Is there a crisis in organic chemistry education? | March 28, 2016 Issue - Vol. 94 Issue 13 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 94 Issue 13 | pp. 24-25
Issue Date: March 28, 2016

Is there a crisis in organic chemistry education?

Teachers say yes, but most of the problems aren’t new
Department: Education
News Channels: Organic SCENE
Keywords: ACS meeting news, undergraduate education, organic, chemistry education, orgo
[+]Enlarge
Credit: Will Ludwig/C&EN
A drawing of a student asleep at a desk surrounded by organic chemistry textbooks.
 
Credit: Will Ludwig/C&EN

Symposium organizers drew attention to a session earlier this month at the ACS national meeting in San Diego with a provocative title: “Is There a Crisis in Organic Chemistry Education?” But many of the speakers—most of whom work in academic publishing—responded with a “no,” threatening to deflate the advertised anxiety.

Quite the contrary, they said. Never before have organic chemistry students and teachers had so many resources at their disposal: a wealth of textbooks, electronic study guides, and databases with tens of thousands of questions.

But educators in the audience took issue with the speakers’ view. All those resources don’t mean there’s not a crisis, educators in the audience said. Organic chemistry is a tough subject for students. Figuring out the best way to teach it to time-strapped students continues to be a challenge, particularly as colleges and universities grapple with curriculum changes and the volatile chemistry employment market.

The symposium title reflects a good deal of hand-wringing among organic chemistry educators in recent years. A rough job market for organic chemists and a revamped Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which de-emphasizes the subject, has made teachers wonder if fewer students will take the course.

At the moment, this fear seems to be unfounded. For the symposium, Maureen Rosener and Sandi Kiselica of the education company Cengage Learning surveyed their company’s organic chemistry clients. They found that only 6% had seen a drop in organic chemistry enrollment, while 33% had seen an increase.

Organic chemistry supports more students than just premed students, Rosener said. Many students will pursue other careers in health care, such as dentistry and nursing. These students usually have to take biochemistry, for which two semesters of organic chemistry is a prerequisite at most colleges and universities.

Join the conversation.

Use of the word “orgo” in this story brought up some strong feelings in readers. Read some of their comments, check out the results of a Twitter poll conducted by fellow C&EN reporter Jyllian Kemsley (@jkemsley) gauging public perception of the word, and join the conversation below.

Please, do not ever shorten “organic” or “organic chemistry” to “orgo.” I cringed every time I saw that in the article and almost stopped reading it.
Gail Shelly, March 28, 2016 8:18 PM

“P-chem” is physical chemistry, “o-chem” or “orgo” is organic chemistry, “gen-chem” is general chemistry, “cal” is calculus ... deal with it.
Rick Venegas, April 4, 2016 9:03 PM

I do not think shortening “organic chemistry” to “orgo” is an affront to the subject but rather simply recognizes that is what probably 99% of college students call it.
Crystal Baus, March 30, 2016 4:19 PM

Using the term “orgo” disrespects the discipline. Sounds like a monster (ogre? orc?) from Middle Earth and could be considered an affront.
Jeff, April 5, 2016 12:15 PM

Educators see a different kind of crisis in orgo, as organic chemistry is sometimes called—not one of enrollment declines but one of student understanding.

“The fact is organic chemistry textbooks have not changed in 50 years. It’s the same approach,” said Jerome Haky, an organic chemistry professor at Florida Atlantic University who was in the audience. He pointed out that students’ struggles with orgo also haven’t changed: Many still find it difficult to grasp. “We need to think of a different approach. We need to work with the educational community to figure out how people learn,” Haky said. He challenged publishers to invest in fundamental research to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Melanie Cooper, a chemistry education professor at Michigan State University who presided over the symposium, also discussed the struggles students have with orgo. “I don’t think there’s a current crisis. I think there’s always been a crisis,” she said. What educators find, Cooper said, is that “students come out of general chemistry typically very unprepared, and organic chemistry faculty simply don’t understand how unprepared their students are.”

Although general chemistry is usually a prerequisite for organic chemistry, the two courses are very different. The former is largely quantitative, while the latter requires a new kind of qualitative thinking. Orgo teachers hope that their students come to realize that organic chemistry operates through just a few underlying fundamentals, she said, but the students often can’t see them. “Our studies have shown they can go through an organic chemistry course and not understand some fundamental ideas.”

Companies that make educational resources, such as textbooks, continue to offer more and more products to help struggling students. Many of the symposium’s speakers talked about organic chemistry texts that try to provide biological examples of certain chemistries for students headed toward medical professions. The speakers also pointed to their electronic resources, such as study guides and reaction databases.

But the wealth of resources may actually be a problem. Students are faced with so much information from so many disparate resources, Cooper said, that they’re completely overwhelmed. “They are forced into this memorization mode,” she said. “They can’t take in the fire hose of information.”

“I don’t think the crisis in teaching organic chemistry is because there are no good books or sufficient publisher-provided resources,” said Manashi Chatterjee, an organic chemistry faculty member at Hunter College, City University of New York, who was in the audience. “It’s that many students are overwhelmed by the number of classes they are taking and their work schedules.” Students often won’t use the extra resources unless they count toward their final grade, she said. She’s found that to effectively teach organic chemistry she must also teach her students study skills and time management.

Jessica Tischler, an organic chemistry professor at the University of Michigan, Flint, who was also in the audience, agreed. She has tried to experiment with the new tools companies have developed in the past 10 years. “But I’ve found that in the end the students never really have time to take advantage of any them,” she said.

Many students at Tischler’s school are on financial aid and have to juggle work and family responsibilities, such as caring for their children, parents, or siblings, all while trying to maintain full-time status as students. On top of that, she noted, many are taking a course load full of challenging science classes. “At some point more resources just don’t help anymore,” she explained.

Publishers have worked to provide teachers with many different kinds of resources, said symposium speaker Sean Hickey, an organic chemistry instructor at the University of New Orleans who also works for John Wiley & Sons. “There’s almost an overload of information,” he said. “I think one of the big things publishers really need to work on is curation of content.” What publishers need to do, Hickey said, is to carefully choose which pieces of multimedia content will be most effective at getting a concept across.

“We’ve all been searching for different ways to organize organic chemistry differently and make it easy,” said symposium co-organizer Donna Nelson, an organic chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma and the current American Chemical Society president. Even so, she said, “students have been saying that organic chemistry is difficult for a long time.”

Crisis or not, that doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.  

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society
Comments
Jimmy Brancho (March 28, 2016 11:55 AM)
Nice write-up! I really enjoyed this symposium.
Bethany Halford (April 1, 2016 2:36 PM)
I liked your write-up too, Jimmy. Readers looking for another person's perspective on this symposium should check out: http://treetownchem.blogspot.com/2016/03/editorial-whats-point-of-organic.html
Gail Shelly (March 28, 2016 8:18 PM)
Bottom line - in order to master Organic Chemistry students have to work at it. It requires that they use their brains differently than they have been used to, and I tell them that they are "training their brains" for the future, especially if they are going to be health professionals. How often do doctors "synthesize" seemingly unrelated bits of information into a reasonable diagnosis? They have to keep up with the material as its presented and not "cram" for a test. I require them to use the resources by assigning homework problems since they can't learn by looking - they have to write and draw if they are going to master it.

And please, do not ever shorten "Organic" or "Organic Chemistry" to "orgo". I cringed every time I saw that in the article, and almost stopped reading it.
William A. Wachter (March 30, 2016 4:29 PM)
I am "sitting in" on a class after 35 years in the industry. Chemistry is the land of many returns and students "get" stuff after seeing it a number of different times and in different contexts. Coordination between faculty members on how something is taught a number of times through the curriculum could help ... but there is no substitute for consistent hard work... and if I don't study for tests, I get low marks, too!
Chesney (March 30, 2016 6:54 PM)
Please don't victim blame the students. Yes, I'll be the first to admit that perhaps 15 of the 20 students in my master's level chemistry class don't belong there because they don't have the work ethic. However, those of us that struggle to understand the material need to be taught it in a way that makes sense.

Telling us to keep reading it again, to go home and draw it, to memorize it, doesn't help! Being able to ramble off reaction names doesn't explain *why* it reacts that way, or how to predict the behavior of a novel complex. I have had only one professor out of all my chemistry courses actually take us back to quantum and help us understand what is actually going on.

For the first time, I am seeing reactions like playing with lego. Since I know why certain atoms or functional groups act like they do, I finally feel like I'm I could be a useful researcher, not just another automaton.
Andre (March 31, 2016 6:00 AM)
Students of organic chemistry would be well advised to listen to lectures, and follow the example of, Dr Alexander Shulgan. He was a true pioneer, and once he had experienced the power of looking at the world in a different-but ancient- way, he was able to make numerous contributions to humanity. He deserves a posthumous Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work in organic chemistry and its contribution to the understanding of human consciousness.
BMHS (April 7, 2016 12:26 PM)
Interesting view. Brings back the discussions I had with my organic chemistry professors every time I wanted to know why a reaction mechanism took a specific first step! Now that I am an educator and teaching organic chemistry for the first time I tend to assess understanding on the spot and bring back chemical bond theories along with a periodic table to explain stuff. I figured out that students coming from general chemistry understand better if I use a familiar language to answer their questions. Gotten great results so far...it is only the beginning.
Nate (April 4, 2016 12:24 PM)
Part of the problem is teaching O-chem by memorization; a truly terrible approach. I mastered the organic chemistry series because I had a professor that taught HOW to solve organic chemistry problems, not how to solve EACH organic chemistry problem.

De-emphasizing o-chem for the MCAT is a fantastic idea. O-chem has gotten such a bad rap because every "wanna-be" doctor in undergrad takes it, complains about it, doesn't do that great (because they only took is because it was required), and then perpetuated the MYTH that it's the "HARDEST SUBJECT EVER".

Adrian Dingle (March 29, 2016 1:34 PM)
Earlier specialization in high school, and the introduction of more organic at the same stage is the answer IMO.
Horace B. Cross (March 29, 2016 5:45 PM)
I agree with both Gail Shelly and Adrian Dingle. They have both hit a significant target in stating what students need to commit to when it comes to studying Organic Chemistry. I believe that earlier specialization in high school on an introductory level would help students immensely for those going into a science curriculum in college where Organic Chemistry is needed.
And yes, please don't disrespect Organic Chemistry with a "Hip-Hop" nickname such as "orgo". Spell it out with respect! The corporate world right now is overloaded with too many demeaning acronyms!
Robert E. Buntrock (April 1, 2016 10:52 AM)
Premeds and medical school recruiters (who still emphasize Organic Chem) have referred to the subject as "Orgo".
Rick Venegas, PA-C (April 4, 2016 9:03 PM)
P-Chem is Physical Chemistry, O-Chem or Orgo is Organic Chemistry, GenChem is General Chemistry, Cal is Calculus..... deal with it.
Lucilena Monteiro (March 30, 2016 2:37 PM)
We, chemists, will not mix among different areas. So why not separate subjects in two different university courses, inorganic and organic chemistry? With a general introduction to each other in each course?
Crystal Baus (March 30, 2016 4:19 PM)
In response to Gail and Horace, I do not think shortening Organic Chemistry to Orgo is an affront to the subject but rather simply recognizes that is what probably 99% of college students call it. Heck, that is even what my classmates and I called it when I was still in school. Same as Physical Chemistry classes get shortened to "P-Chem" in conversations.

Organic chemistry does indeed require a commitment to study and I agree with Gail that you need to train your brain to think differently. With that said though, the volume of information presented over the length of the course is challenging to absorb and comprehend and I believe that is what the article is getting at - how to make the material easier to comprehend for the busy student. Keep in mind that even for a student who keeps up with the material as it's presented, that student has to devote time each day not only to their organic lessons but every other class they have assignments for. So they will do the organic assignment or reading and when that is complete it is on to another subject and chemistry is out of their mind.
Robert E. Buntrock (April 1, 2016 10:53 AM)
Agreed.
Paul E. Eckler (March 30, 2016 5:55 PM)
"Many students will pursue other careers in health care, such as dentistry and nursing." Ask any mid-career dentist or nurse if they use their organic chemistry. Most say, "No." They need to understand nomenclature and something about the properties of organics, carbohydrates, aminoacids, proteins, etc. Perhaps they need to learn to handle such materials safely. Criteria of purity. But do they need to memorize extensive lists of synthesis reactions? There is room for improvement in the courses offered and required.
Robert E. Buntrock (April 1, 2016 10:57 AM)
Some schools have 2-track Organic, one for majors, another for health professionals (other than premeds). The latter could be more descriptive, bearing in mind that properties include reactions. Both couses should be a prep for biochem.
John G. Tiessen (March 30, 2016 6:13 PM)
What I see time and again is a highly distracted population craving simple answers they can look up on Google and understand without effort. The real world isn't at all similar to that way of thinking. Why then do so many people who should know better try to adjust their teaching methods to fit the attention span of the distracted majority?

I read this article after reading an article in my local newspaper about educators trying to take 9th grade algebra out of the high school graduation requirements because "so few people ever use it after high school" and because "it represents the biggest barrier to students completing high school." Just like organic chemistry, algebra (and after that, calculus) are WAYS OF THINKING with profound implications for problem solving in innumerable other situations. Rather than taking anything out of the graduation requirements, I would prefer see a law passed that anyone without a high school diploma doesn't deserve the right to vote. Certainly no one who failed Organic should be masquerading as a Chemist! (or Physician, or Dentist, or ...)

Joseph Castellano (March 30, 2016 6:31 PM)
I firmly agree that the use of the word "orgo" should not be used to describe organic chemistry. I also believe strongly that the subject should be introduced to students at an early age. After retiring from a career in organic chemistry research, I began working as a volunteer teacher-partner for an organization called TOPS of Santa Clara Valley (www.topsofscv.org). For the past ten years, I have worked with eight grade students helping to teach them chemistry and physics. As part of that endeavor, I prepared many PowerPoint presentations on various topics, one of which is entitled "Organic Chemistry Basics." This short lesson, available on our website, is meant to introduce the topic to middle school students in the hope that they will be better prepared for their studies of organic chemistry in high school and college.
Stephen Zilch (March 30, 2016 6:54 PM)
As a current organic chemistry student. I totally agree with the sentiment that the problem is course load. When I took the the first half I got an A, but that was over the summer, and only had organic chemistry to focus on. Currently I'm taking the mechanism heavy half with two other chemistry courses and genetics. Between the 3 papers I have to write a week for my labs, readings, and homework I have been really struggling in O chem. Its a interesting subject and I hate that I can't appreciate it by giving it the hours a day that it requires.

My suggestion is to introduce the basic concepts like nomenclature and orbital theory (in much more detail) in general chemistry classes. Maybe even throw in some basic chemical attaches. Also I think the spectral part of the course should be thrown out or at least separated into the lab, having to decrypt a NMR or IR spectrum from memory sees ridicules in the real world. I'm am currently in an instrumental class and every single experiment thus far has had a spectral element, and it is covered the subject much better for anyone planning to go into that field.

That's just my two cents as a current student in chemistry.
Anne March Andrews, PhD (March 31, 2016 8:43 AM)
I have been actively using organic chemistry for analysis in the paint industry for 28 years. My BS in 1963 and my PhD in Organic in 1971. I remember that the 1 year of undergraduate organic chem started out so badly I had to ask the professor for help. He said to read the chapter ahead of his lecture and REWRITE the lecture notes and ask questions about anything I didn't understand. His advice worked because it requires seeing the material 3 times, which is what is takes because the course involves lots of rote learning of what are the functional groups ,etc without the interesting part (which you get in grad school) of why the functional groups react or don't react. Its the rote learning that turns the student off. He has to be reminded that memorizing the alphabet might not be interesting either, but it sure is handy later in life.
Robert E. Buntrock (April 1, 2016 11:03 AM)
My study methods (B. Chem. '62, PhD '67) for all college courses involved taking notes on notebook paper and then transcribing them that evening into bound notebooks. The dual writing helped retention greatly. Recent articles have stressed these study habits for current students.
Adrian Dingle (March 31, 2016 10:33 AM)
The Liberal Arts education tradition in the USA, is both crushingly inefficient in terms of $ (where the colleges are the only beneficiaries), and in terms of academic specialization. We don't need someone who might ultimately USE some organic chemistry knowledge, studying Shakespeare. It makes no sense.

BTW - I despise 'orgo', too.
Robert E. Buntrock (April 1, 2016 11:08 AM)
STEM students, especially chemistry need some liberal arts courses (recent articles in Chron. Higher Educ. have debated how much and how much either contributes to critical thinking)). As for Shakespeare, I had excellent family and HS preparation for further study in Freshman (Honors) English. My GPA in liberal arts courses would have earned me a Phi Beta Kappa. Overall, I ended up with a 3.20.
Jeff (April 5, 2016 11:44 AM)
I strongly disagree with the comment about liberal arts education. I completed my AB in chemistry, with a minor (one class short of a major) in music, at a small liberal arts college. I had an opportunity to do undergraduate research in organic chemistry for two years with a fantastic mentor. This research even led to a journal publication.

I then went graduate school for my PhD in organic chemistry. My research adviser told me that when the graduate school looked at GRE scores for admissions, more emphasis was placed on the NON-chemistry portion of the GRE. The reason for that, he said, was that they were willing to teach me chemistry, but they were not willing to teach me how to think! THAT’S what the liberal arts education provides. Being an organic chemist is more than just knowing the chemistry. Critical thinking, writing skills, and the ability to organize and present an effective oral presentation are also important.

Organic chemistry (please, not orgo!) should not be approached with memorization. Most students I knew that tried this approach had more difficulty with the subject. Perhaps an earlier emphasis on electron flow in mechanisms will help improve understanding the material.
Brian Bozhen (March 31, 2016 12:07 PM)
I encountered several of these problems when I was in undergrad, and I tried to write my own chemistry book to address them. Feel free to browse at http://brianbozhen.com/products/print

It focuses on content curation, unintimidating design, and narrative-based writing, and is currently used as a textbook supplement / review for instructors/tutors.
Jyllian (March 31, 2016 2:25 PM)
Why do people dislike orgo or see it as disrespectful? That's what my classmates and I called it back in the early 1990s at a New England liberal arts college!
Corinna (April 4, 2016 1:59 PM)
That's what my fellow chemistry students and I called it, too (Mid-Atlantic liberal arts college, late '80s/early '90s). "Orgo" didn't carry any negative connotation. I did have friends at other colleges who called it "O-chem" and that sounded so weird to me!
cynthia (March 31, 2016 10:36 PM)
I teach organic chemistry to seniors in high school. They have already taken Pre-AP chemistry and AP chemistry. These students struggle with the three-dimensional aspect, the nomenclature and structure, and of course mechanism. However, I usually have 2-3students that have not taken AP chemistry: they choose the course to be with me for their senior elective. These students, once they learn IUPAC naming and structural components, take off and have no problems with reactions or mechanism! Sometimes I believe the AP track makes my students too rigid in their thinking. And yes, I have students who have selected organic chemistry because they learned to love the beauty of this subject because I love it so much. Maybe we need to allow our students - at the high school level - investigate and practice this subject in a more flexible setting?
Salvatore Pietromonaco (April 28, 2017 3:06 PM)
Organic chemistry is indeed taught in A level chemistry in the UK.
Rachmad (April 1, 2016 2:46 AM)
I think I was lucky to have a great professor for my Organic 1 class in 1996. He focused more on the process of learning the content then memorizing it. I took the class over the summer, but I did about 20 problems a day and it was fun.

I also thought of every organic test as a cumulative test, so I studied from chapter 1 and would start at least a week before test date.

When I took Organic 2 the next semester, I had a horrible professor. However, the strong foundation I received from the previous class set me up to be able to learn the content myself from the textbook. And I got A's for both classes.

Flash forward 17 years later, I was tutoring a college students on Organic and I was surprised on how the class us shifted so much from problem solving to minute detailed memorization.
Iris Ailin-Pyzik (April 1, 2016 9:45 AM)
Many (cough-cough) years ago (like 1970-71) when I took organic, the version I took was a 2-semester course, with a separate lab course for each semester. The lecture prof I had for the first semester (no names, I doubt he's still alive) was awful. It seemed we were supposed to memorize a lot of stuff, and none of it seemed to fit or work together. The prof I had second semester (same textbook - Morrison & Boyd) was totally different, and if I'd had him first semester, things might have turned out somewhat differently, and I might not have gone into geochemistry, though that was fine. Nevertheless, I passed both semesters, and just to say it wasn't work ethic - I had A's later on in p-chem and calc, and graduated in 3 years.
Bethany Halford (April 1, 2016 2:38 PM)
I'm a little dismayed at the "orgo" backlash here. In the print magazine the headline was "Overwhelmed by orgo" - a title that was chosen because it fit on the page.
Jeff (April 5, 2016 12:15 PM)
Using the term “orgo” disrespects the discipline. Sounds like a monster (ogre? orc?) from Middle Earth, and could be considered an affront. It’s like using a nickname for someone who dislikes that nickname or prefers his or her full name. O-chem is fine—it’s an abbreviation, like P-chem.
Tom Blackburn (April 4, 2016 1:40 AM)
We use the word O-chem where I teach. I agree, too many uncurated resources overwhelm working students; even non-working students. But they can help IF curated by the teacher.
Harry Blecker at UM-Flint told me people succeed better in O-chem if they visualize well. I took that to heart. I redrew every structure Dr Blecker drew on the board. I watched Maxwell Smart on TV as I rewrote my notes from his class. I seemed to be able visualize OK. That's probably why I got two out of three highest midterm grades. And, I thank Dr Blecker for good study advice.
Dr. Tischler, please carry forward the wonderful tradition at this working class college. It propelled me to grad school when Dr Blecker, Dr Kren, Dr Virgil Cope all said I should take the GRE' and head to Ann Arbor.
Sincerely,
Tom Blackburn, 1970 UMF, 1984 UM-AA-PhD
Matt (April 4, 2016 2:38 PM)
I had problems with orgo until I stopped memorizing the reactions. I used the mechanism method instead. That's where you learn the mechanism for each reaction type. That took a lot of effort, but it was smooth sailing afterward.
Robert jones (April 4, 2016 8:42 PM)
I fondly recall my stack of index cards for memorizing rxns. Once that bit was done, which was hard, the rest was pretty straight-forward, unlike p-chem IMHO.

I think the opportunity fhat exists today, which didn't for me, is to visualize the structure and how structure facilitates reactions. When you're just looking at the rxn, you don't always have insight into why it goes. If students were to begin to get insight of this nature then maybe things would become more intuitive.

So, here's a vote for a visual tool that students can use to really see what's happening. That would be so cool!
Mike (April 6, 2016 4:30 PM)
I think that the emphasis on memorizing a multitude of name reactions, despite the fact that this has often been the tried and true approach to teaching organic chemistry, is doing students a disservice. IMHO the better approach is to provide students with the few underlying mechanistic concepts of how things react and giving them the tools that they can use to reason through any reaction. As a student, when I finally understood those underlying concepts, my command of organic chemistry was significantly better and my life a lot less stressful.
Bennie (June 29, 2016 6:48 PM)
There are definitely differences in how different instructors teach the course. It appears that even at some the best schools (with the strongest students), memorization and low level problem solving is the norm and is indeed the way students are tested. Take a look at this exam: http://as.vanderbilt.edu/chemistry/Rizzo/Chem220b/Exam_2_S15A.pdf


Students at the level that they are at that school shouldn't have exams like that, yet that is basically how all of them within that department (departmental culture and norms for teaching clearly have an effect in how both it and gen. chem are taught and assessed). I was actually very surprised as I went to a peer school where the instructors (as in more than one) with the most students give exams like this:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B456FmeCw42BVjl4V2hLanR3dGs/view?usp=sharing


which makes more sense given the level of the schools and student body (as in give them problems to solve that they haven't done/seen before and let them use first principles to solve them and make sure you ask them to explain different phenomenon and not just spit out products, reagents, or mechanistic arrows for the same exact reactions taught in class on a molecule of low complexity), but again, the first case is actually much more common.


If many of the "best" schools can't do it right (with most of such students not having to work a major part-time and can indeed dedicate much more time to academics than students at less well off schools), then the situation is kind of hopeless. It basically says: "I don't trust my students as having the willingness and ability to solve high level problems". And honestly, I think it starts at gen. chem where students pretty much learn to just master problem types and repeat the process on the exam, even in more rigorous instructors' courses. The difference between that scenario and what you see above (the second case is stark). In that case, the teacher gives students some "freebies" that can be regurgitated from classroom resources and notes but a significant chunk is a series of questions that disarm the memorizers and tells the better students (who can be pushed to problem solve) that you must now derive models or mechanisms for more complex problems and truly understand them. It at very least prepares certain students to read primary literature in the field and to be somewhat creative and able to improvise using foundation knowledge.
Pat S (April 7, 2016 7:33 AM)
What really helped me was making sure I knew what the carbon intermediates were including their 3D structure and relative stabilities of examples. Once that was done, it formed a framework for understanding many of the introductory mechanisms and results. This kind of organization also helped with reagents and functional groups. There is still a lot to memorize but organizational structure makes it much easier.
Peter (April 11, 2016 6:47 PM)
I'm educated more. All contributions and the article has significantly imparted to me reasons to research more methods of learning and teaching o-chem
Thanks to all
Brian (April 22, 2016 3:01 AM)
I earned both a B.S. and a M.S. in chemistry with a focus in organic chemistry. The majority of my professors taught through memorization. One professor required us to memorize 90 named reactions (Sharpless being among them), the molecules, reagents, etc. to the 't', in addition to numerous other things all within a 4 week stretch, just for one of 3 courses, all while doing research, taking other courses, and teaching. So do we have the time to do additional stuff on the side? Nope.

That said, I had the unfortunate experience of not being able to maintain a career in chemistry. My first job involved the CEO yelling at me and was literally a sociopath, resulting in me getting physically ill due to the psychological stress. After that, I kept searching for work within chemistry, but after a couple years involving hundreds of applications, volunteering, interning, attending job fairs, etc. I never received another offer within the field despite my credentials and publications.

So at this point, I left the American Chemical Society after being a member for over 5 years, and have just been getting work where I can, first at a call center, and now as a permenent employee with the government doing research unrelated to the physical sciences. It's unsettling that all of my hard work and time has resulted in me resenting my choice of degrees, and now warn people away from organic chemistry at least as a good field for jobs, and tell them to go for computational chemistry or a blend between the fields since that's what's more commonly in demand these days. I still am frightened to be honest of how much I've forgotten in terms of chemical theory due to being out of the field for 3 years, and the future still frightens me since I know I'll never be hired within chemistry again due to being gone for this long, but I'll never forget how to manually do flash column chromatography, the bane of my existence, haha. Kind of funny how I always looked forward to someday getting machines that did the flash columns for you, and now I know I'll never do another flash column again.

I suppose I continue to live out my chemistry career as a hobby in my kitchen these days with all the baking and cooking I do :)
Gautam Desiraju (June 4, 2016 9:27 AM)
I hate the word "orgo" too.
Orgchem would do just fine, if you want to abbreviate it in the first place.

Leave A Comment

*Required to comment