Snippets from a secret project

by James

in Organic Reagents

One of the things students tell me they love the most about organic chemistry is leaving through their 1000 page textbook to find out what DIBAL does for the 3rd time. Just kidding. In fact, this is consistently one of the biggest complaints I hear about the course – it’s a pain to keep track of all the reagents and what they do. 

It would be pretty cool if someone put together a document that compiled all of the common Org1/Org2 reagents together, and put together tables organizing them by function. It would be even cooler if each reagent had its own dedicated page, which describes ALL of the reactions it does, along with mechanisms for each reaction.

It didn’t exist. So I made one. Here’s a sneak peek of what it looks like.

Snippet #1: All the common solvents you encounter in organic chemistry, and what they’re used for, on one page.

Snippet #2: Oxidizing agents. All of them. All the things they do. On one page.

Snippet #3. Each reagent has its own profile page. Here’s a sample of a profile for a specific reagent, sodium borohydride (NaBH4).

It’s taken 3 months of obsessive ChemDrawing, but the book is nearly complete. A few more days of tinkering and updating the inevitable mistakes should make it complete. Thanks to my students all their help on previewing the advance copy .

One last thing – unlike the other content on this blog, this won’t be free. I know, I know – heresy – but it was well over 100+ hours putting this together, and there’s a lot of value in a book like this. Think about the savings of time alone – is it worth an hour of your time to have these reagents and mechanisms compiled like this? I think so. I haven’t decided on pricing yet, but I’m thinking something in the $20 or $30 range would be reasonable.

The other reason I’m going to charge for it is because people are a lot more likely to send in feedback on things that they pay for, and if I’m going to improve as a teacher/writer/educator, I need as much as I can get. The free stuff gets very little feedback. I’ve had summary sheets up for almost a year, and I’ve gotten maybe a total of 10 pieces of feedback on them.

Stay tuned, I should be making it available in a week or so.

UPDATE: It’s out! You could have this beautiful, comprehensive 68-page guide on your desktop within 5 minutes. 

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Med School Odyssey April 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Hi James,

I should have given you more comments on these things, but I’ve been too busy to read or write much at all lately.

I absolutely agree with you – I didn’t realize what it was about first semester that I found confusing until I was reviewing over the Christmas break. It’s really easy to get distracted by the details of a particular reaction and lose the mechanics, which is the really important part.

To that end, this is a huge help – I’m preparing a series of summer lectures to help the organic class starting in the fall, and I prepared something similar, but not as extensive as what you’ve got here. This would have been an enormous aid to me during the first semester. Thanks again James.

MSO

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Simon Perry April 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I would absolutely love if you released a small undergrad-level book like this. However, I’m in the UK; as such delivery of such an item may not arrive before my exams. Would a digital version be available?

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Mike April 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Fieser and Fieser, Reagents for Organic Synthesis – the abridged version? That would have been a big help when I was an undergrad!

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James April 26, 2011 at 7:36 am

That’s the idea – and based on the reagents in typical organic chemistry textbooks.

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Dave Blackburn April 26, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Will this be paper or an e-book? It would be fantastic on an iPad with hyperlinks. I’d put it on my “recommended supplements” list for the class I teach.

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James April 27, 2011 at 10:56 pm

So far just a PDF. No iPad development as yet, but if demand is sufficient that’s something I’d like to pursue!

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Jack April 28, 2011 at 5:14 am

All I need to say is this is wonderful and I’m sending you my money the day it gets released.

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James April 29, 2011 at 10:02 am

Thanks. I’ll let you know – should be soon!

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Christoph April 29, 2011 at 4:35 am

Hi James,
Altough most of the things you put here are not new to me I am a big fan of your work here. I just realised, I never gave you any feedback at all, so here it is:
I am a graduate student in organic synthesis and if there is one thing thats really important if you want to do organic chemistry, its to revise your knowledge and also the basics over and over again. Your blog is a big help for doing this and also for getting a new understanding of the basics. So bottomline: thanks for all the work you put in this and I am looking forward to your “secret project”!

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James April 29, 2011 at 10:02 am

thanks for the kind words.

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Prasanna April 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

All the very best for a successful completion of the book. I am sure with all the hard work you had put in your blog, the book would be tops.

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Tiffany August 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm

As I’ve been studying for my introductory organic chemistry exam, I felt absolutely overwhelmed by all the reactions and mechanisms and reagents. Your summary sheets have been an absolute godsend. Thank you SO so much! You are not getting enough credit for the insane amount of work you’ve put into those pages!

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James August 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Thanks!

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ela August 8, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Thank you for everything. I’m in my 4th year and I REALLY WISH this site was on when I was taking orgo in my 2nd year… :( I’m using this to help me to study for my DAT now. Just wondering, when will this booklet be available for purchase?

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James August 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm

check the green bar up top…. “reagent guide”… thanks for the kind words!

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marcus September 3, 2011 at 10:37 am

Hey James, I’m for sure gonna buy your book and would pay more than 25$ for it, but this site is awesome and thanks for all the other goodies that you post on here for free. Keep up the outstanding work!

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james September 3, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Thanks! Let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to see.

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David September 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

This is amazing. Thanks.

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Andrea October 26, 2011 at 1:44 am

Hi! when will this book be available?

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SJ January 27, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I’m based in Europe at the mo’ andwould be interested in such a book :-D please keep us updated on the release date etc.
Thanks!

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