A Famous Pair, and No it isn’t Sonny and Cher

When teaching SN1 and SN2 reactions to my students, this famously difficult duo is made perfectly manageable by breaking down their mechanisms side by side. I always explain to my students that these concepts can be learned and understood much like any of history's great pairs. Like Tom & Jerry, Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, … Continue reading A Famous Pair, and No it isn’t Sonny and Cher

Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

One thing I was really looking forward to when switching to Karty’s mechanistically organized text was how reactions involving alkenes would be addressed. I expected to see the reactions simply grouped by mechanism; for example, the electrophilic addition reaction mechanisms would be grouped together, as would the pericyclic reaction mechanisms and so on. Instead, I … Continue reading Life is Hard Enough. Why Teach Alkenes By Function?

Too Little? Too Much? Chapter 7 is just Right!

Chapter 7 in Karty’s book struck me as very unique when I first reviewed it. Initially, I considered it to be just an overview chapter that I could breeze through without much thought. After further review, I thought perhaps it covered too much material and would cause students to be confused rather than deepen their … Continue reading Too Little? Too Much? Chapter 7 is just Right!

An Enlightening Experience

Three years ago, as a first-time teacher, I took over for the previous organic chemistry professor at our university, including the textbook he was using. It was one of the most popular books organized by functional groups. After surviving through my first-year teaching, I sensed that it was confusing mechanistically. Seeing how the reaction worked … Continue reading An Enlightening Experience

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