Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What do US students call introductory organic chemistry?

I have more I'd like to do with the data set, but I felt the responsibility to get this out there, so that I could not procrastinate. Above is the color coded map of responses that I got to my SurveyMonkey survey (the survey was open from Friday until late last night); here are the raw numbers.

I haven't had time to do detailed study of the numbers. Suffice it to say that this is NOT a great random survey; it's more or less an internet poll. That said, the numbers are pretty clear that "orgo" is almost purely an East Coast and Midwest phenomenon and "o-chem" is mostly a Western term.

There's a raft of cross-tabs I've yet to do. Questions I plan to answer with the data set:
  • Is there a correlation with the year that organic chemistry was taken, and the frequency of the use of the different terms? 
  • Are there strong differences within states with regards to the different terms? (i.e. do different institutions within the same state use different terms?) 
  • What term do people in other English-speaking nations use? (I have 105 answers from different nations, mostly the UK, Canada and Australia.) 
Readers, any questions that you'd like to see answered? (Also, I plan to do shading of the colors, and point out states with statistically insignificant numbers.) 


  1. Very cool. Coming over from Germany (where I've only heard Organik) and settling in on the Westcoas,t I never heard anyone use the term 'orgo', but in fact see a-chem for analytical chemistry plenty.

  2. Pretty clear geographic preference with this small sample size.

  3. I can confirm that it is orgo in PA, NY, and MA, but is o-chem in UT and CO. I had never heard a term other than orgo until I moved out west. O-chem still sounds weird to me (even though p-chem is universally accepted).

  4. Hah. Pretty accurate. Here in georgia I only hear/use "Orgo."

  5. Interesting thing with your raw data set. If you look at the numbers of respondents for each state, you see increased numbers (predictably) for where the Biotech/pharma hotspots are located (California, Mass, NY, PA, IL). Seeing Texas makes me wonder if maybe we're seeing respondents for the oil industry? Michigan makes sense for Ann Arbor. Ohio, oregon Virginia and Minnesota are a mystery to me since we had more respondents in those geographic areas than North Carolina. Statistically significant difference? Perhaps not, but interesting nevertheless because I would have expected one with Research Triangle Park.

    1. Interesting observations. I used 3 methods to publicize the survey -- this blog, Twitter and the chemistry Reddit.

      I got the plurality/majority of responses after I posted the survey on the chemistry Reddit (50%?), which is fairly senior undergraduate/younger graduate student focused. Guess what I am saying is, I believe most of the respondents to be academic, not industrial.

      That said, I'm looking forward to cross-referencing the data set for "year I took organic chemistry" versus the "orgo/organic/o-chem" responses.

  6. In WV, it really is an institutional difference. I went to a small liberal arts school and we said "organic, "p-chem", and "analytical". Most of our students were from WV, VA. People at other, larger and more geographically diverse universities said "o-chem". I never heard the term "orgo" until graduate school.

  7. For what it's worth I took organic chemistry (as a physics undergrad, oddly enough) in Canada and we called it..."Organic Chem" or maybe sometimes just "Organic". When I went to grad school in the States I heard the term "orgo" for the first time and really found it odd...I mean, it's not called "orgonic chemistry"-- right ???