Course: CHM301
Instructor: Martin Semmelhack
F 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

Orgo I starts with an overview of basic chemistry concepts (bonding, orbitals, periodicity, etc.) then gets into various methods of spectroscopy frequently used in labs for research (IR, UV, NMR). Finally, the semester ends with the core material of organic chemistry, reaction mechanisms, which forms a foundation for the second semester of the course.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Lectures are at 11am with Dr. Semmelhack (and sometimes various guest lecturers, like Dr. Hyster) He provides notes with missing information/blanks that are intended to be filled in by the student during the lecture but also provides a completed set of notes after the lecture is over. I preferred to use the partially completed notes and fill them out in class because it made it easier to pay attention during lecture, a good thing to do because his lectures are comprehensive for the course and you can learn everything you need to (for the most part) by just paying attention in lecture and making sure your notes are filled out properly. Precepts reinforce the more difficult concepts from lecture and are a good time to ask questions if you don’t understand something from lecture. It’s good to come to precept caught up on the lecture material from the previous week or it’ll be a waste of time because you won’t have any idea what’s going on.

Learning For and From Assignments

The graded assignments in this class consist of preliminary psets for each precept that are short basic questions on material from the previous week’s lectures. They are only graded for completion and are due at the beginning of your scheduled precept. Each week, you are also given a much longer pset during precept that consists of more difficult questions that delve into more detail on the week’s material, you start the pset in precept but it is not collected and is only for your own practice. These psets can be useful for keeping up with the material in the class so that you don’t fall behind when exam time comes but are often exhaustively long don’t need to be completed in excruciating detail. Instead, before each midterm exam (there are 3), the past 5 years of exams are provided as practice and these are your best resources to prepare for exams. To prepare for the exams, I recommend first looking at the psets to make sure you are caught up with and familiar with the material then doing the 5 practice exams close to exam time (no more than a few days before), because exam questions are often very similar to some previous questions. You get to use notes and any other course materials on the exams so you can bring the practice exams and if you see a question similar to one you remember from a previous exam, you can look back at it for inspiration. If you’re running out of time to study for an exam, the previous exams should be a priority, at least look them over and print the solutions to bring to the exam if you can. In terms of grading, one midterm is dropped and if your final score is better than your midterms, the final will count in place of the midterms in your course grade, in other words, you can do terribly on all the midterms and get an A on the final and get an A in the class (this is what ended up happening to me). For labs, the grading depends very much on which TA you get. There is a draft and final revision of every lab report which are graded on a Pass/Fail basis. On the draft, your TA will give corrections, if any, and all you need to do is make those changes for the final draft to get all the points. Some Tas will barely read your report and just accept it, some will give minor corrections every time, but it is very hard to actually fail a lab report and as long as the revision is accepted, you’ll get all the points. Other components of the lab grade come from quality control checks of products you make in lab for purity, yield, etc. but these are worth so little in terms of your grade that it’s almost totally inconsequential and nothing to concern yourself over if you mess up a lab procedure. I would instead just try to go fast and get the lab done so you don’t fall behind. Finally, the lab portion of the exams are relatively inconsequential to your grade as well, so if you get a good amount of points on the lab questions from the midterms, I would completely skip the lab on the final and focus on the lecture questions to try to get an A and replace your midterms.

External Resources

Dr. Semmelhack’s notes for the course are pretty comprehensive and I rarely found it necessary to use anything else. For people who like reading, the textbook is relatively good but unnecessarily detailed for you to have to read all of it. Help can be found from both the grad and undergrad TA’s. I only utilized office hours if I didn’t understand something from the exam or pset key’s but there were plenty of resource hours if you need help. Lab TA resource hours were sometimes helpful for tricky lab report questions.

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

This is a tough course that requires a lot of time commitment to do well in. You cannot just know about all the concepts taught in the class and expect to do well as nearly none of the exam questions only involve regurgitating information (since its open note) and most require good problem solving skills which can only be acquired through practice. However, both the professors in the course and Tas make a great effort to provide resources and help to students to prepare for the exams. Still, I would not recommend this course unless its required or you plan to pdf as it is quite a big time commitment to do well in.
Organic Chemistry I

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