You’ll likely find that the 2nd year organic chemistry lab is more interesting than the one in 1st year. In this course, you’ll definitely need to tie the lab concepts to what you learned in class, and that’s not always easy for some. The lab report isn’t going to be easy either because you have to demonstrate your understanding of the reactions. Here are 5 tips to help you get through the 2nd year organic chemistry lab:

1. Draw out the mechanism before the lab.

Read the procedure first and then draw out the mechanism. This will actually help you visualize and understand what reactions are taking place.  Try doing it before your lab session so you have a rough idea of what’s happening while you perform the experiment. In addition, it will save you time when you write up the lab report because you already have this part finished.

2. Re-write the procedure.

No, that doesn’t mean to copy the procedure. Try to re-write the procedure in your own words. By doing so, the procedure will stick in your head better and you’ll know what you need to do during the lab.  Mark down anything important and remind yourself if there are any potentially dangerous chemicals you will have to handle.

3. Make summary sheets for each experiment.

After each lab, make a summary sheet of the reaction performed. For example, lab 2 might involve E2 reaction from a haloalkane. For the summary sheet, you’ll want to write out the general mechanism and reagents involved. These summary sheets will be useful when you study for the final exam because you won’t be memorizing specific structures, but instead the general concept of an E2 reaction. (p.s. this will also be very useful for retrosynthesis).

4. Divide your work with your lab partner.

Most of the reactions are quite time-consuming, so effective time management is key. If there are 2 reactions to be performed, each partner should perform one experiment. When there is time between steps, clean glassware, record observations, or prepare for the next step. If one partner finishes early, offer a hand to the other partner. Both lab partners should be occupied at all times!

5. Ask your TA for help.

This one may seem obvious but your TA is there for a reason. If you’re not sure of something, ask! If you need clarification on the mechanism of the reaction, also ask! Ask for feedback on your lab reports and how you can improve. After all, your TA is the one assigning you your lab report marks and lab performance evaluation, so you might as well get to know what he/she is looking for.

Taking this course could actually help you with the 2nd year organic chem lecture course because it’s another chance to practice the mechanisms seen in class. At times, the labs can be quite stressful, but you’ll get to learn new lab techniques from this course. It sucks that they take place every week, but the semester will fly by before you know it! Good luck!



2nd year science student at uOttawa.

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