Materials Girl: Then and now

Mar 27, 2019
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Posted on behalf of Materials Girl

Freshman year passed in [what is now] a blur. I mostly recall slaving over o-chem labs, studying relentlessly, and pondering a major in chemistry. Adaptation to university life was immediate and painless, apart from coping with the much heightened level of academics.

For instance, semi-brainless writing was an A+ in community college (during high school), while just scratching an A- at the university level. It went from simply using proper grammar and sounding vaguely intelligent, to really having to analyze and think things through to create new ideas. Science and math also seem to follow that route – going from primarily plug & chug on multiple-hour exams to 50 minutes of where-the-hell-did-this-come-from?!

So, returning from the tangent of academic discrepancies, I struggled during the first year of university, but never despaired for longer than a day. If anything, it was always o-chem causing stress…

Speaking of which, upper-division lab begins next quarter and I haven’t dealt with o-chem for over two years – it’s all been inorganic and physical since freshman year. My labwork has barely involved chemicals or spectroscopy, and even less of hot plates, TLC, separatory funnels*, etc… In essence, my doom is waiting around the corner and I’ll be re-studying like a madwoman. What do you consider the main tenets of o-chem book-knowledge and laboratory technique? What should I focus on?

*Granted, after hearing a good number of professors recount horror stories on the misuse of sep funnels, it’s hard to forget, say, shaking one without holding it closed. Still, it sounds terribly amusing to see someone else’s reaction propel a stopper across the room…


Stu Cantrill

Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature

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