

Ah 201. CHEMMAT 201 is essence the continuation of ENGGEN 140 with more material and energy balances combined with more unit operations used in the chemical industry. This course is really the fundamental course of your entire CHEMMAT degree. If you enjoyed calculation in ENGGEN 140, want to work with steam tables a bit more and learn all about the equations used to calculate properties of real and ideal gases and more, this might just be for you!

Going into 201, I really thought this course was going to be easy. And it was, well just the theory parts. When it came to the practice questions and assignments 🙅🏽‍♀️🙅🏽‍♀️, yikes.


Some good news for 2nd year is that we don’t have weekly quizzes for most of our courses! Unfortunately, this means our exams will be worth a bit more (yeah sorry.) One more thing, I’d like to introduce you to (drumroll please): GPPs!! Graded Practice Problems. Each of these are worth 5% and there’s 3 of them over the course of the sem. Trust me, they’ll have you going through a roller coaster of emotions. But here’s some good news: the GPPs are usually much harder than the exams!

Some Tips:

  • Start the GPPs early. It takes a few hours to answer each question. Most of this time will be spent staring at the screen confused 😐
  • Always email the lecturers especially for the GPPs! Ask them for feedback, tell them if you’re stuck on a question, they will be more than happy to guide you.
  • Work with your peers to figure out how you can solve it (but don’t just copy answers ofc)
  • Go to your lectures, participate in any class questions, you could get bonus marks for a test or assignment!


The lab in 201 is pretty simple. But something to know about CHEMMAT is that there will be ALOT of lab reports to do. And by the way, it would help if you learnt a bit of excel in your spare time!



This is the sequel of CHEMMAT 121. So its probably a good idea to brush on some of those materials terms before 2nd year! This is the most content heavy course in sem 1, but don’t let that scare you away, you will only be tested on some of the content and a lot of sections just require you to calculate! Expanding more on steel and the different microstructures and properties formed due to different treatments is something I didn’t realise I would enjoy so much of. No one asked but my favourite type of steel is tempered martensite! I would have never thought I’d be so fascinated by steel but here I am.

Other than that, we learn about the strengthening mechanisms of materials and understand and learn how to calculate properties such as fracture, learn how x rays work and more!

Some tips:

  • If you want a quick recap of what you learnt in first year, LearnCoach has videos made for each CHEMMAT 121 topic among other first year engineering courses.
  • Regularly revise at least the steel section using flashcards
  • If you’re behind on your lectures and don’t know any of the theory, at least learn what the letters in all the equations provided mean (for all other sections)
  • Attend the lectures! It’s very easy to fall behind on this course


If you enjoyed the labs you had in CHEMMAT 121, be prepared for a few more! We’ve got 3 labs with a lab report/ quiz to do along with it. There will be a Metallography Lab similar to the one done in CHEMMAT 121 involving grinding and polishing metal samples. There is a heat treatment lab where you get to heat, quench and test metal samples. And there is a XRD lab where you get to learn all about x-rays and how diffraction is used in materials engineering around us!


Applied Chemistry

This is a course catching you up on all the chemistry you need. So alot of what you will learn will be a recap of high school chemistry (yay if you’ve taken chem!) We’ve gone though energy transformations, organic chemistry, equilibrium laws, analytical chemistry and more! You will be a little sick of hearing “Gibbs free energy” cause it’s going to come up in all your CHEMMAT courses.

You will also get to learn about the applications of chemistry in engineering. This was something I enjoyed listening to in each lecture in the Biological sensors and Polymer Roofing sections. It made me realise the endless possibilities of applications for the concepts we’re learning and I’m you will to!

Some tips:

  • If you haven’t taken Chemistry in high school, it will be a little challenging keeping up with the content. But don’t worry, the lectures do go through everything you need and feel free to ask questions. If you want a more in depth review of high school Chemistry, try the LearnCoach videos for NCEA Chemistry
  • This course has barely any coursework to do so don’t leave the lectures to watch in the last minute for the exam (and it will be closed book)!!
  • The labs a little more independent compared to the other courses so do come prepared with questions, watch/ read any prelab content and bring a journal!
  • Take as much notes as you can in your labs. Trust me, we all forget what happened when it comes to writing the report.


More labs (yay!) and lab reports (*sigh*) We could to attend 2 labs: a UV spectroscopy lab and conducting polymer lab (polymers that conduct electricity!)

That’s all from me for now! I hope this give you at least a glimpse of what its like being a CHEMMAT student. Even though it is challenging it is at times (that’s what comes with Engineering!), it is very rewarding and don’t worry, all your peers will be struggling along side you! Anyways, catch you soon!

– Hirushi 🙂

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