As an educator, part of my summer fun is thinking about ways to revitalize and improve my courses in the coming year. This summer, the arrival of the third edition of Joel Karty’s Organic Chemistry: Principles and Mechanisms is giving me a lot to get excited about. While I have always appreciated the mechanism-based approach to organic chemistry that drew me to this text 8 years ago, I found myself inserting days into the schedule to allow me to introduce the concept of synthesis earlier than the text and go a bit more in depth about a few topics, like spectroscopy. I have been pleased to see that the third edition fills those gaps in ways that will support my students well. The third edition is a stream-lined, intuitive text that allows room for instructor flexibility.
When designing my syllabus for the fall, I was excited to see that synthesis is introduced earlier in this edition in Chapter 10. With this arrangement of topics, students will learn synthesis terminology, conventional notation, and the broader end-goal of building molecules alongside the reactions that transform functional groups and build carbon frameworks. The cognitive shift in the textbook from predicting substitution and elimination products to learning when to use specific reagents in a reaction scheme can be a challenge for students, but an understanding of the “why” to accompany the “how” can make this transition smoother.
While organic chemists may come close to a consensus about what content should be included in a year-long course sequence, every instructor has a few topics that they would love to explore with their students more in depth. For me, the “Deeper Look” sections of the text help to support this endeavor. For example, I have always included an introduction to 2D NMR spectroscopy, and now my students will have a reference in the text in Chapter 17 to reinforce their understanding of the topic. In addition, the first-year sequence at my institution includes a sizeable unit on MO theory. The “Deeper Look” section in Chapter 3 and the connections made between frontier molecular orbital theory and common elementary steps in organic chemistry in Interchapter C will provide continuity and build on the foundations my students have established. These sections allow me the flexibility to dive deeper in some places, or to move through others more quickly without confusing students.
Finally, I’m excited to see the evolution of the solved problems in the third edition. In the Think-Solve-Try examples throughout the textbook, students can see the questions one might ask related to a type of problem directly alongside the application of that question to a specific situation. In a broader sense, I like how this communicates the thought process involved in solving problems in organic chemistry and models the benefits of asking questions. Visually, it is easy to follow and could help a student identify where they might be getting confused. In a practical sense, students have the opportunity to immediately apply the process to a similar question to build confidence and understanding.
As I continue to design my course for the coming year, I know that my students will have high-quality resources in the text and online materials that support my efforts in the classroom and their ultimate success.
-Laura Wysocki, Wabash College
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