When I was first approached about contributing to this blog, I was hesitant. I’m only 32 years old and have only been a full-time faculty member for 3 years. Surely, I don’t have as much to offer as colleagues that have been doing this for many years and been through many textbooks by varying authors, right? However, upon second thought, I realized this is a great opportunity. Perhaps I can offer a unique perspective or fresh stories of student insight. Perhaps there are simply other “newbies” out there who will identify with what I have to say. So, let’s get started…
My name is Todd Eckroat. I’m an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at my alma mater, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. I started here in 2016 (after graduating as a student in 2009). I teach Organic Chemistry I/II and Biochemistry. Organic chemistry is offered as a traditional two semester sequence at my school.
As an undergraduate, I fell in love with organic chemistry almost immediately, partly because of two great professors (shout out to Dr. K and Dr. J!) and partly because I was fascinated by the idea of mixing two chemicals together, making something new, and repeating that process over many steps to make something of considerable complexity. I learned organic chemistry from a classic functional group approach, like so many. It’s been 13 years since I took organic chemistry as a freshman. Looking back from my current perspective, I can only wonder, “Where was this mechanistic organization when I was a student?”
I breezed through the first semester of o-chem. “This is easy,” I thought. My eyes were opened in the second semester. I became bogged down by the seemingly thousands of unconnected, new reactions to MEMORIZE. Yes, I confess that, despite warnings from my professor, I attempted to memorize every unique reaction I saw. Don’t get me wrong, I still did very well in the course. I just wish I would have had something to save me the stress and anxiety… something like the mechanistic organization of Joel’s textbook.
Having used Joel’s 1st edition for two semesters and his current edition for one semester, I have come to appreciate Ch. 7 (An Overview of the Most Common Elementary Steps) and the overall grouping of reactions by mechanism type. Ch. 7 introduces students to the basic steps of virtually all mechanisms, and subsequent chapters help them learn through repetition, repetition, and repetition. It becomes easy to see connections and similarities between reactions. This modern mechanistic organization sets students up for success in what is historically a difficult subject.
Throughout this coming semester I will be teaching Organic Chemistry I, and I’ll be sharing my thoughts and insights as I do. Stay tuned!
Professor Todd Eckroat, Penn State Erie- The Behrend College