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Bio-Organic Chemistry First
Implementing the Organic First Curriculum

When a department implements the Bio-Organic Chemistry First curriculum, it is not a simple matter of an individual deciding to change his or her course. The department as a whole must decide to implement the curriculum, because there are wide-ranging consequences to doing so.

What Comes After the Organic Course
What About All the Organic That Was Skipped
Are There Any Books For These Courses?

What Comes After the Organic Course?

The bioorganic chemistry course incorporates much of the material traditionally covered in general chemistry. In addition to the introductory topics listed on the Features of the First-Year Organic Course page, there are also treatments of kinetics, thermodynamics, entropy, equilibrium, heats of combustion, heats of hydrogenation, and limited redox chemistry.

However, there are still many aspects of general chemistry that have not been introduced, including:

  • gas laws
  • electrochemistry
  • nuclear chemistry
  • titrations
  • buffers
  • solubility products
  • descriptive inorganic chemistry
  • material relating to d orbitals
  • crystal structure
  • metals
  • phase diagrams
  • colligative properties
  • heats of formation


These topics must be covered during the sophomore year, and many of the topics introduced in the first year need to be reviewed and expanded upon. Coverage should extend beyond what is traditionally covered in general chemistry.

What About All the Organic That Was Skipped?

One of the beauties of the Organic First curriculum is that all chemistry majors get a second shot at organic chemistry. Almost every school offers at least one advanced organic course, but it is rarely a requirement and only students who are especially interested in organic chemistry enroll. A curriculum that starts with a pared-down organic course can require all chemistry majors to fill in the holes left by the first-year course, so everyone gets to review their first-year organic chemistry. At Juniata, this course is called "Organic Reactions," and it is typically taken during the junior year by all chemistry majors.

Are There Any Books for These Courses?

None of the currently available full-year organic texts are suitable for the freshmen course as described on this site, since they assume too much at the beginning and cover too many topics in too much depth.

The one-semester organic texts still assume a prior year of college chemistry and cover organic at too shallow a level. General, organic, and biochemistry texts also tend to be too shallow, designed as survey courses that emphasize facts rather than understanding. Many organic and biochemistry texts also lack mechanism and energy discussions in sufficient depth to be the basis of further study; hardly any cover synthesis or spectroscopy with any rigor at all.

There are also no texts designed for the sophomore courses described. The Juniata College chemistry department uses a standard general chemistry text for the sophomore bioinorganic course,3 and a standard analytical text for the analytical course.4 For the junior "Organic Reactions" course they use one of the normal sophomore organic texts, covering the material in one semester.5



2. Reingold, I. D. Organic Chemistry for Freshmen: An Introductory Text Emphasizing Biological Connections Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, in press

3. Jones, L.; Atkins, P. Chemistry, 4th Ed.. W. H. Freeman Co., New York, 1999.

4. Harris, D. C. Quantitative Chemical Analysis, 5th Ed. W. H. Freeman Co., New York, 1999.

5. At various times, Streitwieser and Heathcock; Fox and Whitesell; Brown and Foote


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