It’s My Favorite Time of the Year! Chapters 6 and 7

It’s my favorite time of the year. Finally, we get to do chemistry in organic chemistry! Not to malign BDE, IMF, chair vs. boat conformations, etc., but I have always thought of the stuff leading up to this point—strains and conformers, the designation of stereochemistry and the terms and rules associated with their nomenclature—a bit … Continue reading It’s My Favorite Time of the Year! Chapters 6 and 7

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

Stereochemistry and Adaptability

The three dimensional nature of organic molecules is a topic that all organic chemistry courses must cover. Chairs, Newman projections, Fischer projections, rotations, conformational changes, and stereochemistry are very challenging for sophomore students to grasp—especially if this is their first exposure to the concept that structure is a key element to reactivity. That said, watching … Continue reading Stereochemistry and Adaptability

Surprising Scores in Unit 4

At the end of the semester the students are typically burned out, busy with all of their final assignments, and in general do not perform as well on the last unit exam compared to the other three units. At Old Dominion University we teach addition to alkenes and alkynes in the last unit, a very … Continue reading Surprising Scores in Unit 4

No Longer Dreading the Second Exam

Shortly after I began teaching, when I was still using a book organized by functional group, I came to dread the second exam of the first semester. The class would typically perform decently well on the first exam, but scores would plummet on the second one. I recently looked back at my records for a … Continue reading No Longer Dreading the Second Exam

Biomolecules Hidden in Plain Sight

When I consider adopting a new textbook for a course, I have one main concern: my audience. I teach a wide variety of students; the chemistry major who began doing research his freshman year on his path toward graduate school, the psychology major who is concerned about his GPA and preparation for the MCAT, the … Continue reading Biomolecules Hidden in Plain Sight

Is Learning Organic Chemistry like Learning a New Language?

Over the years, I've heard many organic faculty use the phrase: “Learning organic chemistry is like learning a foreign language.” I've certainly used the phrase myself to give advice to my own students, in an attempt to convey that both subjects are cumulative and require a lot of practice. This year, however, I find myself … Continue reading Is Learning Organic Chemistry like Learning a New Language?

A Mechanistic Organization and Learning Synthesis: Having Cake and Eating It, Too

When I began teaching organic chemistry over twelve years ago, I adopted a traditional textbook organized according to functional group. The concept of organic synthesis was introduced in a short section in Chapter 4, as was retrosynthetic analysis. The intention, I think, was good: with these aspects of synthesis introduced early, students would incorporate new … Continue reading A Mechanistic Organization and Learning Synthesis: Having Cake and Eating It, Too

The Organization Makes Mechanisms Part of the Routine

A number of years ago I had a student come to me at the end of Organic II and ask, “What happened to the SN2 reaction?” She wanted to know why we had spent so much time on this one reaction in order to move on to the next unit and then never discussed this … Continue reading The Organization Makes Mechanisms Part of the Routine