Seeing the Big Picture

As the semester comes to a close, I have been reflecting on my lectures and experiences with a mechanistically organized course. The Karty text has presented many different types of reactions; from all of the reactions, I want the students to be aware of the central theme in ALL organic mechanisms. In every step, there

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Time Well Spent

Teaching a mechanistically organized course has many benefits. For example, I am able to spend less class time on nomenclature. This semester, I assigned nomenclature “chapters” 1-3 for the students to read outside of class, arranging them among chapters 1–10 of the text. This meant that I spent only 25% of lecture time explaining nomenclature.

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MO Theory? NO Problem

Students at Western Washington University are first introduced to the concept of molecular orbital theory in Organic Chemistry I. It is briefly mentioned in the general chemistry textbook, but it is excluded from covered content in first year classes. First year chemistry students are introduced to the concept of atomic orbital hybridization, but with surface

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pKa Values: A Chemist’s Best Friend to Predicting a Reaction

Proton transfer reactions are described in Chapter 6 of Karty and are the students’ first experience with a general reaction. When introducing this material to my students last week, they were a little nervous when I said the word “reactions.” I told them that my job, in guiding them along their organic chemistry journey, was

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No Pain, Lots of Gain

When I was an organic chemistry student, I learned from a functional group based textbook. Fast forward fifteen years, and I was teaching organic chemistry from a functional group based textbook. As a chemistry department, it was what we knew and what we were comfortable with, but the department as a whole was ready for

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Higher Understanding but Not “Higher-Level”

When talking with chemist friends about their organic chemistry experience as students, many of them remember the mechanism questions as the most difficult; the last questions on each exam, the “A-student versus B-student” questions, were always mechanisms to struggle through. When I’ve explained that my school follows a mechanistically driven approach to organic chemistry, the

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You Are Ready for the Final Once You Drink Some Coffee

We made it to the final chapter: Chapter 26 (“Polymers”). Each student is filled with a sense of pride that they have read every chapter in their textbook. Chapter 26 allows us to review mechanisms from throughout the text with real world applications. These applications are good preparation for next week’s final. In discussing them,

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From Cover to Cover

As of a couple hours ago, I have not only completed my first full year as a lecturer at Northern Arizona University, but I have also completed my first full cycle of Karty’s text; from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016, from Organic Chemistry I to Organic Chemistry II, from front-cover to back-cover of Organic Chemistry:

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The Mechanism Did It!

I finally finished the book last night. In the two years since we adopted Karty, I have taught the first-semester course three times. However, due to the oddities of academic scheduling, this spring was my first time teaching our second-semester course with the text. So, metaphorically speaking, I finally got my chance to find out

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My Surprising Favorite Second-Semester Chapter

My favorite chapter of second-semester organic chemistry is perhaps more surprising to me than anyone else, considering all the great mechanisms and reactions that fill the second-half of Karty’s textbook. My enjoyment of Chapter 16 (“Structure Determination 2: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry”) is most likely due to my own experiences analyzing complex

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