Monday, February 27, 2023

It's always nice (for your science) to be appreciated

In this week's Chemical and Engineering News: 

Much has already been said about the fiasco surrounding the firing of professor Maitland Jones Jr. by New York University as the result of a student petition claiming that his organic chemistry class was too difficult. Without wishing to comment on this case myself, I am reminded of a related aspect of teaching organic chemistry that I suspect others may also have experienced.

Organic chemistry seems to hold a special place in the hearts and minds of most practicing physicians. Some have been left with very positive feelings about this subject, while others have very negative feelings. Both groups of doctors keenly remember how important it was for them to receive good grades in organic chemistry to be admitted to medical school.

Today, when I tell my doctor that I’ve taught organic chemistry, this always draws an immediate response. Some light up with a smile and tell me how much they’ve enjoyed this class, while others frown and offer words to the contrary. When the latter happens, this does give me pause for thought. Is this the right doctor for me? On one occasion, only moments before I was anesthetized for a colonoscopy, my gastroenterologist asked me what class I was teaching at my university. When I told her it was organic chemistry, her face lit up with a smile. Oh, what a relief that was.

Steven L. Regen 
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

I try not to think about this stuff too much (i.e. I would really rather not know how medical providers think about chemistry), but it's nice to talk to medical providers who are at least a little bit receptive to the concept of chemistry...


  1. I wish bio departments would grow some balls and do their own weeding so organic chemistry doesn't have to be the pre-med weed-out course.

    I've got mixed feelings about the whole idea of weeding out pre-meds who fail O-Chem. On one hand, people with a weak grasp of chemistry aren't going to understand the mechanisms of biochemical processes and the effects of pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, I suspect a lot of the weeded-out people might have done fine if they took O-chem in a small class at a community college and not a big lecture hall from some research hotshot with lousy teaching skills, and we've probably lost a lot of people who would have made good doctors.

    1. At least the hotshot guy has a firm idea of what concepts are important. There is nothing worse than a course being overseen by an analytical chemist who mastered out of their PhD program and then got an MEd to advance themselves. These things exist, I've seen them from close up and they are appalling. They teach the wrong concepts and then misrepresent them.

  2. I would say the majority of us md-phd physician scientists found organic chemistry at least interesting and useful. It's not an infrequent occurrence that those of us working on metabolism end up drawing reactions and pushing electrons on a chalkboard when talking about our favorite pathways.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20