Students of Chemistry: This website is for you

August 23, 2011 Comments off

This site is primarily for my students of chemistry at Flathead Valley Community College, though you’ll not be run off if you’re merely sniffing around the web attending to your personal knowledge of chemistry. My FVCC students will find the information here essential. Course syllabi, assignments, lecture material, problem sets, old exams, study skill suggestions, and lots of other useful stuff is posted here. All the information you need throughout any given semester is posted here. It is your responsibility to be aware of and understand the information on this site pertaining to the course in which you are enrolled. The idea is to make it easier for you to keep track of details so you can spend more time thinking about and practicing chemistry. This site should make it easier and more fun to learn chemistry. Start by accessing the home page of your course via “FVCC Chemistry Courses” on the menu at the top of the page and go to the “Class Files” box at the right of this page and have a look in the “General Info” folder. If you have questions about the site or if you are having trouble finding something, please email me. I hope this is self-explanatory, but it may not be :).

Categories: Uncategorized

Organic Students: Read what these students have to say about success

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Mornin’ O-chemists! This weekend, while you are studying for the exam, have a look over here at what several organic chemistry students feel is important to success in this course. At the heart of every student’s effort is understanding – memorization has relatively little value. I will give you problems on Monday’s exam that you have never seen. Expect it, do not be surprised by it, and know that your understanding allows you to solve these problems. I am behind you 100%, and I know that together we will make it happen. Good luck, work hard this weekend, and I will see you Monday. I will post the answers to the practice test later this morning. Give yourself an opportunity to work on those problems carefully before you jump to the key.

Categories: Organic Chemistry

Taxol: An important compound with an impressive structure

September 10, 2011 Leave a comment

There are essentially an infinite number of ways atoms can be combined into organic molecules. For beginning organic chemistry students it can be surprising (and daunting!) to see for the first time how elaborate organic molecules can really be. Take for example the structure of taxol, a naturally occurring compound found in the bark of the Pacific Yew tree:

The chemical formula of taxol is C47H51NO14. Verify this for yourself by counting up the atoms in the structure shown above. Taxol is an important anticancer compound used in chemotherapy treatment of ovarian, lung, breast, and other types of cancer. In light of the discussions we’ve had in class regarding molecular dipoles, polarity, and solubility, look at the structure of taxol and pick out the polar parts of the structure and the non-polar parts. After considering the line drawing of the compound’s structure above, have a look at a model that more fully represents the structure in three dimensions:

Finally, consider a space-filling model that more fully reflects what the molecule really is:

Taxol binds to microtubules and prevents them from disassembling properly during the cell cycle (cell division) and this is why it has anticancer activity. This important property of the molecule has everything in the world to do with its structure. The blob above isn’t just any odd blob- it has an exact shape and a precise arrangment of atoms. All of the compound’s chemical and biological properties derive from its structure. So it is with all organic compounds and this is why we are so intent upon studying structure in organic chemistry.

Categories: Organic Chemistry

Lab Notebook and Report Guidlines Posted

September 6, 2011 Comments off

Students in CHMY 121 and 221 will find I’ve posted a PDF titled “Chemistry Laboratory Handout” in the class files box on the right hand side of the page. This handout contains detailed descriptions of the proper ways to construct both lab notebooks and lab reports for your chemistry classes. The handout includes grading policies and a sample lab report for your consideration. Download a copy of this file, but know that you will receive a hard copy of this handout tomorrow in class so there is no need to print it. You can also download it by clicking  Chemistry Laboratory Handout.

How to Succeed in Organic Chemistry Class

September 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Over on Master Organic Chemistry, James does a fine job of summarizing the advice professors most often give their students of organic chemistry. Based on careful reading of 25 syllabi containing essays on how to succeed, overwhelmingly REGULAR PRACTICE of PROBLEM SOLVING rises to the top. Studying with partners is also high on the list. O-chem students should scrutinize the bar graph below (lifted from James’ site), read his full post, and think carefully about this. General chemistry students will also benefit from considering this carefully.

Alert O-chem students: Please consider switching into Thursday’s Lab Section

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Ladies and gentlemen of O-chem: We have added a new section of lab that will meet Thursday afternoon from 1:20-5:00PM. We need half of you to switch into this section so each section will have 10 students. The lab will run much more smoothly this way. If you can switch into the Thursday section, please log on and change your own registration (drop the Friday and add the Thursday section). Switching will free up your Friday afternoon, which in some cases I’m sure you’ll agree would not be a bad thing. Thanks for helping out with this.

Categories: Organic Chemistry

Significant Figures in Measurements

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

For CHMY121 students, your text does not explain the concept of significant figures as well as it might. Remember: every measured digit (figure) in a quantitative observation is significant when the observation is expressed in scientific notation. So do it like this: first convert the number to scientific notation, then identify the significant figures. This eliminates the “place holder” zeros issue. No need to look further than Wikipedia for a concise explanation of significant figures. It’s all about keeping careful track of the uncertainties in quantitative observations. All measurements have associated uncertainties.

Categories: Uncategorized

Visualizing Atomic Orbitals with the “Orbitron”

August 29, 2011 1 comment

It can be difficult to fully appreciate the geometric shapes of atomic orbitals- those wave functions describing the probability of finding an electron at a particular location  relative to an atom’s nucleus. A bloke by the name of Mark Winter at The University of Sheffield has constructed the orbitron, orbital animations he describes as “quite pretty”. I would wholly agree. In fact they are more than pretty, they are phenomenally valuable three dimensional images and animations representing atomic orbitals. If you look at them carefully, paying particular attention to the electron density plots (for the 1s orbital) and the cross-sectional diagrams, you will come away with an excellent appreciation for where one might or could find an electron at any given time. Blow your mind by paying a visit to the orbitron. You’re life will be changed forever. Maybe.