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

The Far-Reaching Benefits of Teaching Organic Chemistry According to Mechanism

In my experience, the traditional method of teaching organic chemistry courses according to functional group often leads students to rely on memorization. For example, a single chapter on alkyl halides may include substitution reactions, radical reactions, and additions to alkenes. With such a large volume of information, it’s very difficult for students to manage and … Continue reading The Far-Reaching Benefits of Teaching Organic Chemistry According to Mechanism

Ballroom Dancing as a Metaphor for Learning Organic Chemistry

Students are notorious for feeling overwhelmed by the subject of organic chemistry. This leaves the instructor perplexed with the thought of effectively and adequately teaching the course. Often, the question posed is … "…to use or not to use reactions?" Both as a student and as an instructor, I have heard that students only feel … Continue reading Ballroom Dancing as a Metaphor for Learning Organic Chemistry

Memorization Not a Choice: Learning to Remember

I have always approached my organic sequence as a mechanism-driven course. Every reaction that we discussed in class started with a mechanism to show how it wasn’t really anything new, but an extension of the types of behaviors we had learned to describe and anticipate. I avoided texts that listed reaction after reaction as completely … Continue reading Memorization Not a Choice: Learning to Remember

No Pain, Lots of Gain

When I was an organic chemistry student, I learned from a functional group based textbook. Fast forward fifteen years, and I was teaching organic chemistry from a functional group based textbook. As a chemistry department, it was what we knew and what we were comfortable with, but the department as a whole was ready for … Continue reading No Pain, Lots of Gain

Higher Understanding but Not “Higher-Level”

When talking with chemist friends about their organic chemistry experience as students, many of them remember the mechanism questions as the most difficult; the last questions on each exam, the “A-student versus B-student” questions, were always mechanisms to struggle through. When I’ve explained that my school follows a mechanistically driven approach to organic chemistry, the … Continue reading Higher Understanding but Not “Higher-Level”

Mechanisms in Class, Mechanisms in Lab

I have always used a mechanistic approach when teaching organic chemistry. Every class I have taught, I started the first day saying, “Do you want to try to memorize hundreds, if not thousands, of individual reactions, or do you want to learn to understand how about ten reactions take place, so you can apply them … Continue reading Mechanisms in Class, Mechanisms in Lab