Organic Chemistry Can Be Challenging: Here Are 3 Ways to Understand the Subject Better
Chemistry is not known for being a walk in the park. Some branches can be significantly dense and intimidating if your foundations aren’t strong. In this context, organic chemistry is a subject that a lot of students have trouble with. It’s not something to take lightly, either.
It plays a huge role in fields like drug development, molecular diagnostics, and gene therapy. If you are someone who wants to go into these careers eventually, a solid understanding of organic chemistry is a must. In this article, we will explore ways to make comprehension a little easier. So, without further delay, let’s jump right in.
What Makes Organic Chemistry Complex?
Before we can understand the subject better, we first need to identify common problem areas. Organic chemistry questions can sometimes feel like they come from far left field. It is completely normal to be stumped by questions such as “What is the IUPAC name for the compound shown in Fig X?” There are a few reasons for the complexity in this field.
Firstly, it requires a strong grasp of the spatial relationships between atoms in a molecule. You will need to stop thinking in the two-dimensional representations that you are used to and start visualizing molecules in 3D space.
Secondly, organic chemistry does have a good amount of mathematical rigor to it. Though not as math-intensive as physical chemistry, you will still face enough to warrant extra preparation. For instance, mass spectroscopy, NMR, and IR play a key role in organic chemistry, but they require you to be good with the mathematical interpretation of data.
Thirdly, the volume of information can be overwhelming. The time crunch that students face often makes this a bigger problem than it is. There are a vast number of compounds and functional groups that can take a significant amount of time to cut through. It doesn’t help that deadlines and exams keep the pressure up, making it hard to truly understand what is being studied.
Which Foundational Concepts Need More Attention?
You might hear about how you need to focus on the basics and build up your foundational skills. However, where does one begin? There are so many foundational concepts that you once again face the same issue of finding the content overwhelming.
Let’s break it down into three of the most important areas to concentrate on.
1. Atomic Structure
This is a no-brainer, but it goes without saying that the atomic structure is the basis for all chemical reactions and bonding. When you have a clear grasp of atomic structure, you are better able to understand aspects of electron behavior and how they form covalent bonds. Such concepts are critical, and organic chemistry uses them a lot.
2. IUPAC Nomenclature
According to Proprep, IUPAC is a standardized system for naming compounds. You may wonder how focusing on this can help, but the benefits are many.
For one, it isn’t just an academic exercise but something you absolutely need to study if you are serious about pursuing organic chemistry as a career. It ensures effective communication of concepts and helps clarify compound structure just from its name.
3. Acid-Base Chemistry
Chemical reactions naturally play a key role in organic chemistry. For instance, understanding acid-base reactions often serves as the foundational step toward grasping more complex reactions. In organic chemistry, you will often come across concepts like pH and pKa. You can avoid a world of confusion by focusing a little more on this fundamental area.
4. The Periodic Table
It’s another obvious one, but you would be surprised at how many people neglect to study it properly. As you may already know, the periodic table is a list of all known elements. It provides you with a clear picture of chemical family structure, something that will be extremely helpful to know when dealing with organic chemistry.
Some would argue that there are no “complex subjects”. Even if a field like organic chemistry appears challenging, it is only so because of improper preparation. It may require additional time and effort, but with a methodical approach, the depth of understanding achievable may surprise you.
While the internet offers easy access to resources for clearing doubts, the abundance of information can sometimes feel overwhelming. You may need to pause and brush up on your basics every now and then, but there is nothing wrong with that. With a little effort, you will soon find yourself wondering why you worried so much about organic chemistry.