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Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
edited August 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm starting organic chemistry this semester and it seems a bit daunting. The damn lab book is as large, if not larger, than my textbook. How do I survive this most rigorous of courses, the make-or-break of science majors?

Fuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud on
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Posts

  • Rufus_ShinraRufus_Shinra Registered User
    edited August 2008
    You do every single practice problem assigned to you, as well as any optional problems the prof suggests.

    Orgo really isn't that bad, just do the homework, understand everything in it about it and you'll be fine.

  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    What should I be focusing on the most? Any tips?

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  • Mad JazzMad Jazz Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    If it's anything like the organic classes I took, reactions. That's a horribly broad thing to recommend, I know, but that's honestly what it was like. Treat organic like you're learning a language and reactions are the words you have to put together to make a sentence. Mechanisms are important, but a lot of times they're secondary to being able to actually work through a synthesis problem (i.e., you start with isopropane and have to end up with 1-bromo-hex-2-ene [oh god it's been so long my nomenclature is terrible], show the intermediate products).

    This is an intimidating class. It is very hard (at least, it was for me). Study, do all the homework, and I mean all of it, and for the love of god, do whatever you have to do to not fall behind. Once you get behind, it's an uphill battle. Trust me on that one, it sucks.

    As far as tips go specifically, I would say making flash cards of reaction products. That helped me out a lot, as well as writing out mechanisms a hojillion times until I knew them backwards and forwards. Probably 1/3 of my old organic notebook was full of mechanisms written over and over.

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  • Joe ChemoJoe Chemo Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    I LOVED O-CHEM.

    Ahem. Anyway:

    Yes, a 1400 page textbook is very daunting. But by the end of O-chem 3 it was a well-worn reference. I freaking loved that book.

    So you're taking O-chem? How much? A quarter? A year? If just a quarter, focus on learning the rules of reactions. By that I mean, what do nucliophiles do? Oh, they bond with positive things? Well then, this carbonyl carbon is slightly positive, it'll probably attach there!

    Once you know the rules, everything else falls into place. You can work out how reactions work just by knowing the reactant structures, with nothing else. What you do NOT want to do is memorize reactions. If you don't know why a chemical behaves the way it does, ASK. If you try to get through o-chem on pure memory, you will fail HARD. I took o-chem for a year and didn't understand the WHY of chemistry for the first quarter. I tried to rely on memory. It really sucked. But once you learn the language, it becomes fun. By the end of the year, chemistry problems were puzzles. Homework was actually often fun. Crazy.

    If you're taking a year, then you'll still need to learn the rules of why reactions occur. But memorization will be unavoidable -- you'll probably need to know the reagents for about 100 different reactions. So make flash cards for every reaction you come across, and study them constantly.

    One thing that helps is to do as many problems as possible. When I was studying for the ACS exam I did most of the questions in the back of every chapter. That helped tons.

    Oh and if you ever have any questions don't hesitate to post here! I tutored o-chem in college, and love explaining it. I'm such a nerd.

    What major are you?

    If you're struggling, just repeat this mantra: at least it's not p-chem, at least it's not p-chem, at least it's not p-chem.

    I also loved p-chem, but I'm a masochist.

  • WalterWalter Registered User
    edited August 2008
    With a course that covers as much material as ochem, the only thing you can do is problems, problems, and more problems. It was already mentioned earlier. Don't let it intimidate you, eventually you'll see the patterns and be able to pick up the material quickly. Once you get into mechanisms BUY A WHITEBOARD. draw and re-draw the mechanism's saying to yourself "The next step, a carbocation is formed because..." This way you aren't just learning by repetition.

  • JebusUDJebusUD Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    Ive never actually done O-chem but I have two chemistry major friends and they say this.

    Read the book everyday. Read it in the bathroom, read it when you are on lunch break, cover it in plastic and read it in the shower.

    I dont think that should be a problem for you though, you said you read the book before class even starts.

    The whiteboard is a good idea too.

    You haven't given me a reason to steer clear of you!
  • Joe ChemoJoe Chemo Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    whiteboard ftw. I used it constantly. And it came in handy later doing proof drafts, as well.

  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    What's whiteboard?

    To the person that asked, I'm a biology/biotech student. I have a feeling I might end up liking organic and becoming a biochem major or something, who knows (I still can't pick which part of science I <3 the mostest.) It seems daunting, but it looks fascinating. Is this the wrong attitude? o_O

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  • Joe ChemoJoe Chemo Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    What's whiteboard?

    To the person that asked, I'm a biology/biotech student. I have a feeling I might end up liking organic and becoming a biochem major or something, who knows (I still can't pick which part of science I the mostest. It seems daunting, but it looks fascinating. Is this the wrong attitude?

    Just a normal whiteboard.
    Spoiler:

    Maybe something that's about 2x1.5 feet or so, if you want it on your lap. Bigger if you want to put it on a wall. And some dry erase markers. This lets you practice a lot without wasting paper. Or you could be badass and draw reactions on your windows/mirrors with sharpies, and use alcohol to get it off.

    I totally hear you on switching majors to biochem. My o-chem experience is partly what made me focus on biochem. I eat that stuff up.

  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    Oh holy crap, that is the best fucking idea I have ever heard of. I love you help and advice forum. Why did I never think of that before?

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  • Joe ChemoJoe Chemo Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    Yeah, my whiteboard was a savior.

    Allowed me to go over mechanisms with utter impunity.

  • SanderJKSanderJK Crocodylus Pontifex Sinterklasicus Madrid, 3000 ADRegistered User regular
    edited August 2008
    If you are going to do labwork, be precise and proper. Speed is usually not a huge issue, don't cut corners. And write stuff down. Write everything down. Writing stuff down is what it's all about. The written report and labjournal are a huge factor in grading the lab work.

    Organic chemistry isn't very difficult, there's just loads and loads of information. There are a lot of rules regarding likely reaction paths etcet, but most of those come down to logical steps. In organics especially, remember your stoichiomotry basics: Track the electrons, track the atoms.

    The whiteboard is a great idea to work on reaction equations especially.

    Steam: SanderJK Origin: SanderJK
  • WalterWalter Registered User
    edited August 2008
    Remember not to just draw on the whiteboard but to talk your way through the mechanisms. The best thing to do is to look at what the electrons are doing and why. That won't make sense now but keep it in mind for later.

    Biochem rocks. Where a biologist looks at a phenomena and says "How does it work?" a biochemist looks at it and says "How can I manipulate it?" If you like organic and want to continue when you are done, then bch is the way to go. I'm big into nutrition and metabolism so it was a no brainer for me. Be prepared though. Its easily the hardest major outside of maybe mathematics and engineering, without the job prospects. You will cover everything from DNA to sugar nomenclature in what is sometimes a ridiculous amount of detail. A lot of the biotech funding is drying up, so unless you go phd or MD its not very applicable to the real world.

    That said, if you do pursue your phd you are getting in at an awesome time. Biotech is advancing faster than computer science ever did. DNA sequencing that was impossibly fast just 4 years ago is now performed in undergraduate labs (to a certain extent). The techniques for genetic manipulation are being perfected, allowing for some incredible stuff on the horizon. Advances in proteomics could open the door to detecting cancer and susceptibility to other pathologies years before any symptoms show up. Diseases may very well become a thing of the past in another 60-70 years!

    sorry if its a little incoherent, I'm tired and not fully sober.

  • SanderJKSanderJK Crocodylus Pontifex Sinterklasicus Madrid, 3000 ADRegistered User regular
    edited August 2008
    Biochem is not the only exciting field in organic chemistry you know. (It probably is the easiest to land a job in though). Homogenic catalysis especially has always had my interest, although an excellent prof. in the field certainly helped with that. But the case at hand is someone prepping for what (i'm assuming) is Org. Chem 101.

    One thing I forgot about lab work: Try to be neat as well, and respect the safety regulations. First year labs often go fairly light on this because most of the stuff isn't hazardous at all, but if you want to go on in the field, you may as well learn to do it the proper way now.

    Steam: SanderJK Origin: SanderJK
  • Rufus_ShinraRufus_Shinra Registered User
    edited August 2008
    Walter wrote: »
    Remember not to just draw on the whiteboard but to talk your way through the mechanisms. The best thing to do is to look at what the electrons are doing and why. That won't make sense now but keep it in mind for later.

    Biochem rocks. Where a biologist looks at a phenomena and says "How does it work?" a biochemist looks at it and says "How can I manipulate it?" If you like organic and want to continue when you are done, then bch is the way to go. I'm big into nutrition and metabolism so it was a no brainer for me. Be prepared though. Its easily the hardest major outside of maybe mathematics and engineering, without the job prospects. You will cover everything from DNA to sugar nomenclature in what is sometimes a ridiculous amount of detail. A lot of the biotech funding is drying up, so unless you go phd or MD its not very applicable to the real world.

    That said, if you do pursue your phd you are getting in at an awesome time. Biotech is advancing faster than computer science ever did. DNA sequencing that was impossibly fast just 4 years ago is now performed in undergraduate labs (to a certain extent). The techniques for genetic manipulation are being perfected, allowing for some incredible stuff on the horizon. Advances in proteomics could open the door to detecting cancer and susceptibility to other pathologies years before any symptoms show up. Diseases may very well become a thing of the past in another 60-70 years!

    sorry if its a little incoherent, I'm tired and not fully sober.
    .......................... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    Mad Jazz wrote: »
    If it's anything like the organic classes I took, reactions. That's a horribly broad thing to recommend, I know, but that's honestly what it was like. Treat organic like you're learning a language and reactions are the words you have to put together to make a sentence. Mechanisms are important, but a lot of times they're secondary to being able to actually work through a synthesis problem (i.e., you start with isopropane and have to end up with 1-bromo-hex-2-ene [oh god it's been so long my nomenclature is terrible], show the intermediate products).
    Joe Chemo wrote: »
    Once you know the rules, everything else falls into place. You can work out how reactions work just by knowing the reactant structures, with nothing else. What you do NOT want to do is memorize reactions. If you don't know why a chemical behaves the way it does, ASK. If you try to get through o-chem on pure memory, you will fail HARD. I took o-chem for a year and didn't understand the WHY of chemistry for the first quarter. I tried to rely on memory. It really sucked. But once you learn the language, it becomes fun. By the end of the year, chemistry problems were puzzles. Homework was actually often fun. Crazy.

    Your ultimate goal is to understand how and why reactions work; why molecules behave the way they do.

    However it's not going to come naturally for you unless you're some kind of savant, so expect to spend a lot of time memorizing reactions despite what Joe Chemo says. The whiteboard is a fabulous idea.

    But do make sure that while you're memorizing things, you know why the reactions do what they do, and eventually it'll "click." I really enjoyed organic chemistry, and by the end of the first half of the first year, the memorization I had to do was minimal.

    Learning a language is a really good analogy. At first, it's going to be lots of memorization and drills, but eventually you'll become "fluent" in it.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • WalterWalter Registered User
    edited August 2008
    Walter wrote: »
    Remember not to just draw on the whiteboard but to talk your way through the mechanisms. The best thing to do is to look at what the electrons are doing and why. That won't make sense now but keep it in mind for later.

    Biochem rocks. Where a biologist looks at a phenomena and says "How does it work?" a biochemist looks at it and says "How can I manipulate it?" If you like organic and want to continue when you are done, then bch is the way to go. I'm big into nutrition and metabolism so it was a no brainer for me. Be prepared though. Its easily the hardest major outside of maybe mathematics and engineering, without the job prospects. You will cover everything from DNA to sugar nomenclature in what is sometimes a ridiculous amount of detail. A lot of the biotech funding is drying up, so unless you go phd or MD its not very applicable to the real world.

    That said, if you do pursue your phd you are getting in at an awesome time. Biotech is advancing faster than computer science ever did. DNA sequencing that was impossibly fast just 4 years ago is now performed in undergraduate labs (to a certain extent). The techniques for genetic manipulation are being perfected, allowing for some incredible stuff on the horizon. Advances in proteomics could open the door to detecting cancer and susceptibility to other pathologies years before any symptoms show up. Diseases may very well become a thing of the past in another 60-70 years!

    sorry if its a little incoherent, I'm tired and not fully sober.
    .......................... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!

    Care to elaborate or is that your idea of a contribution? PM me if you want so we can avoid threadjacking. To keep this on topic I'll keep going into why the op should get into biochem if he finds himself interested. We are currently in the age of biotech. In 1955 all we knew was that DNA goes to RNA goes to protein. A little over 50 years later and we can now clone animals, students are introducing genes into species during 3 hour undergraduate labs, and scientists are just a stones throw away from being able to grow whole organs. The speed of sequencing technology is advancing faster than moore's law for transistors. The proteomics I mentioned before have the potential to move us to an age of true preventative medicine. There are A LOT of exciting technologies that are in their infancy. Its a great time to get into the field.

  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud Registered User regular
    edited August 2008
    Walter wrote: »
    Walter wrote: »
    Remember not to just draw on the whiteboard but to talk your way through the mechanisms. The best thing to do is to look at what the electrons are doing and why. That won't make sense now but keep it in mind for later.

    Biochem rocks. Where a biologist looks at a phenomena and says "How does it work?" a biochemist looks at it and says "How can I manipulate it?" If you like organic and want to continue when you are done, then bch is the way to go. I'm big into nutrition and metabolism so it was a no brainer for me. Be prepared though. Its easily the hardest major outside of maybe mathematics and engineering, without the job prospects. You will cover everything from DNA to sugar nomenclature in what is sometimes a ridiculous amount of detail. A lot of the biotech funding is drying up, so unless you go phd or MD its not very applicable to the real world.

    That said, if you do pursue your phd you are getting in at an awesome time. Biotech is advancing faster than computer science ever did. DNA sequencing that was impossibly fast just 4 years ago is now performed in undergraduate labs (to a certain extent). The techniques for genetic manipulation are being perfected, allowing for some incredible stuff on the horizon. Advances in proteomics could open the door to detecting cancer and susceptibility to other pathologies years before any symptoms show up. Diseases may very well become a thing of the past in another 60-70 years!

    sorry if its a little incoherent, I'm tired and not fully sober.
    .......................... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!

    Care to elaborate or is that your idea of a contribution? PM me if you want so we can avoid threadjacking. To keep this on topic I'll keep going into why the op should get into biochem if he finds himself interested. We are currently in the age of biotech. In 1955 all we knew was that DNA goes to RNA goes to protein. A little over 50 years later and we can now clone animals, students are introducing genes into species during 3 hour undergraduate labs, and scientists are just a stones throw away from being able to grow whole organs. The speed of sequencing technology is advancing faster than moore's law for transistors. The proteomics I mentioned before have the potential to move us to an age of true preventative medicine. There are A LOT of exciting technologies that are in their infancy. Its a great time to get into the field.
    Absolutely. I was stunned that I got to modify bacteria, even that it was something as simple as a blue/white screening assay with some generic polymerase, that stuff is really really amazing and was completely unfathomable forty years ago.

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