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Organic chemistry



Major: Biology –General Biology Option
Hometown: Butte, MT
Year: Senior

Organic chemistry is known to be one of the most feared undergraduate classes by students nationwide, the gatekeeper course for of all pre-med and pre-veterinary students, the weeder class for biology majors.  Organic chemistry is defined as the chemistry of carbon compounds. It’s a difficult course because unlike most chemistry classes it’s not mathematically based; rather, it focuses on visual interpretation and the ability to spatially arrange molecules and elucidate the synthesis of compounds.  There can be many correct answers to one problem. The material and the time commitment to understand the information may seem daunting at first, but it is possible.

I was apprehensive heading into the first class of the semester because I had heard from other students the professor constructed difficult tests.  As Dr. Collins began his power point presentation that first day he stopped on a slide of Harry Potter hovered over a reaction in potions class at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He said organic chemistry was the closest thing we’d ever get to taking potions class and that it really was a lot like magic. Everyone started laughing, but there was some truth in his statement.  The rest of the semester I pictured the many extractions, distillations, and refluxes in lab class as creating polyjuice potion, Skelo-gro and truth serum. This may seem juvenile, but it made lab class interesting rather than common and helped me remember the many reactions that were necessary to commit to memory.

I made a Prozac molecule from a kit and showed
it to a friend...who was slightly less excited than me.

Yes, you have to study, yes, you have to read and go through every assigned homework problem, but the class is interesting. Many times I would find myself making connections between the material in organic chemistry and other science courses. How does a sodium-gated ion channel operate in your body? How are biological molecules used to combat insect pests? What are the mechanisms for how medical drugs interact with biological systems? Organic chemistry teaches you the concepts of how to understand these questions and gives you a toolbox to solve problems in the real world. The homework wasn’t busywork. For future scientists, medical doctors, and teachers, it’s imperative to understand how the most common elements of the human body interact with each other and with the world around us.

I knew the class would be hard when I began, but I did not think that I would enjoy it, however, it quickly became my favorite class. The problems are small puzzles that require you to think in different ways than you have been taught, but it was by far the most fun and the most rewarding course I have taken at Fort Lewis so far.

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Got something to say? Join the discussion »
    Posted @ Friday, February 08, 2013 by Rachael
    Rachael's avatar

    Ashlee, I really enjoyed your story about Organic Chemistry! Though I've never taken it, I've heard it's one of the most difficult classes that an aspiring Bio undergrad has to complete. I think that the professor can make such a huge difference in our experience, and can turn even a difficult class into an enjoyable one.
    I had a somewhat similar experience last year when I had to take an intro to Chemistry class. I'll be honest, I was not thrilled about having to take a Chem class, but by the end of the semester my view of Chemistry had changed quite a bit. And it's all thanks to my professor, Dr. Milofsky. I couldn't help but be influenced by his enthusiasm for the subject and humorous examples. Also, the time that he took to get to know his students and help us with questions really stood out to me. Even now, a year-and-a-half later, he still makes an effort to say hi.
    A couple weeks ago I was giving a campus tour and we ran into Dr. Milofsky. Completely impromptu, he stopped what he was doing and took the time to chat with the son and father on my tour!

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