CHE 538
Principles of Organic Chemistry

Instructor information

Instructor: Dr. Robert B. Grossman
Office: CP-339
Telephone: 257-1285
Office Hours: by appointment (just email me)


CHE 232

Course description

"A general survey of the field of organic chemistry. Topics emphasized are: mechanistic principles relating molecular structure to reaction outcome, stereoisomerism and its effect on chemical reactivity, and simple molecular orbital theory as required to understand aromaticity and to predict the occurrence and stereochemistry of pericyclic reactions."

This year's course will achieve the general goals outlined above by focusing on how to draw reasonable mechanisms for organic reactions. We will learn the factors governing the acidity and basicity of organic compounds, the stability of transient intermediates, and the ways in which reaction conditions allow you to predict or explain the course of a reaction. We will concentrate on understanding how the electronic structure of organic compounds affects their reactivity, and how bonding patterns change during the course of a chemical reaction — so-called "electron-pushing".

The course will focus mostly on explanation rather than prediction of the course of reactions. This focus means that the memorization of reagents and reaction conditions that many of you remember with dread from sophomore organic chemistry will not be a large part of this course.

Class hours and location

MWF 9:00-9:50 am, CP-345. Attendance is expected but will not count towards your grade.

Learning outcomes

By the time you have completed this course, you should be able to:

Textbooks (required)


You will use ACE Organic to do your homework. Please register with the system right away, and do all the tutorials except for the multistep synthesis and SRN1 tutorials. I will also assign the first three chapters of Weeks as your very first assignment.

You will have 18 assignments of various sizes, worth in combination a total of 10% or 20% of your grade. Your last two assignments will be due during finals week. When you enter a response, ACE will grade your homework automatically and immediately. If your response is incorrect, you will almost always have unlimited opportunities to correct it and try again.

You will be able to give yourself extensions on assignments. You have a total of 20 days of extensions for your use across the semester. Generally, you can give yourself an extension of up to three days on any particular assignment, but I may reduce that amount on a particular assignment if it is due right before an exam that covers the same material. If you wish to give yourself an extension, you must do so before the original due date on the assignment. You can reduce or increase an extension that you have already given yourself, but only before the original due date on the assignment. I have the ability to override the limits on the extensions, so if you have a reasonable argument as to why you should be granted a waiver of any of these rules, just email me. I am generally lenient about extensions; I want you to do the homework to the best of your ability.


There will be four exams during the semester and one final exam. All exams will be cumulative. The in-semester exams should take you about one hour to complete, but you will have up to 2 hours. All exams are closed-book.


The grading scale will be 85+ for an A, 70+ for a B, 60+ for a C, and (for undergraduates) 50+ for a D.

Study aids may be posted on the Web page before each exam. Answer keys will be posted on this Web page in pdf format after each exam is given.

The University Senate rules about excused absences apply. In addition, recognizing that the in-semester exams are scheduled outside of regular class hours, I will accommodate students who have a good reason (not necessarily University-approved) that they cannot attend at the scheduled day or time. If you miss an in-semester exam for any reason, even if you're not sure whether it's a University-approved reason, please talk to me.

If you have a documented disability that requires academic accommodations, please see me as soon as possible. In order to receive accommodations in this course, you must provide me with a letter of accommodation from the Disability Resource Center for coordination of campus disability services available to students with disabilities.

Academic integrity

Per university policy, students shall not plagiarize or cheat. Students are expected to adhere to University policy on cheating and plagiarism in all courses. In this course, you may discuss assignments among yourselves or with an instructor or tutor, but when the actual work is done, you, and you alone, must do it. In the case of the online homework, that means that you must enter your responses in your own account yourself. Do not share your account username or password with another student.

Communicating with another person during an exam constitutes cheating.

The minimum penalty for cheating is a zero on the exam or assignment. Depending on the circumstances, the penalty may be more severe. University Senate rules about academic dishonesty apply.

Plagiarism and cheating are serious breaches of academic conduct. Each student is advised to become familiar with the various forms of academic dishonesty as explained in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. A plea of ignorance is not acceptable as a defense against the charge of academic dishonesty.

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