Archive for the "Q and A" Category

I’m trying to figure out if it is an enantiomer, diastereomers, structural isomer, or meso compound.

Posted on March 7th, 2017

“I have two compounds that have the same substituents but they arranged different, I’m trying to figure out if it is an enantiomer, diastereomers, structural isomer, or meso compound.”

Here at StudyOrgo, we frequently get questions about topics in organic chemistry that are usually quickly covered, poorly described or expected that you know from previous courses.  These concepts are really important to understanding the more complex topics to come.  In this article, we will cover the concepts of stereochemistry to review the basics and look at some specific examples.  This is just a preview of the detailed topics and materials available with your membership to  Sign up today!

Structural isomers, or constitutional isomers, are molecules with the same chemical formula but different connectivity, they literally do not look alike.

Stereoisomers refer to molecules with the same chemical formula (i.e. same number of atoms) and geometrical arrangement (i.e. same connectivity) that are not superimposable on each other.  They frequently will be described as “R” or “S” configuration


For a carbon center (referred to as a stereocenter), this requires bonding to four different substituents!  If they are mirror images, they are enantiomers.  If they are not mirror images, then they are diastereomers.  Remember, you can use R and S configuration can help distinguish this.  R,R would be the enantiomer of S,S.  But both R, S and S,R are the diastereomers of R,R.

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Compounds that contain stereocenters but have a plane of symmetry across them (such that they have a mirror image of itself somewhere) are referred to as meso compounds. Take a look at tartaric acid, it has two stereocenters but the blue box represents an axis of symmetry that makes the compound meso.



The usefulness of this is that proteins (the drug targets) are also chiral, so they need chiral drugs to affect them.  If the compounds are not chiral, they will not interact with the proteins correctly.  For synthesis, if the compounds are not chiral, they will not rotate plane polarized light, and will be called “optically inactive”.

A few tips:

  1. If you only have one stereocenter then the non-superimposable, mirror image of the compound is the enantiomer.
  2. In order to have diastereomers, you need more than one stereocenter.  Sugars (saccharides) are the best example of this.  Look at glucose, it has 4 stereocenters.  The mirror image is the exact opposite configuration, so there is only one enanantiomer for glucose, but there are 7 diastereomers!
  3. Use the chart above to help you with R & S nomenclature and how that relates to enantiomers and diastereomers, this is how you will frequently encounter them after the first exam.
  4. Look for planes of symmetry to identify meso compounds.

Preparation Tips for Spring Semester Organic Chemistry

Posted on January 17th, 2016


Going into the spring semester, you might feel like you know what Orgo 2 will be like.  However, the second semester of organic chemistry has a very fast pace, anywhere between 50-100 reactions will be presented. You’ll be responsible for all of them!  Sign up with StudyOrgo today to help you get all of your reactions mechanisms and descriptions instantly!

  • Read ahead – The first week of Orgo2, read two chapters to get yourself ahead of the class. Don’t try to understand everything, just read the text and try to understand the big ideas. This will completely change the way you pay attention in class and allow you to spend more attention and ask questions about the details in class instead of scrambling to write down notes and drawings.
  • Attempt ALL homework problems – When tutoring students, they are often intimidated when we ask them to try sample problems.  But after a few examples, every student does them better and better with each new problem.  Some students have even made comments such as ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’  We were at StudyOrgo agree!  It takes a lot of time, but practicing the problems will make it easier for the quizzes and tests.
  • Look at a syllabus – Remember, your syllabus is an official contract between you and the professor. Professors are required to disclose what you are required to learn and what grading rubric will be used. Professors can usually remove requirements (to the delight of the students!) but cannot easily add them. Use this to your advantage! Highlight the contents or reactions of the book that will be required and use this to focus your attention when studying this semester.
  • Schedule your studying! – Now that you know where the book is and a rough idea of what you are responsible for learning from the syllabus, take a calendar and divide the time you have to each test by the number of chapters. Schedule 2-3 hours a week to study and DON’T SKIP OR RESCHEDULE. Use your Smartphone calendar to send you alerts and reminders for your studying appointment.
  • Sign up with StudyOrgo – The Editors at StudyOrgo have compiled detailed mechanisms and description of over 175 reactions in the most crystal-clear and “get-to-the-point” format possible.  Many of our reaction have multiple examples, so you can learn and then quiz yourself in our website! For the student on-the-go, we have also developed a mobile app (iOS and Android) provides all the functionality of the website! All of these benefits are included in your StudyOrgo membership!

With good time management and help from StudyOrgo, you can earn a top grade in your Orgo 2 class this semester!


If I use this website rigorously and study is there a possibility to pass the class?

Posted on November 10th, 2015

Q:     “I stumbled upon this website pretty late in the game and really what I wanted to know is if it’s worth it? Not that I won’t learn the material I just mean I have two exams left in the semester and I really can’t fail this class…I have no option. Basically my question is; if I use this website rigorously and study is there a possibility to pass the class?”  “Have you seen scenarios like this before?”

A:     Thanks to the student for bringing up this question.  The editors at StudyOrgo have over 30 years of combined experience tutoring organic chemistry, so you can believe us when we say we know what we’re talking about.

fbadAs tutors, students come to us in exactly this situation.  These students devoted hours upon hours of studying time to this class only to be confronted with a failing grade on the exams and midterms. Firstly, you must believe you CERTAINLY can pass the course. We here at StudyOrgo are here to tell you, from experience, that it is not too late!  I have personally seen individuals come from a failing grade to passing the course with just a few weeks left until the Final exam. It can be done! Even if you received poor exam scores previously, there is still time!  Secondly, and most importantly, you must understand you have struggled because of HOW you have studied. We have posted a number of blog articles outlining strategies for studying for the semester and tips for when you have the “hard professors” teaching your course.

Another important realization is how you got in this situation. The answer is usually one of two reasons; 1) you have missed some important concepts covered early in the semester, likely before you realized how hard this class was going to be or 2) you came into organic chemistry without a strong understanding of general chemistry. Organic chemistry is like a pyramid, the material covered from previous courses and early Orgo1 in the course (i.e. VESPR theory, hybridized orbitals, Newman projections, pKa, etc.) are critical for success in the class because not only are they tested heavily in the first half of Orgo1, they keep appearing the second half and all through Orgo2!  So it becomes a downward spiral once you are missing key concepts and this is the reason for continuous struggle.  But this can be fixed!

The Editors at StudyOrgo have compiled all of the materials necessary for getting the best possible grade in organic chemistry. We have also distilled the information down to simple, easy to read concepts and we presented it in a clear format. We have also designed a quiz-mode for our content so as you are learning, you can check your understanding in a flash-card style to help build you memory.  We have over 170 reactions commonly covered in both semesters, so be assured we have everything you need here at StudyOrgo to help get you the best possible grade.  We even have a mobile app so you can view our content on the go to maximize your studying potential.

Remember, we’re here to tell you it is not too late and StudyOrgo is here to help you with your organic chemistry needs!

Free Radical Halogenation

Posted on September 22nd, 2015

Another common mechanism that is covered in the first weeks of organic chemistry is the free radical halogenation of alkanes.  This mechanism utilizes the homolytic cleavage (one electron per atom) property of halogens when exposed to heat or ionizing radiation (i.e. hv), which is a popular mechanism for future reactions in the course.  Radical halogens can extract the proton from a C-H bond to produce the corresponding acid and generate a radical carbon center.  In this article we will discuss all of the tips and tricks to getting an ‘A’ on your racical halogenation questions.  Sign up with StudyOrgo today for more in-depth mechanism coverage and answers to all of your organic chemistry questions!

Generating a radical halogen: there are THREE critical steps to free radical reactions.

1) Initiation: The Br2 single bond is broken by high energy ligh (hv) to form radicals placing one electron on each atom.

halogen 1

2) Propagation: (Hint: One radical reacts with a single bond to form another radical, thus propagating the radical species to drive the reaction forward.

  1. a) Radical Br abstracts one hydrogen from a C-H bond in propane to form radical propane and HBr.
    halogen 2
  2. b) Radical propane asbracts one Br from Br2 to form the bromoalkane and radical Br, thus restoring the reactants for another round as shown in step 2a.halogen 3

3) Termination: Any two radicals combine to form a single bond.  These species will be in low abundance. Hint: Radicals are destroyed by combining two radicals to form a single bond.  This eliminates the radical necessary for radical alkane formation (green boxes) as shown in step 2a and ends the reaction.

halogen 4

Regioselectivity: How to determine the major product

Radical bromination will always replace the C-H bond on the MOST substituted carbon center because the stability of the radical intermediate is higher with increasing substituents on the carbon center.

This selectivity is the same, but a weaker consideration, for radical chlorination which obeys Hammond’s Postulate, which says that stability of the radical center is outweighed by the extreme exothermicity of radical chlorination (compared to bromination), thus a mixture of chlorinated products is observed.

halogen 5

Stereoselectivity – How to determine the stereochemistry of carbon centers

Radial intermediates (step 2a product) produce a sp2-like hybridization orbital with the lone electron in the vacant 2p orbital, therfore attack of the radical electron on the C-H bond can take place from either side of the molecule.  The result will always produce a racemic mixture (or equal amount) of the two enantiomers.

halogen 6



Chirality and Assigning Stereochemistry to Molecules

Posted on August 11th, 2015

One of the most important skills to master in organic chemistry is the ability to assign stereochemistry.  We at StudyOrgo have devised clear cut explanations of these difficult concepts for students to maximize their time studying and learn difficult concepts quickly and easily. Sign up with today for all of your organic chemistry studying needs!

Chirality is an important aspect of life.  This is so because many of the basic molecules used in living cells, in particular amino acids that form enzymes, are also chiral. Chirality imparts asymmetry on our molecules, allowing them the ability to recognize “handedness” and further add to the complexity and specificity of reactions. As organic chemists, we must pay constant attention to the chirality of molecules both before and after reactions, less the compounds lose their biological or chemical activity.

Chirality is defined as any object in which the mirror images are not superimposable. A good example is your hands; they are mirror images but not superimposable. Translating this to organic molecules, a stereocenter is a carbon center with 4 unique substituents that are arranged such that the mirror image is not superimposable. Thus, they “look” like to different molecules although they have the same substituents. If we alter the arrangement of the substituents, we can always come up with 2 arrangements for each substituent, R or S configuration.  Thus, each stereocenter must have 2 stereoisomers.

chiral 1

In order to determine whether the sterecenter is the the R or S configuration, there are a series of steps to follow.

  1. Identify the stereocenter as 4 unique substituents attached to the chiral center
  2. Assign priority based on atom atomic number, highest (1) to lowest (4) weight.
  3. If two atoms are same, move to next bond to find first point of difference
  4. Rotate the molecule so that Priority 4 atom is in the hashed wedge position.
  5. Determine the Priority sequence 1-2-3 rotates to the left (S) or the right (R).

chiral 2

Lastly, an important concept to keep in mind is that as molecules become more complex, they also can acquire more stereocenters.  Keeping in mind that each stereocenter can produce 2 stereoisomers, we describe possible stereoisomerism using the 2n rule. Let’s examine a molecule with 2 stereocenters, following the 2n rule that gives us 22=4 stereocenters.  The possible combinations are listed below.

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We now introduce the last concept to stereochemistry which is the difference between enantiomers and diastereomers.  Enantiomers are molecules with exactly opposite stereoisomers.  For example, the enantiomer of the molecule with stereochemistry R,R would be S,S.  The relationship between molecule R,R and R,S is what is described as diastereomers, which differ in some but not all stereocenters.

Let’s consider the biologically active form of testosterone, 5-DHT which is shown below.  We indicate that it has 7 stereocenters in the molecule.  Applying the 2n rule, we calculate 128 possible stereoisomer combinations.  That concludes that while testosterone has 1 enantiomer, it has 126 diastereomers and remember…only 5-DHT works on our bodies!

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