Organic Chemistry and Botany

Elaine Shea eshea at
Tue May 14 11:25:25 EST 2002

John Silvius asked:

Is anyone aware of the current status of the one-year of Organic
Chemistry as a requirement for graduate studies, particularly Medical
Schools (the majority of our BIO majors)?   Specifically, what
would our undergraduate applicants to grad/med schools loose if they
were to have 1 semester of organic chem. taught with biology in mind
(versus industrial chemical applications) followed by a semester (or
more?) of biochemistry?

This is long , but I hope it helps.  The subject line is an exact
description of my teaching load!  Perhaps I can address your question
from both the viewpoint of a botanist and an organic chemist.  The short
answer is "Yes, for all medical, dental and vet programs I know both
here and abroad, two semesters of Organic Chemistry with lab are
required.  For graduate school it depends on both the department and
program to which the student is applying."  

To address your second question I can speak from experience.  Here at
Loyola College we encountered the same situation a few years ago.  In
the biology department we eliminated almost all one-credit lab courses. 
(My junior level Botany course is a 3-credit hands-on lecture taught in
a specially designed 'wet' lecture space.  My Plant Physiology course is
3-credit experiential lab course with supplementary lectures as needed.)
 The freshman lab sequence was converted into two 3-credit courses
called Process of Science I & II.  This increase in the number of
3-credit courses required for the major had to be offset by reducing
requirements elsewhere.  For the standard biology major only one
semester of organic chemistry and one semester of physics are required. 
The caveat is that students applying to professional schools and many
graduate programs will need to take a second semester of organic
chemistry and physics as free electives.  As advisors we pay very close
attention to this issue.  

As a Bio/Organic Chemistry professor, it really bothers me that biology
students can graduate with only one half of a one year course in organic
chemistry.  Students who choose this option are never exposed to the
functional groups of greatest interest to biologists (e.g. amines and
organic acids) and never get any biochemistry.  For this reason, I have
created a one semester Introductory Organic Chemistry course.  There is
no lab associated with this course.  I just finished teaching it for the
first time.  For the students, it is not easier than the first semester
of the one year course, but it is complete.  What we lost in depth, we
made up for in breadth.  We covered nomenclature and fundamental
reactions of all families of organic molecules, plus an introduction to
carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, nucleic acids and metabolism.  We did
not study spectroscopy or synthetic polymers.  I showed reaction
mechanisms in lecture so students could see how and why certain products
form, but students did not work mechanism problems themselves.  All in
all, students who do well in this course are prepared for our one
semester biochemistry lecture course.  The biochemistry lab course
"Techniques in Biochemistry" is a separate 3-credit course.  In order to
take it students need to complete the two semesters of organic chemistry
lab, and the one semester lecture course is adequate preparation for
organic lab. 

We now use Blackboard, but older versions of my courses are available

Elaine M. Shea
Chemistry Department
Loyola College
4501 N. Charles St
Baltimore, MD 21210

Phone: 410-617-2058
FAX: 410-617-2803


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