So when I was teaching, the one thing that I always heard was: “O-chem lab is a waste. It is a ton of work for only one credit.” I am not going to lie to anyone about this; yes, it is alot of work for that miniscule credit that (frankly) few people are going to care about. I have been told, however, that medical schools DO care about o-chem lab. So if you are one of those aspiring students who hopes one day to be abused as a resident at a busy hospital working 100 hour work weeks but not having quite as much fun as those crazy kids on the hit TV show “Scrubs”, you care about organic chemistry lab.
Now here is the way to an easier time in organic chemistry lab:
1) Pre-lab preparation– this is the most underrated portion of what goes on. Go to my favorite site www.chemfinder.com and print out information on every chemical you are going to use and bring it to lab with you that day. It will be a great resource to refer to when you need it and will keep you from saying to your already cranky TA, whose English is iffy at best: “Does this look right?”
2) Post-lab write up: The biggest mistakes here are bad calculations and spending too much time writing things that your TA is never going to read. When calculating things like % yield/recovery of your product, remember that you CAN have a yield over 100%. This is usually due to impurity in your final product and is most likely that you did not remove all of the solvent sued, which makes your product heavier. The key is to be concise, and make sure that the process of your calculations is correct.
While this quickie blog post is NOT going to turn that guy who is a lab disaster into a Nobel prize winner, they are the most commonly made mistakes. Keep it all in mind next time you head into the great unknown which is o-chem lab.