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

The Mechanism Did It!

I finally finished the book last night. In the two years since we adopted Karty, I have taught the first-semester course three times. However, due to the oddities of academic scheduling, this spring was my first time teaching our second-semester course with the text. So, metaphorically speaking, I finally got my chance to find out … Continue reading The Mechanism Did It!

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

Mechanisms Make Everything Easier

My first teaching responsibility upon coming to Northern Arizona University was our ten-week Organic Chemistry II summer course. Besides never having taught a summer ten-week session, I had never taught organic chemistry from Karty's text. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Karty's text was organized by mechanisms, making lecture preparation, and overall flow of … Continue reading Mechanisms Make Everything Easier

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

My Most Productive Start of the Semester Ever

The first time I taught out of Joel’s text, I had no idea where I was going to put the semester break. I enjoyed how well each chapter flowed into the next, but that left me wondering where to put a five-week break. I was used to a traditional ordering of subject which resulted in … Continue reading My Most Productive Start of the Semester Ever

An Easy Transition into the Second Semester

Every year I struggle with the same question: How do I transition students into the second semester of organic chemistry? In the first semester, my students learn how to study chemistry from a mechanistic point of view in order to understand reactions rather than memorize them. After learning the basic elementary steps that make up most … Continue reading An Easy Transition into the Second Semester

No More Fearing Alkenes and Alkynes

Since this is the second year I am using Joel’s text, I was sure that I would be comfortable with the syllabus and schedule I set. But I again became nervous as I approached Chapter 11, “Electrophilic Addition to Nonpolar Pi Bonds.” Years of slogging through additions to alkenes and alkynes, working example after example … Continue reading No More Fearing Alkenes and Alkynes