Oftentimes, when I talk with students, I compare the organic chemistry lecture series to a study-abroad experience: the first semester is when students learn the language, and the second semester is when they become immersed in the content. Within this dichotomy, I view nomenclature as a vocabulary-learning process (e.g., ketones, carboxylic acids, alcohols, and so … Continue reading Nomenclature: Can It Be Taught alongside Mechanisms and Synthesis?
At Butler, we have four learning goals for our students in organic chemistry: to learn the language, drawing style, and three-dimensional structure of organic molecules; to know and apply organic reactions; to demonstrate understanding of reaction mechanisms; and to integrate this knowledge through synthesis. Of these learning objectives, the most difficult for students to embrace … Continue reading The Right Time for Synthesis?
Like so many other organic courses, at my school approximately two-thirds of organic students are biology majors. Of these, most have some sort of pre-health professional aspiration. Because of this audience alongside my chemistry and biochemistry majors, I come to my organic classroom (as I know many of you do!) with two sets of course … Continue reading Starting the Semester with My Biology Students in Mind
One of the key features of our new organic chemistry curriculum at Middlebury College is that the premed students (and anyone else who is so inclined) can take biochemistry after just one semester of organic chemistry (vs. a whole year). I have previously written about these details and how well Joel’s mechanistically organized textbook helped … Continue reading Putting Some (but not too much) Biochemistry in Organic Chemistry
My father is a retired doctor and he’s never missed an opportunity to remind me that not once in his career in medicine did he need to APPLY the material he learned in college organic chemistry. And during office hours two weeks ago, a pre-health student flat-out told me she doesn’t see the point of … Continue reading Stuff Pre-Meds (and My Dad) Say, and What They Need to Hear
Two things are certain about premedical students: their numbers drive organic chemistry enrollments and their academic needs, as defined by medical schools, are going to change in 2015. As scientists, we know that we ignore data at our own peril. So what is to become of sophomore organic chemistry? My journey began almost two years … Continue reading MCAT2015 and the Future of Organic Chemistry
At most colleges and universities, students enrolled in organic chemistry come from a variety of majors and pre-professional programs. At St. Kate’s, the organic sections are a 20/20/40 split of chemistry, food & nutrition science, and biology majors. Twenty percent of our students are enrolled in organic in order to fulfill prerequisites for a variety … Continue reading The Three M’s: Motivating, Modernizing, and MCAT
Two-cycle organic chemistry is a pedagogical approach that has gained in popularity over the last couple decades. It’s a rather simple idea: The first semester course is treated as something of a survey, dealing primarily with the fundamentals, whereas the second semester revisits many of the same topics from the first semester, but treating them … Continue reading The Benefits of a Mechanistically Organized Book When Teaching a 2-cycle Approach
When I teach nucleophilic substitution and elimination reactions, I find that students typically have very little trouble drawing each mechanism and predicting the products, so long as they are specifically told which reaction. But many students find one aspect very challenging: predicting the winner of an SN1/SN2/E1/E2 competition. In my first few years of teaching, … Continue reading Predicting the Products of an SN1/SN2/E1/E2 Competition
In most organic chemistry courses, the majority of students are biology majors and/or have their sights set on a career in medicine or other health-related field. My own course is no different. Therefore, like many organic instructors, I believe that students ought to see the relevance of organic chemistry to biology and medicine. Why is … Continue reading How Should Biochemical Topics Be Treated in an Organic Textbook?