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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Lab Grades

Nearly all of the lab reports have been graded so you can expect to see graded lab reports turning up in your inbox over the next week or so.

The lab reports contain three grades: notebook, lab work, report. 99+% of the lab work grades were satisfactory, but this was not the case for notebook and report grades.

Because unsatisfactory grades on notebooks/reports were fairly frequent, and because it is natural to assume the worst concerning such grades, I want to clear up any concerns that you might have about unsatisfactory marks.

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Preparing for EsCENTial Oil lab – weeks 2 & 3

This lab experiment lasts 3 weeks. Students finished varying amounts of lab work during the first week so planning the remaining work is a little complicated. I’ve written up a two-page set of instructions to guide you. Please read this well ahead of your lab day and prepare accordingly.

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Brainwaves & Anesthetics

General anesthetics, the chemicals that temporarily ‘put you under,’ have transformed surgery, but doctors and scientists are still learning how these chemicals work.  Continue reading

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The Molecules in Your Pumpkin

I saw this article (C&ENews, 12 Oct 2015, p. 38) about the molecules that make Halloween pumpkins look and taste and smell the way they do:


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How to interpret your IR spectrum

There seems to be a little confusion about how to interpret your experimental IR spectra and how to use Spartan’s calculated spectrum. I hope the following will help clarify things a little (I recall that I had to interpret about 30-40 IR spectra as a student over a couple of years before this began to feel routine):

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Would you buy a used model kit from this dog?

After the game (Renn Fayre ’09)

You can buy a new molecular model kit from the Chemistry Stockroom ($20), but you have other choices (learn more here), and used model kits are often available at reduced prices from students who have no more use for them. Before you buy a used kit, make sure it contains most of the pieces you need. Here’s a parts list + photo of a new kit.

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Challenge/Conference Problems or HW/Book Problems

I have (and will) post some extra “challenge” problems from time to time. Let me explain their purpose so that you can work these problems into your schedule in an appropriate way.

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Keep a study journal

The most frequently made comment by Chem 201 students is that they learn to study organic chemistry as the semester rolls along. Please read that again. They don’t say, ‘they learn o chem’ because that’s a given. What they say instead is, they ‘learn to study o chem.’ Nearly everyone who takes 201 spends some time struggling to discover and cultivate beneficial study habits.

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Combination Coupling in Salicylic Acid 1H NMR

The reading of Exp’t 4 (salicylic acid) lab reports informed me that many 201 students struggled with the complexities of the proton NMR spectrum. The NMR of salicylic acid is complicated, no doubt about it, but it can be understood and it provides a great introduction to the types of coupling patterns seen in organic compounds.

Here are two readings that I strongly recommend:

  1. Combination Coupling Patterns in Salicylic Acid’s 1H NMR Spectrum (by me)
  2. Sorrell“13.4 Spin Couplings in More Complex Systems” (p. 420)

Sorrell’s treatment is excellent, but it might help to read my essay first because it explains a spectrum about which you have already thought a great deal.

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