Right Where I Want my Students to Be

The other day, while working through Chapter 21, I left class with a great feeling as a result of having given the following clicker question: My students were able to rule out choice (a) on their own, given that there’s no reasonable mechanism to arrive at that product with the methyl groups located there. However, … Continue reading Right Where I Want my Students to Be

All Downhill After the Aldol

Ah yes, it is that time of year again; a seven week coast to the Organic Chemistry II finish line. All the elementary steps have been introduced and discussed multiple times and it feels like review from here. Most texts seem to end with reactions like Aldol condensation and Robinson Annulation. A functional group approach … Continue reading All Downhill After the Aldol

When to Introduce Conjugate Addition: Sometimes More is More

There were two places in Joel’s text that surprised me: where 1,2 versus 1,4 addition to a conjugated diene appeared—Chapter 11—and where direct versus conjugate nucleophilic addition to polar pi bonds appeared—Chapter 17. Both of these chapters introduce basic concepts and then expand all the way to complex applications, much further than a functional-group organized … Continue reading When to Introduce Conjugate Addition: Sometimes More is More

Taking the Enolate off the Pedestal

I’ve noticed over the years that when I put a “name” on something, students tend to panic. We will be doing just fine with SN2 reactions, but when I suddenly name it the Williamson Ether Synthesis, my students become very concerned, as if it’s some completely different concept. Whenever I bring up the Williamson Ether … Continue reading Taking the Enolate off the Pedestal

Do Your Students “Get” Aldol Reactions?

As a new professor, I had mixed feelings about spring break. On the one hand, I was so ready for a vacation, but on the other, I remembered what it was like as a student that time of year. Your mind is on anything but classes. Not only are you looking forward to a week … Continue reading Do Your Students “Get” Aldol Reactions?

Snow Day Strategies: How I Made-Up Lost Time

Elon University is located in central North Carolina and we don’t often have severe winter storms. In fact, in my previous 12 years at Elon, not once did we have a cancelled day of classes during our fall or spring semesters. This spring semester, however, four days of classes were lost to winter storms, three … Continue reading Snow Day Strategies: How I Made-Up Lost Time

Demystifying Enolate Chemistry

In my mind, enolate chemistry is one of the highlights of the second-semester organic chemistry course. Granted, the list of named enolate-based reactions (Aldol, Claisen, Michael, Robinson, etc.) can be daunting to students. Nevertheless, the importance of enolate chemistry in biochemical processes (glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, fatty acid biosynthesis), as well as in the synthesis of compounds … Continue reading Demystifying Enolate Chemistry

Liberation in the Laboratory

One of the unexpected benefits of Joel’s organization was the discovery that students, once they learn the elementary steps common in organic reactions, can perform a limitless—at least in theory—range of experiments in the lab. (In the upcoming textbook, elementary steps are discussed in Chapter 7, midway through the first semester.) Since students have examined … Continue reading Liberation in the Laboratory