Category Archives: Uncategorized

What’s the Diels? Part II

The Diels Alder reaction between furan and maleic anhydride typically it done in THF. The nice thing about this solvent is that the product crystallizes in the reaction media over the course of a week and can be filtered to recover an essentially pure product. My hypothesis was that changing the solvent may influence the […]

E2 Brutus? Part II

Scale: The original lab is written for microscale using 0.22 mL of 2-bromoheptane with an overall reaction volume of 2.22 mL. The 2-bromoheptane is a pretty expensive reagent and ended up being the limiting factor in how much the reaction could be scaled up. The smaller the reaction volume, the greater skill is required of […]

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

The success of ninhydrin (2,2-dihydroxyindane-1,3-dione) as a method of revealing latent fingerprints by chemically reacting with the free amines present in amino acid residues has created several imitators. A previous entry described the use of DFO (1,8-diazafluoren-9-one) as a substitute for ninhydrin. Along the way I have discovered several more reagents that most likely react […]

That’s Alder Folks!

This year we reacted the anthracene diene with two different dienophiles in addition to the classic maleic anhydride. The Bruice Organic Chemistry textbook has the Diels-Alder reaction in Chapter 7 which is pretty early for most textbooks. The two new dienophiles were N-phenylmaleimide and Z-diethyl maleate. It turns out there are at least four maleate […]

For the Love of Grades

I have developed an analogy that describes some of my feeling about assigning grades. When I was of dating age, I used to hear a lot about the different expectations of men and women in a dating relationship. Men desire physical intimacy, usually described as “sex.” Women desire emotional intimacy, usually described as “love.” The […]

Lecture + Lab versus Lecture or Lab

We currently have a system where first semester organic chemistry lecture and laboratory is counted as one 5 credit course. The lab is considered to account for one of those five credits. As a result, the lab grade is worth 20% of the course grade. In many schools, organic chemistry lecture is a separate course […]


The 2009 meeting of the Midwest Association for Chemistry Teachers at Liberal Arts Colleges (MACTLAC) was held at Hope College. The theme this year was “Integration of Research into Teaching: Improving Learning Through Research.” Plenary sessions were led by Lorna Jarvis (Hope), Nancy Kerner (U of MI), and Don Wink (UIC).  Of most interest to […]

Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

Last week Dominican University hosted a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience for community college sophomores who wanted a week-long assortment laboratory experiences. For my part, we did an analysis of energy drinks. This experiment was adapted from the “caffeine extraction” sophomore organic chemistry laboratory sequence. First, we did a colorimetric array for each of 6 different […]


All of us would agree that exposing students to routine organic chemistry analytic instruments is an important part of Organic Chemistry laboratory. However, instrument use by the students gets more problematic as student population grows. 1a) Ideally, students would run their own analysis (with appropriate supervision) as part of the experiment just like they do […]

The Perils of Doing Experiments in Groups

A recent article in “The Teaching Professor” (August-September 2008 ) entitled “Poorly Designed Group Work” caught my eye this past month. Basically, the author says that many undergraduate group projects are not designed to be successful learning experiences. At some schools, group work in pairs (or larger groups) in chemistry laboratory sections is quite routine. Sometimes an […]