Intensive Organic Chemistry

May 2021

This class was really hard. Honestly, it kinda sucked. Sure, we covered a lot of interesting material and Leighton has his moments as an engaging lecturer, but I think I would've been better off in the large orgo lecture. Although the class is only ~20 people, it was hard to keep up and ask questions at the risk of seeming stupid. There were so many lectures where I was super lost and just wrote down what was on the board and had to study it on my own. The people in the class are pretty intense about chemistry, and some of them have already learned all of the material before. Since the class is completely graded on a curve (your raw scores don't matter, just where you are compared to the average), it felt really discouraging to try your best but be slightly below average because it was inflated by people who had already learned all this in high school. On the point of the grading system: the class was so small and exams were graded subjectively by the TA (no multiple choice, all free response that were given seemingly random partial credit points), so there was such a weird competitive vibe when people were studying. People would put in inhumane amounts of time for this class (like 30 hours over 3 days!) because all that mattered was where you scored relative to the average. If you put in a solid effort and take orgo seriously, you will definitely get solid grade in the regular orgo lecture that reflects your efforts. Here, the average will be inflated and the material will be heavier, and you could try your hardest, but unless half the class does worse than you, you won't be in the A-range. His problem sets aren't graded, but you literally don't learn how to do them in class. The material on there isn't just like a level of abstraction harder than the lecture, rather they have completely new material (new reactions, new reactants) and examples that just relate to the concepts lecture. Almost impossible to take a real stab at them without seeing the solutions. My year, he'd release the solutions Sunday night, and we had a quiz on that week's material in recitation Monday morning at 9am. It was so hard to keep up and actually absorb the content, considering how fast we were going. The exams were really problem-solving based. On one of them, we had to derive the structure of Vitamin D (Google it) from a precursor. Leighton had drawn the molecule on the board once for us, but it wasn't the main focus of the lecture nor was it a key concept of the unit. Literally everything said in that lecture hall is testable material, making it an extra challenge to memorize all of the random, complicated stuff he mentions in class on top of keeping up with the actual orgo material that we were zipping through pretty rapidly. Leighton also did this thing where he made his TA teach how to read an H NMR spectra during reading week (???) because he wanted it to be a 20-pt question on the final. All he did in class about NMR was explain the concepts behind how the machine works. We literally had to learn and practice how to solve that type of problem after the last lecture of the class. Super cute of him to do that. Bottom line: Unless you loooove chemistry and/or have solid orgo background and/or need to skip Gen Chem to get your major(s) done, I would seriously consider doing the regular orgo lecture. Otherwise, prepare for a semester of Googling homework questions and only seeing PubMed articles from 1980 (when Leighton did his thesis) show up.