UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

Organic First

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In 2007, the UWRF Chemistry Department received an award from the National Science Foundation to develop a novel Chemistry curriculum that starts with organic chemistry instead of general chemistry. The result is our novel Organic First curriculum

What is Organic First?

The traditional Chemistry curriculum starts with a year of general chemistry, followed with a year of organic chemistry in the sophomore year. While many students do well, there are some disadvantages. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is that general chemistry looks a lot like high school chemistry. If you have a good high school background, much of the first year is a repeat of what you already know.

The Organic First curriculum starts with some of the same ideas as general chemistry, but uses examples from organic chemistry instead of inorganic chemistry. You learn fundamental chemical principles using a simple subset of chemistry, the chemistry of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

In the Organic First laboratory you work with state-of-the-art equipment such as our new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer that you ordinarily wouldn't see until your sophomore year. (At larger schools like the University of Minnesota or UW-Madison, you'd never get that chance – you'd hand your sample to a TA who would then give you the result.)

What Organic First isn't.

It's not taking the typical organic chemistry class but in your freshman year.

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What are the advantages of Organic First?

Perhaps the biggest advantage is that the course sequence takes only three semesters instead of four. This means that you're able to get into electives earlier. Depending on the other courses you take, it could even reduce your credit requirements for a Chemistry degree. If you're thinking of going to veterinary, medical, or pharmacy school, the Organic First curriculum lets you take Biochemistry in your sophomore year.

Do you still teach the traditional general chemistry and organic chemistry courses?

Yes we do. You can use either introductory sequence to start off your Chemistry major or minor, or almost any other major or minor that requires Chemistry. Geology or pre-Engineering students would be recommended to take the traditional course sequence.

 

Presentations.

Our Organic First curriculum was developed due to the support of the National Science Foundation Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI), grant DUE- 0736504, with additional support from the UWRF College of Arts and Sciences and Provost's Office. It has been the subject of a number of presentations at professional conferences. A partial list is included below.

1)    “Planning and implementing a new chemistry curriculum:  A Case Study”, 20th Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE), July 2008, Indiana University.

2)    “Developing and Implementing an Organic First Curriculum”, Ross Jilk, Michael A Kahlow, Barbara S Nielsen, and David B. Rusterholz, 238th ACS National Meeting, August 16-20, 2009, Washington, DC.

3)    “Teaching Organic First: A natural extension to atoms first”, Michael Kahlow, Ross Jilk, Barbara Nielsen, Magdalena Pala, Karl Peterson, Jeff Rosenthal, David Rusterholz, Jamie Schneider, 21st Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE), August 2010, University of North Texas.

4)    “Teaching Organic First: Implementing an Organic First Laboratory Course”, Ross Jilk, Michael Kahlow, David B. Rusterholz, Barb Nielsen, Magdalena Pala, Karl Peterson and Jamie Schneider, 21st Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE), August 2010, University of North Texas.

5)    “Teaching Organic First:  Assessing Curricular Change”, Ross Jilk, Michael Kahlow, David B. Rusterholz, Barb Nielsen, Magdalena Pala, Karl Peterson, Jeff Rosenthal , Jamie Schneider, Cory Windorff, 21st Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE), August 2010, University of North Texas.

6)    “Design and Implementation of an Organic First Chemistry Curriculum”, Michael Kahlow, Ross Jilk, Barb Nielsen, Magdalena Pala, Karl Peterson, Jeffrey Rosenthal, David B. Rusterholz, and Jamie Schneider, 2011 TUES/CCLI Conference, January 26-28, 2011, Washington, D.C.

7)    “The Organic First Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls”, Michael Kahlow, Ross Jilk, Barbara Nielsen, Magdalena Pala, Karl Peterson, Jeff Rosenthal, David Rusterholz, Jamie Schneider, Stacey Stoffregen, 22nd Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE), August 2012, Penn State University.

8)    “Design and Implementation of an Introductory Organic First Chemistry Curriculum”, Michael Kahlow, Ross Jilk, Barb Nielsen, Magdalena Pala, Karl Peterson, Jeffrey Rosenthal, David B. Rusterholz, Jamie L. Schneider, and Daniel Marchand, 2013 TUES/CCLI Conference, January 23-25, 2013, Washington, D.C.

9)    “Getting pre-professional students through biochemistry in their second year with an organic first curriculum”, Michael Kahlow, 23rd Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE), August 6, 2014, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI.