Chem 151L, Organic Chemistry

January 31, 2003

The hihe branch of chemistry dealing with substances found in living things may reveal that in the living things taking Chemistry 151, one substance rarely found is a passion for organic chemistry. If you're pre-med, you can't forego orgo. Because premeds make up the vast majority of the class, their presence, say professors, has taken the content in a new direction. "Generally, [premeds] aren't interested unless there is a focus on chemistry's biological application, so that's the direction the content has taken," says Ross Widenhoefer, an associate professor. "It's being catered to those students who want to go into a health-related field."

For instance, instead of focusing on organic metals, professors might illustrate a concept through pharmacology, focusing on analgesics such as Tylenol or Advil. The compounds and the functional groups can change. What's important is that students learn to identify the reaction mechanisms. This might be a positive step toward capturing students' interests. However, one problem, says Widenhoefer, "is that the research might be too complicated for making the fundamental points we want to get across."

While there is some debate over the best way to teach organic chemistry, there is agreement over the importance of making things, if not fantastically intriguing, at least modestly palatable. And acquiring that taste, realizing orgo's relevance to the outer world, says Professor Eric Toone, is up to the student. "What happens is students try to cram in 10,000 reactions before the test. Then they go to the pub and press reset. And what have they learned?" The course, he says, is not about memorization: "That's a waste of time. It's about how you think and whether or not you can connect the concepts of organic chemistry to things that occur in everyday life--which is an awful lot of things."

Reading

Organic Chemistry, 3rd edition, G. Marc Loudon and Joseph G. Stowell, Benjamin/ Cummings Publishing Co., 1995.

Organic Chemistry Laboratory, Bell, Clark, Taber, and Rodig, Saunders Publishing Co., 1997.

Study Guide & Solutions Manual, Vol. 1 to accompany above text.

A set of flexible molecular models.

Assignments, Exams (and help with them)

Students are responsible for the material in the Loudon text, which includes sample problems; however, no homework is collected.

There are three one-hour exams and one thirty-minute quiz.

Everyone must enroll in and attend a laboratory section, and performance there accounts for 25 percent of the class grade.

Free tutoring is available through the Peer Tutoring Office, and private tutors (grad and post-doc students) are also available. A list of tutors is posted.

Review sessions are held the day before an exam by the class instructor. Students may use old exams and problem sets to prepare for exams.

Professors

Eric Toone

Ross Widenhoefer

Steven Baldwin

Steven Craig

Michael Pirrung

Michael Montague-Smith