This course will provide an introduction to the structures and reactions of organic compounds.


Texts and Tools:

Vollhardt, K. P. C. and Schore, N. E. Organic Chemistry: Structure and Function, 4th Edition. Freeman, 2003.

Molecular models.


My Expectations:

This class is not about memorization. It is about developing analytical thinking and problem-solving skills .

The specific skills we will develop are:

explaining and predicting the structures of organic molecules

proposing reasonable arrow-pushing mechanisms for organic reactions

predicting the reactivity of organic molecules with particular reagents

explaining and predicting the regio- and stereoselectivity for various organic reactions

planning multistep syntheses of organic molecules



make-up exams: No early or late exams (midterms or final) will be given. For students with a legitimate reason for missing a midterm (written documentation of the reason for such an absence is required), the final examination (since it is cumulative) will be scaled to count for 350 points.

final exam: You must take the final exam in order to pass this class. Students who miss the final examination will receive a grade of "incomplete" only if written documentation of a legitimate reason for their absence is provided and they have a passing grade going into the final exam.

regrades: Aside from errors in totaling points, exam regrading will only be performed for requests of 5 or more points. If you think you deserve at least 5 more points than you were given on an exam, you may request a regrade. To do so, you must describe, in writing, why you think you deserve additional points ("I just thought I'd ask" is not sufficient) and submit this request, along with your exam, to your TA within one week of the day your exam was returned. Do not make any changes to or marks on your exam or you will forfeit your right to a regrade. Keep in mind that the entire exam will be regraded.

mutual respect: We are all adults and should treat each other as such. Cheating of any kind (including plagiarism, beginning an exam early, continuing to write on an exam after time is called) will not be tolerated.


Strategies for Success

work lots of problems: You cannot work too many problems. The problems in the textbook and the "problems-of-the-day" are representative of the types of problems you will encounter on the midterms and the final exam; the problems on the reading quizzes are, in general, easier than those on exams. Be sure to practice all types of problems (synthetic, mechanistic, explain, and problems that combine them).

build models: Build models whenever you can! This is especially important for solving problems that deal with stereochemistry.

patterns: Believe it or not, Organic Chemistry is not about memorization. It is actually about pattern recognition. Everything fits into a pattern (or is extremely interesting because it does not). Your goal should be to discover the patterns (I will help!) and practice recognizing them. If you can learn this skill, you will be able to answer almost any problem thrown at you, whether or not you've previously memorized the details of the particular case in question. Here's a little secret: exam-writers often try to make problems seem difficult by adding "spinach" to molecules that might distract you from seeing the relevant pattern(s) (while this is tricky, it is also representative of most organic chemistry problems encountered in real research!). So, another goal should be to become comfortable with cutting through the spinach so you can focus on the pattern; i.e. find the part of a molecule (functionality) that you have learned about or that is analogous to something you have learned about.

don't wait: Reread your notes and work problems after every lecture. Last minute cramming rarely works in an Organic Chemistry class.

additional resources: Many great tips can be found at Saundra McGuire's website (of particular relevance is her "Acing Organic Chemistry" presentation). UCD also has a Learning Skills Center, which, among other things, holds regular workshops.

just me?: I view chemistry problems as puzzles or games and have always liked building models because they are like toys. This does not mean that anything in this class should be taken lightly. It does mean that you should try to find some way to make problem solving fun.