Frequently Asked Questions
What am I supposed to put in my prelab and postlab writeup? This page guides you through a lab writeup, with examples. There is also a chapter in the Handbook with the same information.
How can I do better on the lab quizzes? Practice is the best way to prepare. The study questions in your lab manual are a good way to practice; answers to these questions are posted here. Note that you do not need to turn in these questions as part of your lab.
What is the difference between majors/non-majors courses and labs? The majors lab meets twice as often and is worth twice as many credits as the non-majors lab. Since these students have expressed a genuine interest in chemistry as a path of study, we go into more detail, give them more time to practice, and offer a wider variety of laboratory techniques. Also, they are taught NMR in the first semester of lab, rather than the second semester. They end the first semester studying IR and NMR spectroscopy as related to determining the structure of a compound. The majors' lecture usually covers more material than the nonmajors, though they are both worth the same number of credits. The majors lecture is limited in size to about 45 students. Thus, the students, chem majors, have more chance to interact with the professor both in and out of class. The professor can proceed at a more rapid rate and/or cover material in greater depth because of the interest of the students.
Why don't the lab and lecture schedules coordinate better? In the first semester labs, students need to learn the techniques of organic chemistry before they can perform any organic chemistry reactions. Thus, for about the first half of the semester students are studying quite different material in lab than in lecture. In all the courses, the professors give us their syllabi before the semester begins and we try as best as we can to match the labs with the lectures. However, by the time the labs are actually done, the professors may be out-of-sync with the labs. Often, several different sections of lecture are offered, which deepens the synchronization problem. Many times, reactions discussed in lecture simply cannot be performed in the undergraduate teaching labs. Instead, we have to do similar reactions suitable to the equipment available and to the level of organic chemistry lab technique of the students. Most of the labs we do are "classic" organic teaching labs, performed in a similar manner at Universities across the country.
Lastly, we simply can't please everybody at the same time. Reading the evaluations, about the same number of students say that labs coordinate well with lecture as students that say labs do not coordinate well with lecture. Some students prefer to cover lab material first in lecture, and some students prefer to encounter lecture material first in lab.
Why aren't labs more challenging? and Why aren't the labs easier? These questions are asked about equally often. Again, we simply can't please everybody. The labs have been carefully chosen and troubleshot to work well for most of the students. We choose labs that work for the student of average competentcy. We really want to challenge any student who wants a challenge! If you strongly feel that you want something more out of your organic lab experience, simply talk to the Coordinator and something will be worked out.
Why didn't my reaction work? See the above answer.
What if I don't like my TA? First, you should honestly ask youself "why don't I like him or her?" If you are disappointed with your grade and feel that it is the fault of the TA, you should first talk with your TA, and then if you are not satisfied, speak to the Coordinator.
Often there are personality clashes between students and TAs. Personalities cannot be changed, although the people involved can strive to overcome their differences in the goal of learning organic chemistry. You should always try talking to your TA first, before going over his or her head. You may find that if you vocalize your grievances in a quiet meeting outside the lab with your TA, you can work things out. If the situation is causing you a great deal of anxiety, so much so that you are unable to learn organic chemistry in the setting into which you have been placed, speak with the Coordinator. We will try our best to switch you to a different lab section, 'no questions asked'.
Why are students in other sections doing more/less work than I am? The TAs are given guidelines for grading, but they still have some leeway. The TAs each have different expectations from their students. These expectations are based on their own past experiences and, in part, on their own personalities. It has been the policy of the organic chemistry teaching labs to allow the TAs a certain freedom in their grading policies. We feel that our graduate students in organic chemistry are especially competent in making their own decisions. We feel that they will do a better job if they are allowed to do many things their own way. Therefore, some TAs require a little more, some a little less work than other TAs. Also, some TAs take off more points for doing the same thing wrong in a lab report or technique. At end of each semester, however, the lab sections are all curved to the same average.
My friend is not taking lab concurrently with lecture: why do I have to? Lab and lecture are listed as corequisites in the schedule of courses. They are designed to be taken concurrently. A lot of the learning in organic chemistry takes place in the atmosphere of the lab, in the actual application of the theory learned in lecture, with other students and TAs asking and answering questions about the subject. We owe it to our students and to future employers of our students to give the students the best possible organic chemistry instruction, and that means that they must take lab and lecture at the same time.
If a student is not co-enrolled, there is always a reason: the lab was passed in a previous semester of enrollment, or they have an acceptible excuse for not taking lab this semester.
If I drop lecture, do I have to drop lab? If it is during the first month of the semester, yes. After the technique labs, the labs rely heavily on the lecture for presenting the background material necessary for proper comprehension of the labs. In our experience, a student who continues in lab after dropping lecture is at a disadvantage and averages about a half a grade lower than would normally be expected for that student. They do not get the full benefit of the laboratory course because they are struggling just to "stay afloat".
If the student is dropping lecture later in the semester, we often advise them to remain in lab as long as they attend lecture and do the reading to keep up to the best of their ability with the lecture material for the few remaining labs, especially if they are satisfied with their laboratory grade.
How do I drop lecture/lab? If it is before the first drop deadline, you can drop through the course enrollment system, or see the Lab Coordinator. If it is after the first drop deadline but before the Dean's deadline, see the Lab Coordinator for a Special Action Form, or SAF. This pertains both to lecture and to lab, since the professors usually do not have SAFs.
The Coordinator will ask if you want to drop lecture and/or lab (depending on the date in the semester) and check you out of your lab drawer if necessary. The Coordinator signs the SAF for lab and maybe also for lecture. Take the SAF to registration, in Regents, before the Dean's drop date.
If it is after the Dean's drop deadline, you have to initiate the drop process at the Dean's office, which is Old Main if you are in the school of Arts and Sciences or in Engineering if you are in that department.
How do I get an incomplete? Incompletes are given only when students, for reasons beyond their control, have been unable to complete course requirements. A substantial amount of course work must have been satisfactorily completed before approval for such a grade is given. Students must ask for an incomplete: you can't assume that if you stop attending that your teacher will give you an incomplete. Choice of the IF or IW is the option of the course instructor; in Arts and Sciences, instructors must award an IF in cases where the student is failing.
So: if you think you deserve an incomplete, first talk to your TA or lecture instructor. The Coordinator has forms called "Completion of a Grade of Incomplete, An Academic Agreement" which you should fill out and sign and have your instructor sign.
What happens to the Arts and Science fee that I paid to take this course? As of 2001, the student fee money goes into an account which supports the operations of the organic chemistry teaching labs and lectures. The courses do not get any money from the university other than this money, so it goes to buy chemicals, supplies, equipment, Xeroxing, etc.
Can I use a different model set than that listed in the syllabus? Sure. But make sure it's one designed for organic chemistry and has enough carbons (at least 16).
What if I have to miss a lab due to a prior commitment, such as a wedding, a court date, or a job interview? Talk to your TA or the Lab Coordinator. We can make arrangements for you to make up the work so that you can miss the lab.
If you have a question not answered above, please email the lab coordinator.