C3045-C3046 Intensive Organic Chemistry (for freshmen)

Aug 2011

Snyder was our instructor for the second semester of freshman organic chemistry, and there were some highlights in his class. In comparison to Breslow, who (though well-meaning) was very confusing in his style of teaching and his creation of examination and never had office hours and constantly left class too early because of his trips to Switzerland, Snyder actually had office hours two to three times a week and had a very clear and organized style of teaching. He would always refresh our memories about materials covered in prior lectures, and would move systematically in his covering of material. In office hours Snyder was very nice, helping with homework and answering questions and trying to calm the ravenous and brownosing premed hounds (foaming Harvard Medical School despair and evil cut throat ectoplasm from their mouths) at his door. That being said, the last third of the class came like a freight train to the students, with a large amorphous and gelatinous beastly caricature consisting of random and confusing topics (amines, pericyclic reactions, some weird radical material, etc.) that ultimately led to this massive panic attack in realizing how much material was covered in the class. The worst part, was his final (45ish % of your final grade) was poorly constructed and ultimately far too long. I honestly feel like there were 50 single-sinded pages all stapled into this devilish mini-book of deceit. Normally, one expects a Columbia final to take between 2-2.5 hours, with a little extra wiggle time in the 3 hour span considering the stress and gravity of the final examination, but ultimately I do not believe 4 hours was fair for this final exam to be taken. I think the final consisted of 25 product questions being given the initial molecule and reagents, 15 annoying miscellaneous short answer questions, some other random long question requiring an explanation, and some 10 or so LONG synthesis and mechanism questions. Yeah, it was that bad. The weekly quizzes were very inconveniently time and consisted of 90% of the people sleepily taking quizzes at 11 am on a Friday, before chemistry lab. Problem sets were also very LONG and DIFFICULT and due at very inconvenient deadlines, and a lot of the times I could not attend office hours where answers would be given, leading me to sulk in the unfairness of the fact that I had other obligations and could not incessantly go to every single one of his office hours like other premeds. I just felt that sometimes the notes and textbook were insufficient to answer some of his cryptic problems and didn't like the fact that overcompetitive and rich premeds with no obligations were ahead of me gradewise because they could just go to all his office hours while I had to work. His exams were sort of random and consisted of a lot of tricky questions, and big points were made dependent on your ability to answer challenging synthesis problems and memorize some long and annoying mechanism. all in all, I love Dr. Snyder and know he is well meaning and I appreciate his efforts and know that he is an excellent teacher, but I do believe there was substantial room for improvement if he is to teach this class again. These consist of mostly fairer consideration for other obligations of students, and a little bit more shortness and fairness in exams.

May 2010

This was hands-down my favorite class freshman year. It can be kind of intimidating at first - Professor Breslow is a genius (you learn about the Breslow intermediate second semester) and some of his lectures can go pretty quickly - but take solace in the fact that everyone feels lost. If you stick close to your TA first semester, you'll be FINE. Plus, because both Breslow and Leighton consider the class "above average," it's fairly easy to make an A+ (I made one both first and second semester). I think the class is itself scaled to an A-, which is a lot better than the gen chem or regular orgo classes. So if you are placed into this class, TAKE it. Also, orgo just gets easier as you go along. I must say that I spent a lot of time on orgo first semester (you need to read and understand the book chapters VERY WELL). But if you get through first semester, second semester is a breeze. Leighton doesn't care about the book (although he took some exam questions verbatim from his "recommended homework" so if you're smart, you'll look at those problems) and his exams come STRAIGHT from his notes. He's also really good about extra office hours and his class notes are very clear. Both semesters and both professors were absolutely fascinating. I am really going to miss this class - it made me a chem major, I loved it so much. So take it! It'll be the best decision you make freshman year. The final in Breslow's class was not that hard, although the average ended up being really low - he just asked you to do a lot of "application" problems rather than synthesis. Make sure you know what anthracene looks like and how napthalene reacts! The final in Leighton's class was a piece of cake. Just take the time to review your notes and it's super easy.

Jan 2000

The above review of Sames seems a little harsh-- it smacks of the insidious pre-med grade grubbing that so poisons any orgo section. Granted, Sames goes on many hilarious and incomprehensible diatribes, but the tests were always fair. There's lots of studying to be done, though. It's certainly not as uncomplicated as the first semester of Orgo.