Intensive Organic Chemistry for First Years II

May 2013

It's been a while since someone's reviewed Leighton, but for the most part everything the past reviewers have said are true. Compared to Breslow, Leighton's a lot younger, and subsequently more dynamic and engaging. He enunciates his words. He draws molecules that are actually easily discernible. He won't miss your hand if you thrust it up, eager to ask a question of clarification or to show your peers how intellectually curious you are. To do well in his class, 1) Come to lectures. 2) Take good notes during lecture. Make sure you're not just copying down molecules and ignoring the context/explanations that he's giving them. 3) Study the notes regularly, memorize the reactions, and understand the mechanisms. Leighton gave us psets regularly throughout the semester, and if you can do those psets without having to look at your notes, you should be fine for the midterm. Leighton's exams are quite conceptual; though the problems are hardly ever straight from the notes, if you know your notes well and can explain/comprehend just about everything he talked about in class, you should have no problem getting an A or an A+ in the class. Seriously. He likes to test a) proposing mechanisms, b) reaction predictions (ugh...stereochemistry comes back with a vengeance this semester), c) designing syntheses (which all involve some sort of retrosynthetic analysis of the product). In the end, the class averages still weren't that high; the averages for the midterms were 64, 65, and 76 respectively, while the average for the final was a 69.7. Don't try cramming for this exam; my friends who were most successful in this class all put in a little time daily for the first couple of weeks, until they were able to get a hang of Leighton-style orgo. Nate's also a pretty good TA. He's a funny and chill guy. His recitations were a lot more helpful first semester (since understanding Breslow's lectures required more effort than deciphering the Rosetta stone), but second semester they were merely rehashes of Leighton's lectures. Nate's pretty approachable for questions, and is willing to help you do well in the class. Now for my experience: I am by no means great at organic chemistry. As whole, the class got better at orgo as the semester progressed, while my grades stayed pretty stagnant. It took me a while to realize that was because I wasn't putting enough time into the class. So I swallowed my pride, starting recopying notes, and then did quite well on the final. Somehow, I ended up doing better than I expected in the class. Unlike the previous reviewers, Leighton didn't send us an end of the year email, and I'm pretty sure he curved my class to a B+. But the bottom line is, if an idiot like me was able to get through this class with a grade much higher than I had hoped for, with steady effort, you can too.

Jan 2010

This was my absolute favorite class freshman year (I'm a sophomore). If you get in to this class, take it take it take it. I have a bunch of friends who got in but took gen chem and regret it now. First semester: Yes, Breslow teaches very quickly. Yes, he does tend to skip chapters he doesn't care about and tell you to read them at home. But he is really an amazing teacher. He is very clearly excited about what he's teaching, loves to make jokes (which often catch you off guard), and always takes the opportunity to tell you about real-world applications. I brought my English-major sister to sit in on the class when she came to visit me, and even she was entertained all class. He is honestly one of the smartest people I have ever ever met. I don't think I ever looked at the clock ever all semester. His tests are hard, and are sometimes about applying what you've learned to things you've never seen before, but the curve is extremely generous. He said at the beginning of the semester that in order to not discourage students from taking the class, he tried to give them what they would have gotten had they taken gen chem (A or B range, and frankly, if you're in this class, a B is still pretty damn impressive). Second semester: Leighton is a really good teacher. After Breslow, his lectures definitely seem slow, but his drawings seem like the most beautiful things you've ever seen. He also manages to teach this semester WITHOUT A BOOK, which, thinking back on it now, is pretty amazing. He's just that good at explaining things. And what's really nice is that, because the class is so small (in what other organic class can the teacher learn your name??), you can ask questions, to which he is very responsive.. The tests are definitely hard, but again the curve is generous. I have heard of people getting C's in this class, but the majority of the kids my semester got in the A range. Note: From seeing my friends take organic now, the book Breslow and Leighton use is SO MUCH BETTER than the one used in regular orgo classes. It's extremely readable and explains things with really funny cartoons sometimes. It was worth reading first semester just to see resonance get compared to rhinos and dragons and unicorns. No kidding. I get my old one out to explain things all the time. Warning: Bio is a HUGE LETDOWN after this class.

Mar 2009

Beware--this class is full of premeds, overachieving engineers, and future chem majors. And it's at 9am. It's especially useful for premeds and chem majors, since it saves you a full year of gen chem, but some background in orgo is definitely helpful. Mostly, people don't realize that for synthesis questions, you have to ask yourself "what can I make with X and Y," "how do I make this kind of molecule," "what do I add to X to get Y," etc.--it's NOT just memorizing X+Y=Z. Breslow teaches the first semester. He's totally brilliant (google him for some fun facts, as well as amusing pictures of him when he was young), but should NOT teach undergrads. Don't bother showing up to class--I went to every class, wrote everything down, tried my best to stay awake, and should have slept in every morning and just done everything out of the book. Luckily, Michelle Hall was the TA our year and she is FANTASTIC. I have no idea how any of us would have passed without her. Also note that while the midterms are all fair material out of the book, the final is INSANELY hard--he wants you to "apply your knowledge" to stuff you haven't seen or something, but it's totally impossible. In my class, about a third of the class ended up with some kind of an A. If you can make it through first semester, James Leighton is totally awesome. He's super organized, draws large, clear molecules/mechanisms on the board (Breslow drew lots of tiny scribbly drawings--it's a nice change!), and is dynamic/engaging enough to keep almost everyone awake. Class attendance is absolutely necessary, since he lectures from his own notes and covers things not in the book (the book is still helpful for review and practice problems, though). Our TA was not very helpful, but it didn't matter since Leighton is such a badass. Exams are definitely mechanism-heavy (unlike Breslow's), but mostly fair. At least you know what's coming, since he posts practice tests. The final is pretty hard, but not as crazy as Breslow's. 2/3 of our class got some kind of A.

Jan 2002

Well prepared and well organized lectures. He maintains a good course webpage, and provides ample study materials. A description of C3045 with Prof. Turro as a happy journey through carbocation land is accurate. His grading is fair.

Aug 2001

Wow, the other reviews of Sames are really harsh. Yes, Sames focuses on biochemistry ALOT, and you are expected to understand everything he says because it will appear on the tests. However, he makes the class really interesting and strongly encourages students to offer their opinions. As for the midterms and final, if you don't understand the material really well, you're pretty much screwed. The tests are full of applications, with little or no straightforward questions. His questions assume a knowledge of the basic reactions and mechanisms, and then work from there. The problem sets are challenging, but our TA was always willing to help. Definitely go to his office hours; I never went, but I heard he was really helpful. Above all, if you want to know organic chemistry well, this is the class for you. Otherwise, get out. And although most people did better in Turro's class first semester, I actually preferred Sames and got a better grade in his class. He made the material seem much more exciting than Turro's dry lectures. NOTE: He claims that the Sorrell textbook is "recommended" but it's required for all the problem sets, and helpful for the midterm.

Jan 2000

If William Faulkner began teaching Orgo while halfway through a bender, he might broach Prof. Sames' s delightfully loopy lecturing style. While the course may say Orgo, be prepared to learn lots and lots of organometallics (his pet field). He is a brilliant man, to be sure, but a disorganized teacher. Even so, the fact that this course gives 6 AP credits makes all the hassle worth it.

Jan 2000

This man is like satan himself. He has an incredible knowledge of all sorts of biological mechanisms that he will scrawl on the board and expect you to regurgitate on the next exam. You have no time to copy and somehow the class is different from turo's first semester stroll through happy carbocation land. turo's preferred organic text is pretty with pictures and word art-- while sames forces you to purchase a graduate level text that weighs more than you do and is exciting in design- black on white, no color and no pictures. think that sums up the difference between 3045 and 3046? oh my sweet child- welcome to hell.