Students are Doin’ it for Themselves

As several contributors to this blog have pointed out, Joel Karty’s text introduces biochemistry topics early in the course through supplementary sections at the end of most chapters titled, “The Organic Chemistry of Biomolecules.” Many instructors have lauded this early inclusion of biomolecular topics as a motivator for biology majors and pre-professional students; one that … Continue reading Students are Doin’ it for Themselves

A Racemization Revelation

In my experience, when students are writing a reaction mechanism, the most common error is to form a strong base under acidic conditions or vice versa.  I stress the importance of paying attention to reaction conditions in lecture, but the “function group” based textbook previously used at Western Washington University did not contain a section … Continue reading A Racemization Revelation

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 … Continue reading Seeing the Big Picture

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. … Continue reading Time Well Spent

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 … Continue reading MO Theory? NO Problem

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

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 … Continue reading No Pain, Lots of Gain

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 … Continue reading Higher Understanding but Not “Higher-Level”

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, … Continue reading You Are Ready for the Final Once You Drink Some Coffee