Summer Survival and Falling into OChem

Wow, I didn’t realize how hard it is to keep a promise of “I’ll post more often”.

To be fair, though, my time over the past two months was eaten alive, spit out, and eaten again by a monstrous Botany course. I still don’t understand why a school that has a specific Pre-Med major would make such a thing a requirement for graduation.

I have never worked so hard for a grade as I did over this summer; not even in Calculus did I spend so much time with my nose buried in notes! It also didn’t help the case much that the instructor had a penchant for sounding like Ben Stein in “The Wonder Years” and liked taking out his frustration with the school administration, US government, environmentalists, the changing tides, and the rising sun out on us students. At least the hard work paid off, I got my A, and I never have to look back (until I have to take him for Genetics).

Now I just started the Fall semester, and so far, so good. I’m taking on Cell Biology, Ecology (once again, why it’s required of a Pre-Med, I don’t know), and OChem I.

At least CellBio is predictable, as I am familiar with the professor and the format is the same as his other courses. Ecology turned out to be more work intensive than the description in the catalog. There seems to be a lot of research involved, but I’m OK with that, I think it should help me fine tune researching methods for my Senior Project.

OChem is the wildcard. I wasn’t thrilled with GenChem, but I did well in it. I am happy that calculations are negligible in OChem, but I am concerned because the professor seems to be the type that expects a lot of self-teaching, especially with lab procedures. “I don’t want you asking me questions,” is a direct quote.

While I am confident that I can follow the manual well enough, I’m not too comfortable with the different format the OChem labs have from GenChem. I’m unfamiliar with a lot of the equipment and techniques, and we are not allowed to bring our handbooks to lab. The only things we are to bring in are the lab notebook and a pen. Not even the lab worksheets are allowed. We’re allowed to have a list of chemicals needed, the reactions and a vague flowsheet of procedures written into the notebook and that’s it. What if I don’t remember exactly what a jacketed condenser or a Craig tube look like? Or how exactly I am to extract a compound?

I hope I’m just freaking out unnecessarily. I guess only time will tell.

A professor who won’t let you bring the lab manual to lab? Sounds like he has be inhaling the acetone too long.

Below is a thin paperback that I found very useful to understanding lab and more importantly the tricks on “how to” in lab. I think I saw it used in Amazon for like 5 or 10 bucks

The Organic Chem Lab Survival Manual: A Student Guide to Techniques (Paperback)

by James W. Zubrick (Author)

The other book below was great help to me in organic. His newest edition is pricey but a used one, all the way back to his first in the 70’s is just as good

Pushing Electrons: A Guide for Students of Organic Chemistry by Daniel P. Weeks

Thanks for the recommendations, Rich, I’ll check them out. And yes, the professor is a little strange. He came highly recommended as far as lecture quality goes, and that’s why I waited until he was teaching OChem.

I didn’t want to just remember stuff long enough for the exams. I actually want to understand the material. But if his idea of teaching has me melting into a mass of amorphous blobs because I don’t know how to properly run an experiment, then… I’m not sure that I was given good info.

I have taken many lab courses, worked in research labe, and was even a “senior cadet” as they called the UG TA’s for gen chem lab way back in the last century. I found Organic Lab had little to do with real research. Never enough time, never enough info, too much following a recipe and not understanding how it worked. I hate to suggest this but I would just get thru Ochem Lab, write the lab reports the way the professor wants, and get out. It is just isn’t worth it unless you want to major in chemistry and go on if the field