Retrieval Practice Protects Your Memory

A new article in Science magazine from Prof. Ayanna Thomas’ research group is one that every O Chem student should look at. The article doesn’t contain any chemistry, but it contains some potentially valuable insights into becoming a more successful O Chem student.

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Drop-In Tutors for Finals

The DoJo will have drop-in tutoring available 7-9 PM for Chem 201 on Sat (12/10) and Mon (12/12).

Sam and Alan will also be in their offices for drop-in-consultation for much of Th/F/M/Tu/W, weather permitting.

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O chem slowing you down? Try FOH!

Some of you may be suffering from FMOOWMP. You know the symptoms, but you probably didn’t know that help was close at hand. And it’s painless. Here’s a short video to bring you up-to-speed.

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Distractions Are Everywhere

I heard a presentation from a neuroscientist last week on how our brains work. She highlighted different brain networks that one can imagine working well in some situations (“keep an eye out for tigers and snakes”), but get corrupted into un-, even counter-productive activities in modern circumstances (“keep an eye out for tweets”). We all have these networks and we all live in a world filled with more, and more round-the-clock, stimuli than our ancestors could have ever imagined. Staying on task gets more challenging all the time. Here’s an article from the NY Times Education section that might offer some helpful insights and tips: How to Deal with Digital Distractions (Times, 1 Nov 2016).

You can also test your ability to resist distractions right now: try not clicking on this post from 2013, Like Ketchup on Sushi, that takes you to another Times article, How to Get an A- in Organic Chemistry.

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The Right Kind of Practice

What single thing must you do to learn organic chemistry? Sam and I have given you the answer several times: practice solving problems. But is that all you have to do? Can you just open the book to a problem, work on it, and learn organic chemistry? Maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Not all practice makes perfect.

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SN2 Reaction Animation

Predicting the outcome of an “opposite side attack” SN2 reaction can be confusing at first, but animations can help. Check out the SN2 animation at To operate the animation, find the drawing of the chemical reaction and click on the forward reaction arrow.

Try to understand the simple reaction from multiple perspectives: 1) the C seems to push its way through its 3 H neighbors to get from leaving group to nucleophile, OR 2) the 3 H neighbors seem to back away from the approaching nucleophile and move to the leaving group’s side of the molecule. You can rotate the animation as it plays so that you can see it from different angles.

Another SN2 animation to watch: HS(-) + (S)-PhCHClCH3

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Models for Learning about Electrostatic Potential Maps

The models you need can be downloaded here:

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Ethanol IR models

Click on the link to download a Spartan EDF2/6-31G** model of ethanol monomer and ethanol dimer. The models have been combined in a single file (a ‘list’ model) and they already contain calculated IR spectra, so do not replace them with SSPD models.

Note: the IR frequencies in these models are unscaled and do not reproduce experimental values.

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Study, study, study? Take a Tonematrix break

Computers – source of endless entertainment or endless drudgery? A little of both, right.

Why not turn your computer into a mood enhancer by making some music with the Tonematrix audio tool. 2 minutes will put you in another world. And who knows? When you come back to our world, you might be just a little more able to dip into organic chemistry. Or become the next Philip Glass.

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Vaux Swift Watch 2016

Chapman ChimneyThis post has nothing to do with o chem, but you have a long weekend ahead of you and I don’t want you miss something really special: the swarming and roosting of 5000+ small Vaux swifts in the Chapman School chimney in NW Portland. This is one of the best FREE displays of urban wildlife you will ever see (and you don’t need binoculars).

Fortunately, the timing and location are perfect for Reed students. Head towards the Chapman Elementary school in NW Portland (#15 Bus will get you very close) on any night in early-mid September. Arrive about 30-60 minutes before sunset (7:00-7:30 arrival during Labor Day weekend) if you are just going to see the birds. Arrive a little earlier if you plan to bring a picnic, a ball or frisbee, and hang out in the park next to the school. The birds put on their show according to a timing that only they know so don’t be late (Wed, Sept 2, they were all settled in the chimney by 8:10. Thurs they were finished 10 minutes earlier.) The warm late-summer evenings are perfect for an outdoors off-campus adventure.

This event is not to be missed

  • Directions: The chimney is located at the west end (hilly side) of Chapman Elementary school. The school is located next to Wallace Park on NW 25th between NW Pettygrove & NW Raleigh. After you see the swifts, you can walk over to NW 23rd for dessert – many many establishments will be happy to serve you between 8-10 PM. Map
  • Best viewing: Get there about 20 minutes before sunset and watch the birds collect and feed. It takes awhile for all of them to go into the chimney so you’ll be there after sunset (full moon tonite). Most people watch from the hillside on NW Pettygrove, and it can get kind of noisy, so be considerate to the neighbors who live nearby.

Learn more at Swift Watch – Portland Audubon

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