Why do we do Sophomore Organic Chemistry Labs?

Traditionally course laboratories are designed to reinforce and complement classroom instruction at the same time that students acquire laboratory skills commensurate with their level. In Sophomore Organic Chemistry (SOC) concepts taught in the lecture sections usually have to do with reaction chemistry and spectroscopic techniques such as ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis), Infrared (IR), and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). Laboratory skills introduced and practices in SOC laboratory sections are chromatography techniques, suction filtrations, recrystallization, reflux, distillation, melting point, refractive index, and liquid-liquid separation. Safe practices for handling dangerous and unstable compounds are also practiced as well as more advanced instrumental techniques in chromatography (GC-FID, GC-MS, HPLC, etc…) and spectroscopy (UV-vis, IR, NMR, etc…) as they are available. What else is there? Laboratory sections provide a unique opportunity for kinetic learning. Some students enjoy laboratory work simply because they like working with their hands. Laboratory sections also lend themselves to various forms of group work. Developing skills in observation and notebook taking are also key proficiencies developing in SOC laboratory sections, though these are hardly unique to Organic Chemistry. Learning and practicing the “scientific method” may be another outcome, though this is usually not as intentional as it could be. Hopefully, working in the lab arouses and encourages a student’s natural curiosity to know more about the physical universe as well as giving them skills with which to discover it.

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