my teaching philosophy


  • students learn organic structures, concepts and mechanisms by drawing them;
  • drawing organic structures and mechanisms currently cannot be effectively taught via web based systems, particularly multiple choice formats;
  • asking students to draw structures/mechanisms in lectures is more valuable to them than writing words;
  • students are, and should be, unsatisfied by lectures they can understand immediately by reading the book;
  • PowerPoint presentations in lectures have value for images that cannot be drawn easily (eg spectra and proteins), but their excessive use is impersonal, boring, and overwhelming;
  • students do not come to class to be lectured on material they will not be tested on;
  • students should read organic textbooks to help them understand concepts and memorize facts;
  • reading the book in advance of each lecture is valuable;
  • students should be free to study from any good, appropriate textbook;
  • do not grade on scales that involve lots of points, or give point fractions, because it is impossible to consistently and reliably differentiate between answers that are partly wrong in many different ways;
  • publishers charge too much for textbooks and deliberately suppress their re-sale value by introducing new editions;
  • it is easy for students to spend too much time on trivia in a textbook (eg who did what and when, chemistry in society) and not enough on the key concepts;
  • students do not read books to learn material they will not be tested on;
  • students, like professors, are busy, so it is better for them to have all they have to learn concentrated in one document, and to be graded via a clear and simple system;
  • fundamental chemistries of amino acids, peptides, proteins, carbohydrates, nucleosides, and nucleotides are at the end of the syllabus and are often not covered due to lack of time;
  • it is important that majors in subjects like chemistry, biology, biochemistry, genetics (and aspiring pre-meds, vets, dentists, nurses etc) know about fundamental chemistries of amino acids, peptides, proteins, carbohydrates, nucleosides, and nucleotides;
  • on the other hand, there is no time to teach “biochemistry-light”, the emphasis must be on the chemistry of the topics listed above; and,
  • ignore negative, non-productive criticism, but consider all constructive suggestions from any student

my sophomore organic chemistry workbooks are to

  • require students to draw structures and mechanisms;
  • break down difficult concepts into small deductive steps;
  • provide lots of examples to practice these concepts;
  • be extremely similar to the quizzes and exams that will be set;
  • avoid material that is straightforward and clearly described in the book;
  • provide nearly all the text necessary; and,
  • contain more problems than could be solved in class, to give motivated students relevant material to study.

I try to

  • make lectures genuinely worth attending by stressing concepts and drawing structures/mechanisms;
  • draw facing the students using minimal ppts;
  • encourage thinking and dialog by asking lots of question, calling on students by name, but not humiliating people who cannot answer;
  • make it clear what students should learn;
  • make it possible for students to use any edition of the recommended text, and other appropriate books;
  • include fundamental chemistries of amino acids, peptides, proteins, carbohydrates, nucleosides, and nucleotides;
  • avoid “clutter and fluff”;
  • augment the notes with relevant videos;
  • direct students to online resources that may assist their understanding
  • grade fairly by using a straightforward, unambiguous system; and, most importantly, 
  • enable students to enjoy the class.

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