Posts Tagged ‘tutor’

Secrets of a university tutor: unravelling a mechanism using spectroscopy.

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

It is always rewarding when one comes across a problem in chemistry that can be solved using a continuous stream of rules and logical inferences from them. The example below[1] is one I have been using as a tutor in organic chemistry for a few years now, and I share it here. It takes around 50 minutes to unravel with students.



  1. K. Harano, M. Eto, K. Ono, K. Misaka, and T. Hisano, "Sequential pericyclic reactions of unsaturated xanthates. One-pot synthesis of hydrobenzo[c]thiophenes", J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 1, pp. 299, 1993.

Do marauding electrons go in packs?

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Is there a preferred pack size for electrons on the move? Or put less flamboyantly, is there an optimum, and a maximum number of arrows (electron pairs) that one might push in revealing the mechanism of a concerted reaction? A sort of village-instinct for electrons. Consider the following (known, DOI: 10.1016/S0040-4039(00)98289-3) reaction


Following one’s nose: a quadruple bond to carbon. Surely I must be joking!

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Do you fancy a story going from simplicity to complexity, if not absurdity, in three easy steps? Read on! The following problem appears in one of our (past) examination questions in introductory organic chemistry. From relatively mundane beginnings, one can rapidly find oneself in very unexpected territory.


Anatomy of an arrow-pushing tutorial: reducing a carboxylic acid.

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Arrow pushing (why never pulling?) is a technique learnt by all students of organic chemistry (inorganic chemistry seems exempt!). The rules are easily learnt (supposedly) and it can be used across a broad spectrum of mechanism. But, as one both becomes more experienced, and in time teaches the techniques oneself as a tutor, its subtle and nuanced character starts to dawn. An example of such a mechanism is illustrated below, and in this post I attempt to tease out some of these nuances.