What do origami and organic chemistry have in common?

The origami molecule on the cover art of this blog is mechlorethamine, a DNA alkylating agent that is used to treat various kinds of cancer. Mechlorethamine was used successfully in clinical settings in the 1940’s and those successes led to the development of anticancer chemotherapy as a field. Folding origami and learning organic chemistry are … Continue reading What do origami and organic chemistry have in common?

My Best Experience Yet Teaching Synthesis

In a previous blog post (A Mechanistic Organization and Learning Synthesis: Having Cake and Eating It, Too), I articulated that switching to a mechanistic organization has improved how my students deal with synthesis problems. Things have continued to work well, but this year I made a change to enhance how I teach synthesis, and student … Continue reading My Best Experience Yet Teaching Synthesis

How far do you get in first semester organic chemistry?

The title of this post is an honest question and I encourage anyone to reply in the comments! I ask this question in part because sometimes I feel like I am the slowest organic chemistry professor in the country. Allow me to elaborate. I teach a small section of organic chemistry and I am the … Continue reading How far do you get in first semester organic chemistry?

Ten Elementary Steps Are Better Than Four

Mechanisms can greatly simplify learning organic chemistry because the hundreds of reactions that students need to know have mechanisms that are constructed from just a handful of distinct elementary steps. This is easy for us professors to see—after all, we’ve been through the year’s reactions and mechanisms multiple times. Students, on the other hand, must … Continue reading Ten Elementary Steps Are Better Than Four

Happy Holidays!

Another semester of teaching the mechanism is over! Last year, Rick Bunt of Middlebury College wrote this festive end-of-the-semester song for his students (sung to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”). It’s so good we thought we’d post it again! You’ve had Spanish and Bio And History and Calc, Physics and Econ And Poly Sci … Continue reading Happy Holidays!

What’s in a NOM? Nomenclature that Actually Makes Sense.

One aspect of Karty’s text that surprised me when I began using the book was the separation of nomenclature into individual sections. My previous experience, going all the way back to my days as a student, was to have the introduction to naming tucked into other material, usually served along side the properties of alkanes, … Continue reading What’s in a NOM? Nomenclature that Actually Makes Sense.

A Famous Pair, and No it isn’t Sonny and Cher

When teaching SN1 and SN2 reactions to my students, this famously difficult duo is made perfectly manageable by breaking down their mechanisms side by side. I always explain to my students that these concepts can be learned and understood much like any of history's great pairs. Like Tom & Jerry, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, … Continue reading A Famous Pair, and No it isn’t Sonny and Cher

Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

One thing I was really looking forward to when switching to Karty’s mechanistically organized text was how reactions involving alkenes would be addressed. I expected to see the reactions simply grouped by mechanism; for example, the electrophilic addition reaction mechanisms would be grouped together, as would the pericyclic reaction mechanisms and so on. Instead, I … Continue reading Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

Floppity or Floop?

There are a lot of research articles, opinions, blog posts, and conversations about new teaching methods nowadays, and there are a lot of great ideas floating around, but I’m just going to go right out there and say that the prospect of flipping my organic chemistry class terrified me as much as I thought it … Continue reading Floppity or Floop?

In Learning You Will Teach

This is my 2nd year using the Karty text for Organic Chemistry Lecture (CHEM 3111). Based on my experiences as a student and as an instructor, organic chemistry has been typically taught in a traditional format of a chalk talk and PowerPoint combination. However, after speaking with those instructors, such as Joel Karty and fellow … Continue reading In Learning You Will Teach