Category Archives: musings

In Praise of Poor Teachers

When I am looking through online textbook recommendations and professor evaluations, I occasionally come across the remark by a student something to the effect of, “ I had to learn the material by myself for this course!” This, I think, is meant to be an indictment against the professor. “I spent a ton of money […]

Copolymerizing Research and Undergrad Labs

A recent article entitled “Reenigeering the Undergrad Lab” in Chemical and Engineering News highlights an effort to bring research-rich experiences and experiments into the organic chemistry laboratory. The main idea is to have students work on a real research project during their scheduled laboratory time. Its not just organic chemistry laboratory, though. The effort represents […]

Extreme Metric Prefixes (less than 1)

Prefix Abbreviation Exponent a sense of scale basic unit One yard 0.9144 meters deci d 10-1 One foot 3.048 decimeters centi c 10-2 One inch 2.54 centimeters killi k 10-3 quacto q 10-4 Human cell diameter 1 quactometer harpo h 10-5 micro m 10-6 Bacteria diameter 1 micrometer frizzo f 10-7 Virus diameter 1 frizzometer […]

Extreme Metric Prefixes (greater than 1)

Prefix Abbreviation Exponent a sense of scale Zetta Z 1021 602.2 Zamu per gram Vingta V 1020 Diameter of milky way galaxy 9 Vingtameters Exa E 1018 Volume of water in all Earth oceans = 1.4 Exam3 Peta P 1015 One light year = 9.461 Petameters Tera T 1012 Orbit of Pluto (radius) = 5.914 […]

Know your chemistry Hof(f)man(n)s!

August Wilhelm von Hofmann (1818 –1892) was a German chemist who is the author of the Hofmann degradation reaction. German chemist Felix Hoffmann (1868–1946) synthesized two drugs: aspirin, one of the most widely beneficial drugs ever, and heroin, one of the most harmful of illegal substances. Albert Hofmann (1906 – 2008) became famous for being […]

The role of scientific articles in OChem laboratories: Part I

Organic chemistry lab seems to be an appropriate place to read scientific articles to plan an experiment or to relate an experiment to a formal scientific research project. Almost all labs performed in organic chemistry have their roots in a formal scientific article. However, the seminal article may be quite old! For example, Fischer esterification […]

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!

In the popular TV series “The Magic School Bus,” the teacher Ms Frizzle, the consummate elementary school teacher, encourages her class to do science by saying “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”  Organic chemistry lab has the potential to be an environment where the thrill of discovery is accompanied by an opportunity to participate in […]

Lab Reports the Wiki Way

A recent article in the Journal of Chemical Education reports on the use of a Wiki to enhance the undergraduate laboratory experience. The article is entitled “Using Chem-Wiki To Increase Student Collaboration through Online Lab Reporting” by Edward W. Elliott, III and Ana Fraiman. The undergraduate organic chemistry students at Northeastern Illinois University work on […]

Creating Creativity

While doing my summer reading I came across an article in Chemical & Engineering News, March 22, entitled “Fostering Creativity.” In this article Richard N. Zare, 2010 recipient of the Priestly Medal, shares his thoughts on the process of creativity. He says, “In my lab, I try to create an environment of that encourages risk […]

Class Managment II

Once the ground rules have been laid out in the syllabus, it is up to the instructor to enforce them. Being “the enforcer” is often a struggle for me. I have had enough experience in class management to know that running a “tight ship” pays off well for almost everybody (students and faculty) in the […]