Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?

While teaching chapters 17-18, I have shown students the versatility of carbonyls and enolate chemistry. The discussion in Karty’s book is arranged well and does a nice job of spotlighting the chemistry unique to carbonyls, especially as it ranges from selective addition (direct or conjugate) to the use of enolates for alkylation and halogenation.  In … Continue reading Are pKa’s Necessary to Succeed in the Classroom?

A, B, C’s of Williamson Ether Synthesis

Williamson ether synthesis at the basic leave is rooted in the conditions of an SN2 reaction. However, students still struggle with the content. I have found myself trying to remind my class of the basics. I am quite fond of the Karty text, and have tried to compliment the book mechanics with some organically-flavored A … Continue reading A, B, C’s of Williamson Ether Synthesis

Break-Brain: How Do Instructors Reconnect Students to the Content

I am not sure if other instructors have this issue, but how do you connect students back to the content? Sometimes I wonder if the first week of the spring semester is worse than the first week of the fall semester. My class ended the semester on chapter 9 content, while my colleague left the … Continue reading Break-Brain: How Do Instructors Reconnect Students to the Content

Nomenclature: Can It Be Taught alongside Mechanisms and Synthesis?

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?

An Active Learning Exercise for Conformational Analysis

When students ask me why learning organic chemistry is such hard work, I often begin by telling them that it’s just so different from general chemistry. At the beginning of the course, there’s plenty of overlap since students in organic chemistry must have a strong foundation in the structure, bonding, and properties of molecules. Eventually, … Continue reading An Active Learning Exercise for Conformational Analysis

How to Help Students See Patterns of Reactivity: My Experience with Karty’s Text

One of my most common refrains in my organic chemistry classes is that students should strive to understand and apply the foundational principles, as opposed to trying to memorize each example reaction that they’ve encountered. I strongly believe that a mechanistic organization discourages the memorization behaviors that students are almost forced to adopt in a … Continue reading How to Help Students See Patterns of Reactivity: My Experience with Karty’s Text

Has It Really Been Six Years?: Part I

I have a photo of me and my oldest son taped to a shelf in my office. In the picture, I’m holding him up and we’re wearing matching red bandanas. He was about 3-years-old at the time (he's 13 now), and I had a full head of bright red hair. But today, it’s almost all … Continue reading Has It Really Been Six Years?: Part I

Eliminating Preconceived Fears

Organic chemistry has always been the course you would hear rumors about “breaking students” or “crushing students’ medical-field dreams.” This preconceived fear creates a learning barrier for students before they even enter the classroom. I’ve personally known good students with great potential who’ve given up on their future careers just because of organic chemistry. Our … Continue reading Eliminating Preconceived Fears

A Mechanistic Organization

I have been using Karty’s Organic Chemistry: Principles and Mechanisms textbook since the first edition was published in 2014, and it has made a dramatic improvement in my two-semester organic chemistry lecture. After teaching organic chemistry for two decades employing typical organic textbooks, which all organized topics by functional groups, Karty’s textbook was a breath … Continue reading A Mechanistic Organization

If H Is on the Horizontal…Then It’s Horribly Wrong

As an organic chemistry professor, I find that Fischer projections are one of the more challenging perspectives to view chiral centers. However, this projection also happens to be one of my favorites for viewing chiral carbons, chiral compounds, and meso molecules. Even though the Fischer projection can be quite challenging, it can also be the … Continue reading If H Is on the Horizontal…Then It’s Horribly Wrong