Chemistry 248AB - Hanson - Grading, Expectations, and All That

Welcome to second-semester organic!

Excited? Apprehensive? A bit nervous? Yes, I am. How are you?

Second semester organic chemistry builds on what you learned last semester. In first-semester organic you learned about some of the basic building blocks of organic compounds -- alkanes, alkenes, alkyl halides, alcohols, and ethers. You also learned about spectroscopy, and you spent a lot of time talking about mechanisms, specifically substitution and elimination reactions. Although you aren't expected to remember everything you learned (or tried to learn) in that course, there will be lots of applications of that material here. It wouldn't hurt to sit down and review some of that material again. If you had major problems in Chemistry 247, please talk with me so that we can make a plan for success in this course.
What I don't expect
What I do expect
  • You'll remember everything you learned last semester.
  • You'll learn everything on your own reading the book without my help.
  • You're an artistic genious.
  • You'll come prepared each day having at least looked over the material in the chapter, ready to ask a question.
  • You'll work through the problem sets even though they will not be collected.
  • When working with your assigned group you will participate fully.


The proportions of the total grade to be  assigned to respective aspects of the course  are given in the table on the right. I reserve the right to change this point distribution during the semester if necessary.
58% Four Midterm Exams (100 points each; 400 points total)
14% Homework/In-class exercises (100 points)
7% Synthesis Report (50 points)
7% Polymer Report (50 points)
14% Final Examination (100 points)
100% Total (700 points)
90-100%A range
80-89%B range
60-79%C range
50-59%D range
I grade on a "sliding scale." The point ranges on the left are goals. If necessary, I will lower the A-B and B-C cutoffs to ensure a roughly B average in the course. I am deeply committed to helping you at whatever level you are at. If you're getting a D, I'll try my hardest to help you bring that up to a C. If you're getting a C, then I'll help you get a B. If you are unsatisfied with a B, I'll help you get an A. I won't do it for you, but I can do it with you. If you're getting an A, well, you probably don't need my help (although I'll still be more than happy to talk with you!).
Homework and Assignments

This year we wil be using a mix of online and written homework. In addition, there will be some in-class writing -- not exactly quizzes, but something like that that will allow you to self-evaluate where you are. The book has a website with a variety of problems available, and we will also be using Sapling Learning online. I will try to make a point to suggest good problems from the book. A solution manual to these problems will be available in Hustad Science Library, and you are more than welcome to stop by any time and discuss them with me.

Note that the reading assigned on a given day must at least be looked over before the class session it is being discussed. It is very important that you do this reading. Otherwise the discussion in class may not be very helpful to you..

In addition, we will have two written assignments that will require some research. The first will be a summary of a research paper in the area of organic synthesis. The second will be a report about a specific synthetic organic polymer. More about those as we get closer to the assignments.


There will be four midterm exams and a final in this course, totalling 58% of the grade. Prior to each exam I will hold an evening study session. These are optional, and they will not involve any new material. Basically, you will come with specific problems in mind -- from the book, from the web, from prior exams -- and I will walk you through those, basically "thinking out loud" and modeling for you how I would approach a problem like that. And then a discussion will ensue. You may bring a sheet with you to the midterm exams (not the final), that has on it a list of reactions you learned last semester. No notes, no mechanisms, just reactants, reagents, and products. Several reactions like this, perhaps, though hand-written:

Course content

The course is divided into five basic parts:

  1. The first part of the course expands our idea of pi systems. You learned about alkenes and alkynes last semester; now we will look at compounds with multiple double bonds -- delocalized pi systems, benzene and "aromaticity," and alkynes. In addition, we will take a quick look at "radical" chain reactions, which involve breaking sigma bonds and producing systems with unpaired electrons.
  2. During the second part of this course we will start our study of carbonyl compounds, that is, compounds that have C=O bonds. You will see how incredibly important these functional groups are in any application of organic chemistry, whether that is in the area of medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, environmental chemistry, material science, or any related field. We will take another look at how "redox" reactions play out in organic chemistry, get an introduction to amines and organometallic compounds, talk about reversible and irreversible reactions of carbonyl compounds, and also take a look at the use of protecting groups in organic synthesis.
  3. The third section of the course dives deeper into carbonyl chemistry, with a distinct focus on organic synthesis. This area of chemistry deals with design. How do chemists go about making a compound "from scratch"? This is "puzzle chemistry" at its best. A good challenge! It is at this point that you will find a "total synthesis" paper, read it, probably discuss it with me, and then write a short, structured report on it.
  4. After that, we will study compounds of biological and industrial significance. This isn't a biochemistry course; instead we will focus on the organic building blocks of biological systems -- what they are; how they work; why they react the way they do. It will be a great intro for anyone planning on continuing to biochemistry. The focus will be on a principal tenet of biochemistry: that structure determines function. Topics include amino acids (yes, you will be responsible for learning the structures of the 20 common amino acids), peptides, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids. Besides biopolymers, we will spend two days discussing the structure and synthesis of industrial organic polymers (such as nylon, polyethylene, and Kevlar). You will be assigned an industrially important polymer to research as part of this section of the course.
  5. Finally, in the last few days of the course, we will have an introduction to medicinal chemistry and drug design - my personal specialty. No reading necessary. I hope you enjoy it!

My Job

  • As I hope you discovered last semester, the subjects dealt with in organic chemistry are very strongly connected logically and should make sense. If they don't, I'm not doing my job. I want to know about it.
  • I'll help you all I can. Take advantage of the fact that you are at St. Olaf! My door is (almost) always open. Stop by. Introduce yourself. I only ask that you not call me by phone at home; I'm usually online in the evening -- so email is better, and my wife has to get up at 5:30 in the morning to get to school.