CH1ORB-Organic Chemistry for Biologists

Module Provider: Chemistry
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring / Summer module
Non-modular pre-requisites: A level Chemistry or equivalent
Modules excluded: CH1FC1 Fundamental Concepts in Chemistry 1 or CH1FC3 Molecular Studies for the Life Sciences or CH1OR1 Shape, Structure and Reactivity in Organic Chemistry or CH1OR2 Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Andrew Russell


Type of module:

Summary module description:

To introduce students to the basic concepts of organic chemistry (to encompass the structure of organic compounds, isomerism, the concept of a functional group and the unifying concepts of mechanism) in order to provide the foundation for treatment at a greater depth in later modules or to better appreciate related subjects such as Biochemistry and Medicinal Chemistry.


To further students’ understanding of basic concepts in organic chemistry in order to better appreciate related subjects such as Biochemistry, Biomedical Sciences and Medicinal Chemistry.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students should be able to:

name simple organic compounds and write molecular formulae from given names; draw diagrams of molecules indicating the hybridisation state of individual atoms, showing the disposition of molecular orbitals; draw curved arrow mechanisms for selected organic reactions; assign the stereochemistry of simple organic compounds; explain the mechanisms of substitution and elimination reactions; describe and explain the reactivity of alkenes and alkynes toward a selection of reagents, describe and explain the concept of aromaticity; explain the mechanisms of EAS and NAS reactions; explain the mechanisms of nucleophilic attack upon a variety of carbonyl containing groups; use their knowledge of this fundamental reactivity of organic functional groups to rationalise simple synthetic transformations and to interpret some fundamental reactions observed in biological systems.

Additional outcomes:

Students will gain experience at problem solving during workshops.

Outline content:

L M Harwood (8 lectures) Foundations of Organic Chemistry and Nomenclature

Atomic structure, orbitals and hybridisation state, electron accounting, drawing structures, representing electron movement, bonding in alkanes, alkenes, alkynes and aromatic molecules, nomenclature.

A T Russell (6 lectures) Organic Stereochemistry

This course will continue the discussion of molecular shape and examine the consequence of 2 and 3-dimensional shape upon isomerism to provide a background to the following courses on reactivity at unsaturated and saturated carbon centres.

F J Davis (6 lectures) Substitution and Elimination Reactions

This course will examine nucleophilic substitution reactions, SN1, SN2 and SNi processes, leaving groups and pKa, and neighbouring group participation. We will discuss how organic molecules can behave as both electrophile and nucleophile in substitution reactions. This course will also consider the synthesis of alkenes via elimination reactions (E1, E2 and E1cB) and will seek to delineate why, in a given situation, elimination or substitution reactions predominate.

L M Harwood (4 lectures) Reactivity of Unsaturated Compounds

We will study reactions that are characteristic of the alkene/alkyne functional groups. For example, reactions of alkenes with a range of electrophiles, including Br2, HBr, BH3 and m-CPBA will be described. The regioselective addition of electrophiles to unsymmetrical alkenes will also be discussed and Markovnikov’s rule will be exemplified.

P. B. Cranwell (8 lectures) Aromatic Chemistry

We will study the structure of benzene, the Hückel rule for aromaticity and the stability of aromatic molecules. The reactivity of these compounds will be considered under the general mechanistic headings; electrophilic aromatic substitution (EAS) and nucleophilic aromatic substitution (NAS) as well as the structure and reactivity of benzyne. The significance of substituents on the regiochemistry of these reactions will be discussed. Additionally, the synthesis and reactions of diazoaromatics will be covered.

A T Russell (8 lectures) An Introduction to Carbonyl Group Chemistry

We will consider the structure and bonding of the carbonyl functional group, its fundamental modes of reactivity including the link between structure and reactivity. The reactions of carbonyl groups with nucleophiles and reducing agents will be covered together with methods of formation, methods of removal and the chemistry of carboxylic acids, esters and amides.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Two one-hour lectures per week with approximately one workshop/seminar every two weeks. Two one-hour revision classes in the Summer Term.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20 20
Seminars 6 6 3
Guided independent study 61 65 19
Total hours by term 87.00 91.00 22.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 75
Class test administered by School 25

Summative assessment- Examinations:

A two-hour examination during the Summer Term based upon lecture and workshop material. 75%

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One-hour closed book examination at the beginning of the Spring Term based on lecture and workshop material. 25%

Submission dates:

Term Test, Week 2 Spring Term 

Formative assessment methods:

Students will attend workshop/seminars on the material covered in this module. During these, students will work on set problems with members of staff present to give guidance and feedback. Attendance is compulsory.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall. 

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Reassessment will be held in August 2019 and will be by examination only, worth 100%.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 18 September 2018


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