The Right Time for 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?

Starting the Semester with My Biology Students in Mind

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

Putting Some (but not too much) Biochemistry in Organic Chemistry

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

Stuff Pre-Meds (and My Dad) Say, and What They Need to Hear

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

MCAT2015 and the Future of Organic Chemistry

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

The Three M’s: Motivating, Modernizing, and MCAT

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

The Benefits of a Mechanistically Organized Book When Teaching a 2-cycle Approach

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

Predicting the Products of an SN1/SN2/E1/E2 Competition

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

How Should Biochemical Topics Be Treated in an Organic Textbook?

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?

What About Nonmajors and Pre-health Students?

I am convinced that students learn organic chemistry best when we teach them how to work with mechanisms prior to delving into predicting products and devising syntheses. And when dealing with reactions, it is important to organize reactions according to mechanism, in order for students to have a sustained focus on mechanisms throughout the year.  … Continue reading What About Nonmajors and Pre-health Students?