Organic chemistry has always been the course you would hear rumors about “breaking students” or “crushing students’ medical-field dreams.” This preconceived fear creates a learning barrier for students before they even enter the classroom. I’ve personally known good students with great potential who’ve given up on their future careers just because of organic chemistry.

Our role as instructors involves eliminating any preconceived fears and anxieties about the subject matter and using our expertise to guide students in developing the necessary skills to become active participants in their own learning. Yes, organic chemistry may still be one of the most challenging classes students take, but when teaching with a mechanistic organization, the course is much more manageable and enjoyable without the dreadful memorization.

Coming from someone who has both learned and taught an organic chemistry course organized by functional group, I can attest that Karty’s book does an excellent job of giving students the ability to identify trends by organizing the course by mechanism. This organization not only abandons the “memorization method,” but it also really allows students to concentrate on their problem-solving skills, which are crucial for their success in organic chemistry. For example, Chapter 12 focuses on ten reactions that all undergo the addition of an electrophile to the nonpolar pi bond of a nucleophile through a cyclic intermediate. This general pattern eliminates the need to memorize ten different reaction mechanisms. Rather, it simplifies students’ understanding of the single mechanism to allow them to focus on the arrow pushing from the nucleophile to the electrophile.

This textbook takes the focus off the difficulty of the subject matter and gives students the opportunity to develop a true appreciation of the subject and how the science benefits society. For example, Karty’s book makes excellent connections between molecules and reactions, and their applications, by incorporating “Connection and Application” boxes as well as “Organic Chemistry of Biomolecules” sections. The only time I was ever introduced to a connection to the real world was during laboratory, and quite frankly, I never thought I would be able to squeeze real-world connections into my lectures. However, students today are more interested in the question, “Why do I need to know this?” And Karty’s book helps me to answer this question. My favorite example is found in Chapter 12, which links the epoxidation of benzo[α]pyrene, found in cigarette smoke, to causing various forms of cancer, a concept that every student should find interesting.

Many students, who had shared with me their initial fears and concerns about having to make hundreds of flashcards to memorize mechanisms, were relieved to find that they didn’t have to do that anymore because of the confidence they felt using this textbook.

– Jillian McCue, King’s College

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