Month: April 2014

My Three Favorite Words (to Hear from a Student)

A week ago, one of my students sent me this in an email: “I have a question for you: when an ester and an alkoxide anion are together in a problem, how do we know if a transesterification or a Claisen condensation will take place? Is it just that if the alkoxide anion is the

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Ending on a Good Note

A few days ago I returned the second exam of organic II, the bulk of which covered nucleophilic addition and nucleophilic addition-elimination reactions. The following day, a student came to my office to ask questions about the problems she missed. This particular student got off to a rocky start at the beginning of the semester

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A Reaction by Any Other Name…

I gave my second exam of the semester a few days ago. One of the questions presented students with the reactants, conditions, and product of a Robinson annulation reaction. The question was worded: “Draw the complete, detailed mechanism for the following Robinson annulation.” After I collected the exams, I returned to my office to find

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Stuff Pre-Meds (and My Dad) Say, and What They Need to Hear

My father is a retired doctor and he’s never missed an opportunity to remind me that not once in his career in medicine did he need to APPLY the material he learned in college organic chemistry. And during office hours two weeks ago, a pre-health student flat-out told me she doesn’t see the point of

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Kicking-Off the Second Semester with Synthesis

At Elon, we have a January term in which we predominantly teach nontraditional courses (organic chemistry is not one of those courses). This means my students have about seven weeks between their last day of Organic 1 in the fall and their first day of Organic 2 in the spring. Because of such a significant

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