Organic Chemistry I and II

Nov 2014

Professor Rojas is a saint. He makes himself available to his students (office hours every day of the week!) and he really cares. His class is completely fair and while the exams are difficult he is a gem about partial credit. This man deserves a gold nugget.

May 2014

I got an A+ first semester and am expecting an A+ for the second semester as well. Professor Doubleday is an awesome guy. He will spend a lot of time with you to make sure you understand the material. I think he's very friendly and easy to approach. His exams are extremely reasonable (no weird tricks) while still challenging (in a good way), and he gives you many old exams to work from. Like any orgo class, it takes a lot of practice and a wide exposure to problems to be able to do well. Overall, here's what you need to do to be successful: 1) You should definitely THOROUGHLY read McMurry, especially if you don't go to lecture. The details in McMurry are necessary to do well. When you read McMurry, take your own notes on the chapter and rewrite the "summary of reactions" sections at the end of the chapter. Hold on to these notes, don't throw them out. There were many times this semester where I referred back to my old textbook (and class) notes from last semester. 2) Try to do the end of chapter question problems. If you struggle doing the end of chapter questions, then get Klein's Organic Chemistry textbook and read up on the sections where you're struggling (or Organic Chemistry as a Second Language). You should be able to do the McMurry end of chapter questions without any issues until you get to mechanisms. McMurry is awful for learning mechanisms. Get Klein's books. 3) Once you've got the material down, do Professor Doubleday's practice exams. If they're too hard for you, then do all of the relevant end of chapter and in text questions from Klein. You should be able to tackle any problem at that point. 4) Go to his office hours, especially his marathon office hours on Friday before the Monday exams. I went a lot last semester and they were helpful (with MCAT studying, I had no time this semester to go to office hours). All the people I know who did not do well in his class did not allow themselves enough time to study. They didn't do enough problems and they did not get through all his practice exams (which is foolish not to do). His practice exams are absolutely necessary study tools.

Jul 2013

This guy is the real deal. Patient as HELL and extremely encouraging. Orgo sounds daunting, but every important concept is explained clearly in his class. He grades very fairly if not leniently, but office hours are crucial if you want an A. I usually went twice a week. Also--he isn't charmed by suck ups. He doesn't play favorites at all, so don't waste your time with that route. Show up to class. Take notes. Go to office hours. And most importantly--do not be afraid to ask questions. Those are the things that matter to Professor Rojas and those are the things that will get you a great grade. He is an excellent, excellent educator and probably the best I've ever had. Best piece of information about Professor Rojas--he makes his own problem sets, so his tests are extremely related to the homework. If you master the problem sets, you'll do very well on his exams. There are no surprises.

Jan 2013

ONE OF THE BEST PROFESSORS IN THE HISTORY OF TEACHING! Seriously... as scary as Organic Chemistry is made out to seem.... Professor Merrer made it a lovable subject. BECAUSE of this class, I deduced that my favorite science BY FAR was & still is Organic Chemistry. She uses a variety of color coordination on the boards which makes following her notes all the more easier. She was mindful of student questions both during lecture and office hours. She answers questions very thoroughly. While she is a tough grader.... it helped you learned the subject. TAKE THIS CLASS WITH HER! She is awesome. She is also pretty funny which is an added plus. :) SIDE NOTE: Organic Chemistry II is way better than Organic Chemistry I (for obvious reasons... like being better familiar with the subject).... therefore even if you feel yourself suffocating first semester still take second semester with her!

Jan 2013

If you are taking Orgo with Doubleday, I have two things to say: 1. DO NOT TAKE IT WITH HIM IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO. Period. He was the worst professor I've had, in terms of teaching ability, effectiveness, and in simple, basic ability to inspire students to be interested in (and dare I even say passionate about?) the subject at hand. This material in a brilliant professor's hands could really ignite the intellectual fires of many students. There's none of that here. Just boring, awkward lectures that made me wish I was at the library studying instead. 2. If you have to take it with him, buy David Klein's Orgo textbook (the same guy who wrote Org Chem as a 2nd Language). The only reason I got an A in this class was because I not only fully completed Klein's "Organic Chem as a Second Language", I googled Klein, found out he wrote his own book, and shelled out an additional $250 to get Klein's full textbook and solutions manual. They were absolutely, 100% invaluable. The McMurray is still necessary, so that you can phrase everything in McMurray's specific terms (in terms of reagents used, mostly), but honestly what I would do is this: I would check the syllabus to see what we were supposed to study before the lecture, and then I would find that subject matter in the Klein textbook. I would read the Klein chapter in full, doing every single example problem along the way (without looking at solutions), and taking notes. Then I would do every single Klein example problem at the end of the chapter. I would then attend the lecture, and then I would go home and simply read through McMurray casually, noting differences in reagents or language. This is vital for the initial gen chem review, and for understanding: formal charges, nucleophilicity, electrophilicity, acids and bases, and most importantly....synthesis and mechanisms, with synthesis being most vital. (side note: if you are not skilled at moving 3D objects around in your mind, you should get one of the molecule model sets. Draw a square with a straight line sticking out diagonally from one of its corners. Now try to imagine its mirror image, without drawing anything. Now imagine these two images: the one you drew and its mirror image, and decide if whether or not these two separate structures are superimpose-able on each other. Now multiply trying to do that by 100. That's what you'll have to be able to do without hesitation in this course). In the Klein text, there is an entire chapter, chapter 12, devoted only to organic synthesis. This chapter changed everything for me, because Doubleday's exams are 70% synthesis. The mechanisms are very important too, but if you do all of the practice tests, you get used to Doubleday's favorite tricks (ring openings and changes, hydride and methyl shifts, etc). This class is a TON of work. Whether you are undergrad or post-bacc. I see a lot of undergrads on here complaining that post baccs can put so much work into the course - well, sure they can, if they don't have jobs!!! Most of us have full-time jobs, like me. I work M-F, from 9am in the morning until at least 6 or 7 in the evening, and there is no time to study at my job. So I had to learn all of this before 9am and after 7pm every day, and then all weekend. I had no social life at all from late Oct through the final. I would say you should expect to study at least 15 hours a week for this course. At least. Most important: Get the klein text, do ALL of the practice exams, when you study begin and finish with doing problems - don't ever just read and think that will help you. It won't. Doubleday was affable, but useless as a lecturer. And it's true - there is absolutely no curve, at all. Don't be fooled if you get a 70 on an exam and he tells you the median was a 50. That's the *median*, not the mean. It's like other people have said on here: you have to know the concepts and the reactions perfectly. There is no room for error. If you miss one synthesis problem or one mechanism, you're screwed out of an A (and it usually means you'll end up around a C). Another thing that helped me is that I made a friend in class, and we would study together from time to time. It is so helpful to have someone to talk to whose eyes don't cross when you say "nucleophilic substitution". I really recommend having a study partner.

Nov 2012

Professor Merrer is fantastic. I think she may be the best professor I've had in my three years here so far. She's extremely intelligent, knows the material really well, and can explain concepts thoroughly. Her lectures are clear and don't delve into useless information. Her way of explaining the material is great and I actually really enjoy going to class, which I weird since I kind of hate chemistry. That being said, I found it very, very, very difficult. I'm dropping out of Orgo II over halfway through the semester, I just can't do it. I devote a LOT of time to studying for this class and it never seems to make a difference. Some people just get chemistry better than others, I definitely do not. I know a lot of others who have had to drop as well. The problem sets are challenging, but doable, especially with your group. The quizzes aren't too bad, but she doesn't give much partial credit on them. They are still challenging. The exams are what killed me. 3 spread out and then a final, it feels like I'm constantly preparing for a test. They are very difficult, even when I feel like I grasped the material pretty well. Even when I did the past year's exam and did ok, I still can't do well. I did extra problems, used extra books, went to the help room, nothing really helped. Orgo I has the same workload and layout, but the mechanisms and concepts are simpler. I'm disappointed to leave the class, but I can't let my gpa drop so much because of it. If you take the class be prepared to ignore your other courses and spend most of your time working on orgo. Good-bye to sleeping the weeks of the tests, too.

May 2012

Just finished a year with Doubleday and got a B both terms (I mostly get A's in my other classes) Here's what you should know for his class: 1) He teaches straight from McMurry (the text), so you don't HAVE to go to class. If you have as little time as I had this term, then it is sometimes a good time management decision to skip class and be more productive with your time by doing whatever else you have to do. 2) He doesn't curve. For example, my average for the second term was about an 80, and the midterm medians (note: averages are ALWAYS lower than medians) were 67, 64, and 51...and with my 80 average I got a B. In other words, there is a pretty good chance you will end up with a B- or lower. If I had to make a rough guess, I'd say 40% of the class gets a C+ or lower. I know for a fact that he gave fewer A's and A-'s last term than Professor Mowshowitz's biology class (and Mowshowitz is somewhat notorious for the difficulty of her class). 3) There is no way of getting around memorizing McMurry COLD. If you miss one mechanism problem and one synthesis problem on an exam because you forgot a step and you're completely stumped (very little partial credit is given), then at best you will get an 80 on that exam, assuming everything else is perfect (in reality that means you're at a 75 best, because nothing else is perfect). 4) Organic chemistry in Doubleday's class is about being able to know reactions so well that you can see their mechanisms in your head walking down the street (and for spring semester, knowing them in reverse). I call it "overwhelming familiarity." Can you recite your social security number in reverse in under 3 seconds without thinking? Could you do the same if you had to memorize 75 SSNs? 100? What if you had to combine them in different ways? You essentially need to be a living computer in this class: high processing speed (there is no thinking in Doubleday orgo, the vast majority is complete reaction (you should know the answer immediately), memorization (your ability to memorize with be stretched to its limit), attention to details (there is no room for mistakes when the class isn't curved). Orgo feels like bootcamp. 5) The workload is tremendous. I made around 150 extra large notecards and about 20 pages of review sheets in addition to doing all of the homeworks, practice exams, etc. and even seeing a tutor fairly routinely...and still got a B. 6) Snyder vs. Doubleday: Snyder teaches you more about the WHY and HOW, and Doubleday teaches you more of the WHAT. In other words, Doubleday is essentially descriptive. I don't think too many people come away from his class thinking organic chemistry is a terribly intellectual discipline. I think most people just think it's one step above memorizing the dictionary. That's a bit harsh but fairly accurate I think. In addition, I have never heard anything negative about Snyder, and most people say that he is a wonderful professor (brilliant, approachable, etc.) . Moreover, I think Snyder curves his class to the B/B+ interface, while it seems as though the median in Doubleday is a B-. I'm not sure about that, but from what I've gathered, that's probably correct. Snyder is an actual professor at CU, and Doubleday is a lecturer, so Snyder feels like he has a stake in your success. Everyone (almost) raves about him, though Snyder does assign problem sets, so if you don't have time to do formal problem sets, then that's a negative. But then again, problem sets are basically a way of studying for the exam, so maybe that's not such a negative. 7) Doubleday himself is nice enough. He's "medium" in his approachability, but at the same time I don't think he cares about students to the same degree as Snyder. He does have ample office hours before exams which is nice, and he's very upfront about what's on the exam. He won't, however, tell you how he intends to grade the class (I think most people are disappointed when they see their final grades- "hey I'm consistently above the median with my 73 average, so I'm doing well, right?"). He doesn't seem to grade statistically. It's not like gen chem. where your grade depends upon your number of standard deviations above or below the mean. A 70 on an exam with a 55 median is not good. It's still a 70 and probably a C+. Word to the wise: if you take Doubleday (I would take Snyder in retrospect) get Snyder's lecture summaries from a friend in Snyder's class. They tell you WHY stuff happens the way it does, so that orgo doesn't seem so arbitrary. In reality, there are some principles in orgo, and Snyder does a better job of pointing them out than Doubleday. I have heard Organic Chemistry as a Second Language is a helpful supplement as well. If you have a subpar memory like myself, preview the material before the course begins. You will be thankful when you don't get a C.

Apr 2009

I love Professor Merrer. If you're debating between taking Chemistry at Columbia or Barnard and Merrer is teaching, take it at Barnard no question asked. Merrer is a fantastic teacher. She presents the material very clearly and the way she writes her notes on the board make it impossible for you not to be able to take good notes if you write down everything she does. The big complaint everyone has about Orgo is that it's all memorization and that it's hard. I'm not going to say this class isn't hard but Merrer makes Orgo make sense. It's not about memorizing every reaction in her class because if you learn the material the way she presents it, you won't have a hard time remembering everything. I understand it's not always easy to understand what's going on in class but office hours are really helpful and you can always find at least one time slot that fits in your schedule. One thing about Merrer that I love is that she really understands what you're trying to ask when you ask a question and she'll rephrase to say it better than you did originally and to make sure the rest of the class isn't confused. Overall I think she's a brilliant woman and a fantastic teacher. I know some people say she's a little cold, or whatever the complaint is. But she's not if you make an effort in class. You just have to realize that she has a sarcastic sense of humor and it's not that she doesn't like you, it's just that's the way she is. If you catch her sarcastic remarks they're hysterical. Just don't get turned off too quickly. She also makes an incredible effort to learn everybody's name which is amazing of her. Basically take any class Merrer teaches.

Feb 2007

INCREDIBLE TEACHER! Teaches very well (even though the class itself is HARD). He is very thorough in his explanations and try very hard to make every clear to his students. HE even washes the black board so everything he writes is clear with no background smudge! He's also very amusing at times with random jokes and romantic poetry. All in all, if you're going to take orgo, you'll be lucky to have rojas! I think he should be one of the "golden nuggets" professors =)

Nov 2006

Rojas is the best professor I have had at Barnard. He has made orgo as easy and enjoyable as it could possibly be. His lectures are perfectly clear and easy to follow. Also, I have to add the fact that he is possibly the most adorable person in the world, and a significant number of us are pretty obsessed with him. We find ourselves swooning on a regular basis.

May 2006

Professor Doubleday gets lots of bad reviews on here, but if you do the work in the class you won't have a problem with him. I took him for both semesters, and he makes it clear that only what is important will be tested on the exams, and what is very helpful is that he only tests what's in the book-- no extras. He doesn't make you hand in any type of problem sets either so it cuts out all the extra tedious side work so that you can really study what is important. About Doubleday, he is a really nice person and is ALWAYS available if you have ANY questions. I went to him before every midterm and the final to go over old exams and homework questions. He also gives out all his old exams before hand so every student is on an even field when it comes to who has what.

Jan 2004

Professor Dina Merrer is condescending. If you are pre-med, I have four words for you: TAKE IT AT COLUMBIA!!!! If you are a Biology or a Chemistry major, and you must take the class, I pity you. Granted, Professor Merrer's lecturing style of writing on the board as she speaks makes it easy to take notes. However, the lectures are an absolute horror to sit through, Going to office hours is pointless. There are weekly problem sets, handed out during recitation periods even during weeks when you have exams in the class. Furthermore, the questions are so difficult that they serve no practical purpose in the class. Her exams do not relate to those problems, or to the assigned book problems, which are even more useless. The readings are so pointless that even Professor Merrer advises you not to make them a priority. She also puts up practice exams, which are the closest you will come to predicting the format of the exam. However, the three exams are very challenging, and she will throw in surprises, so be prepared. The best way to study for them is to go over all of the reactions until you know them cold. Another important note is that Professor Merrer is extremely sensitive to any “disruptions” in the class. This includes people walking across the room, people’s cell phones being turned on, and people talking outside of the classroom. Good luck, and may the force be with you.

Jan 2004

A truly great professor who is dedicated to teaching. You'll learn to love orgo and will come away with a solid foundation in organic chemistry. She writes up all the notes on the boards, so there's no need to even crack open the text. Prof Merrer is a very lucid lecturer. Her tests are very fair and straightforward. Sometimes she brings homebaked cookies and gave us all engraved pencils at the end of the last class (doubt Katz/Doubleday/Cornish/Nuckolls would ever do this for their students). She's perhaps the best professor I've ever had at Columbia (even though she's a Barnard prof).

Nov 2003

Professor Merrer is the best professor I have had so far. She is clear, organized, and fair. Her lectures are easy to follow and she writes everything you need to know on the board. The class is a lot of work, and her exams are challenging but fair. Professor Merrer is a refreshing professor becasue she really enjoys teaching, she makes an effort to learn your name, and most importantly, she honestly wants you to succeed and do well. She cares about all of her students and is always there to help you. I highly recommend taking chemistry with professor Merrer, she is amazing.