Course: CHM303
Instructor: Semmelhack
F 2015

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This class is great for seniors who need a lighter course load, and freshmen who need an easier course. ENG 385’s emphasis on close-reading various kinds of texts makes it extremely valuable for students of all academic departments, as this type of analysis and learning to pay attention to detail is necessary in every discipline and every type of independent work. If you are an English major, don’t be turned off by students’ assumptions about it. It is a particularly exciting challenge even for those who are used to close reading. This class is as essential as a Milton or Shakespeare class.

It isn’t necessary to PDF the course even if it is outside of your major, for it is still fairly easy to succeed in this class. ENG 385 does require more time than students like to believe given its subject matter, but it is time well spent. Most of the books are exciting, and the lectures are enjoyable. There is never really a wrong time to take this course; if it is offered, you are interested, and you can get in, then you’ll be safe taking it.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

In lecture, Professor Semmelhack teaches this course with transparencies and an overhead projector.  Students are told to print lecture notes before class (but they are also available already printed at the entrance to lecture) and these lecture notes contain the exact same text as Professor Semmelhack’s transparencies.  Although you might be tempted to take notes on your own paper, the lecture notes provided are very helpful especially when Semmelhack rushes through some material – it will be difficult to copy down all of the molecular structures on time without the framework he provides on the lecture notes.

Throughout the course of the lecture Semmelhack will draw molecules and mechanisms, or add additional notes, which must be copied down onto the lecture notes.  Since lectures are at 8:30am, and last for an hour and twenty minutes, many students have difficulty making it to lecture or staying attentive.  But the lectures are where all of the material was introduced, so paying attention and taking careful notes is very important if you wish to do well in the course, as it will help you when studying later.

 Precepts are a place to reinforce concepts learned in lecture.  Some preceptors extensively recap the material and do practice problems, others will briefly summarize the material and then offer help as the students work through the precept problem sets in small groups in the remainder of the time.  Choose a good preceptor for you based on which of these strategies you prefer.

Semmalhack and the preceptors all offer office hours for additional questions or problems with the material, and can help if you are stuck on a certain concept.

The main textbook used in Fall 2015 was Sorell’s comprehensive text Organic Chemistry (this is also used for CHM 304 and 304B).  You can purchase a companion edition with the solutions to the in-text problems, and that is definitely recommended for the purposes of practice and studying. However the problems in the textbook are not required or graded.  You are also asked to purchase a The Organic Chem Lab Survival Manual for better understanding of lab work – any edition should be fine, but I didn’t personally ever find this text useful or necessary.

Learning For and From Assignments

There are two ways to succeed in this course. First is to do the optional precept problem sets and textbook readings and practice problem sets all along, then recap before the test.  This way has a higher weekly time contribution, but you will find yourself less stressed come exam time.  Second is to pay attention in lecture, but not do the weekly precept problem sets or textbook readings, and then to study really hard for the exams starting at least a week before.  This way you have very little time commitment on a weekly basis, but have to buckle down at least a week before the exam.  Both of these options are possible – do what you find best.

Most of the grade in this class comes from the exams. There are 3 midterms, and then one final not long after the third midterm.  All of these are open-book. In Fall 2015 it was possible to drop one of the grades from the first two midterms. Also, if you did better on the final than you did on the midterms, then the final exclusively counted for your grade.  And if you were one of the lucky few who did astonishingly well on the midterms, you were excused from the final.  All of this is to say, Semmelhack does his best to reduce stress levels by making it possible to mess up on an individual test and still do well in the class.

Exams focused on to testing the concepts learned in lecture by applying general knowledge to certain molecules or reactions to determine the output, or to explain why a certain outcome could be expected.  Generally the exact situation will be different from the examples you’d already seen, but applying the same principles and patterns will help you to arrive at the right answer.  There are multiple practice exams uploaded on Blackboard, and if you are able to find the time to do all of these, or at least look through them all, they will prepare you very well.  Reading the assigned chapters in the textbook to supplement studying the lectures can also be very helpful, as can doing additional problems from the back of the chapters in the textbook. Also make sure you look through the precept problem sets again before the exam.

Labs are also a component of the grade.  You will have lab each week, and 3-4 lab reports due throughout the semester.  Lab reports are straightforward recap and analysis of your results, and are looked over once by the TA, then you are allowed to make corrections and then submit again.  Lab material parallels what you’ve learned in lecture, only offers addition examples and experimental proof of the concepts.  Sometimes the products of your experiments are taken and tested for quality and purity. There are also lab questions on every exam that ask you to engage with the material you learned in lab, or discuss elements of the procedure.  These count towards your lab grade.

There is no required weekly homework, but there are problem sets that students start in precept, but generally don’t have time to finish in precept.  Finish them when you get back to your dorm, or sometime that week!! They are very helpful and let you keep on top of the material.  There are also recommended textbook readings and problems.  Do them if you can – ideally as the semester goes on, but if you have to do all the readings the week before an exam it is still generally worth it.

External Resources

Along with the textbooks provided, students generally reach for the Internet in studying or learning to understand concepts. These alternate explanations can be extremely helpful in solidifying or explaining concepts that you might have struggled with from Semmelhack’s or your preceptor’s explanations.

Your fellow classmates can also be a great resource – form a study group or talk over the concepts with your friends before the exam.  Getting fresh perspectives, or trying to teach a concept, really helps you to remember it.

Both Semmelhack and preceptors have office hours, or you can email them to set up an appointment if you have particularly pressing questions.  Go to them!! They are happy to be able to help students.  Come with questions that you want answered.

Finally, the McGraw Learning Center has both Study Halls, where you can work in groups with the help of a tutor, and Individual Tutoring, for one-on-one discussion of whatever you are struggling with, for students in Orgo.  Students who excelled in this course in previous years come back to share their knowledge, and can be extremely helpful.  Come with questions, or just work on the material, but be sure to ask whenever you need help.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

People can make a big deal, groaning and complaining bitterly, about “Orgo”.  Some people actually really love the course, however. In the end, most students will take it because they need it for a requirement, either for medical school or a major.  That being said, I took it voluntarily, and I know others who did as well, so don’t shy away from it even if it isn’t expressly required for your career path or major – it will probably be useful for most science fields.

CHM 303 is a lot of material, but if you’ve taken chemistry before, which you should have before taking this course, the fundamentals aren’t hard to grasp, and from there it is just learning to recognize certain types of problem, and then apply the concepts you’ve learned. Practice, practice, practice, and make sure you have a fundamental grasp of the concepts when you enter the exam, and you’ll do well.

Organic Chemistry I: Biological Emphasis

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