Welcome to Orgo – and to “Master Organic Chemistry”

by James

in Teaching

Welcome new organic chemistry students!

The school year has just begun for a lot of students.  Are you learning organic chemistry for the first time this semester (or maybe for the second or third time)? If so, you’ve probably heard (or told, in the latter case) a lot of nightmare stories about the course. If it’s any consolation, people have been complaining about organic chemistry for decades, and you’re just the latest group in the firing line. My dad was a pre-med in the 1960’s and a lot of people had trouble with it back then too.

About six months ago I decided that I wanted to explore some questions in more detail.

  • What makes organic chemistry such a difficult subject to learn?
  • What are the key concepts to learn in organic chemistry?
  • What’s the most efficient way to learn organic chemistry? What are the people who do well doing right, and what are the people who don’t do well doing wrong?
  • What specific concepts in organic chemistry do students have a hard time with?
  • What are the best resources for learning organic chemistry, both in print and online?

I’m trying to answer these questions here on the site, and also point you towards people who are working towards the same goal. There’s still a ton I don’t know –  I know more than I did six months ago, and in six months I’ll know more, but even though I’m a knowledgable practical organic chemist, I’m still in a situation where I feel that I’ve got a ton to learn about teaching. That’s part of the reason why I started a blog – to get feedback from as many people as possible on these questions and to learn by doing. There are a lot of days where I think that I have no idea what I’m doing and I don’t know where this site is going. That’s part of the process, and by totally screwing things up I progressively get better.

If you’re new to the course or the site, you might find some of the following articles useful:

You might also want to check out some of the links on the right, including my “Orgo” bookmarks on Delicious, for a constantly updated list of useful and interesting organic chemistry resources on the web.

I want this site to be useful. I’m trying to build a body of posts and resources that students will find helpful during a typical sophomore organic chemistry course. Over the coming semester I want to provide the best articles, links and content for the site. So I’d like to encourage you to let me know what you find easy or difficult about the course as well as useful study tips and resources, and by all means offer suggestions on thorny subjects to write about.

Finally, I’ll be frank with you about something.  The blog also serves to promote the fact that I coach/tutor organic chemistry online through Skype. I really like working this way and don’t understand why it isn’t more common. It’s ridiculously easy to try out a session and you don’t even have to leave your room. The only drawback is that I’m the least photogenic person alive, so you’ll have to put up with a video feed of me on your computer. You should check out my tutoring page for more information.

Good luck in your course, and stay tuned for updates – I’ll be returning to my regular 3 posts/week schedule next week, and finally finish my series of posts on “Gen Chem to Org Chem”.

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