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Organic Chemistry Coursework

Helpful Documents: Degree Plan | Professional Outcomes

Students in the Organic Chemistry Program are required to take these 12 credits of coursework. Most of the courses are team taught, but a primary contact person is shown.

Fall Semester, 1st Year

Chemical Structure and Reactivity

3 credits (August – December)
Uttam Tambar, Ph.D.; Joseph Ready, Ph.D.Myles Smith, Ph.D.

This course will provide a solid basis for understanding the physical properties and chemical reactivity of small molecules. The concepts conveyed will prepare students interested in small molecules for more advanced studies in organic synthesis.
Topics to be covered include:

  • The chemistry of the major functional groups commonly found in organic molecules
  • Fundamentals of chemical kinetics, including the rate law, transition state theory, etc.
  • Fundamental characteristics of organic molecules, including acidity, basicity, sterics, and conformational freedom
  • Stereochemistry
  • Important C–C and C–heteroatom bond forming reactions
  • Additionally, the course offers advanced discussions of reaction mechanisms. We will focus on chemical catalysis, sigmatropic rearrangements, the conservation of orbital symmetry, and the concept of aromaticity.
Chemical Structure and Reactivity

Advanced Problems in Reaction Mechanisms I

1.5 credits (August – December)
Uttam Tambar, Ph.D.; Joseph Ready, Ph.D.Myles Smith, Ph.D.

This course will focus on the study of reaction mechanisms and problem solving relevant to synthetic chemistry. It will serve as a problem session to support the didactic courses. Students will solve problems together with classmates and the professor.

Advanced Problems in Reaction Mechanisms I

Proteins Thread of the DBS Core Course

2 credits (August – October)

Instruction includes the energetic basis of protein structure; stability; ligand binding and regulation; enzyme mechanics and kinetics; methods of purification; and analysis by spectroscopic methods.

Proteins Thread of the DBS Core Course

The Drug Discovery Process

1.5 credits (October – December)
Meg Phillips, Ph.D.Bruce Posner, Ph.D.

This course introduces students to the drug discovery process, from initial discovery of a biological target to clinical development of a drug. Topics include an overview of the drug discovery pipeline, choice of therapeutic area, high throughput screening for hit identification, target identification and validation, structure-based and computational methods in lead optimization, pre-clinical models of efficacy, pharmacology, formulation and drug delivery, clinical trials, and commercialization.

To reinforce concepts and approaches discussed in the lectures for this course, students will participate in a drug discovery exercise in which they will gain an appreciation for the real-world challenges that a drug discovery company faces in both the pre-clinical and clinical setting. The class will be divided into teams of 3 – 5 people. Each team will represent a drug discovery company and will be expected to develop a project focused either in oncology or antiparasitics. After deciding which project(s) to push forward, each team will develop a plan for execution of lead optimization, pre-clinical development and first in man clinical studies. Teams will be evaluated on their effectiveness in applying what they’ve learned in the course and in responding to the challenges that currently face drug discovery teams in industry and academia. Both written and oral presentations will be used to evaluate team effectiveness.

The Drug Discovery Process

Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Ethics I

1 credit (August – December)
Stuart Ravnik, Ph.D.

Topics covered through lectures and small group discussions: goals of education in RCR; professionalism and professional behaviors; everyday practice of ethical science; mentorship; data management and reproducibility; image and data manipulation; plagiarism and scientific misconduct.

Research Rotations

3 credit (September – November)

All first year students will have the opportunity to rotate in at least two different labs before joining a research group. The Fall rotation for OC students will be from September to November. The first spring rotation runs from January to February. Most students choose a lab after two rotations. But if you would like to rotate in a third lab, the next Spring rotation runs from February to April. You can review the research programs of the various OC faculty members to decide where you would like to rotate: https://www.utsouthwestern.edu/education/graduate-school/programs/organic-chemistry/

Spring Semester, 1st Year

Chemical Synthesis

1.5 credits (January – February)
Tian Qin, Ph.D.Myles Smith, Ph.D.

The course introduces the major classes of synthetic transformations with an emphasis on methods and tactics in the total synthesis of complex molecules. Control of reaction regio-, chemo-, and stereoselectivity in the assembly of carbon-carbon and carbon-heteroatom bonds will be discussed. Multiple strategies for acyclic diastereoselection are covered during discussions of several reactions, including olefin oxidation, carbonyl reduction, and aldol reactions. An introduction to olefin synthesis and metal-catalyzed cross-coupling concludes the course.

Chemical Synthesis

Advanced Problems in Reaction Mechanisms II

1.5 credits (January – April)
Tian Qin, Ph.D.Myles Smith, Ph.D.; Chuo Chen, Ph.D.Jef De Brabander, Ph.D.

This course will focus on the study of reaction mechanisms and problem solving relevant to synthetic chemistry. It will serve as a problem session to support the didactic courses. Students will solve problems together with classmates and the professor.

Advanced Problems in Reaction Mechanisms II

Materials Chemistry - Chemical Synthesis, Formulation, and Characterization of Materials Applied for Biomedical Imaging and Therapy

1.5 credits (January – February)
Jacques Lux, Ph.D.Daniel Siegwart, Ph.D.

This course will provide a solid basis for chemical synthesis, physical properties, and formulation of polymers and other synthetic materials for biomedical applications. The concepts conveyed will prepare students interested in drug and gene delivery, biomedical imaging, and clinical translation of synthetic materials.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Organic chemistry reactions for synthesis of polymers and materials, including reaction mechanisms, polymerization rates, and molecular structures and configuration of polymers
  • Physical methods to characterize materials
  • Fundamental concepts of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy
  • Formulation of materials, and methods to purify and characterize micro- and nanoparticles.
  • Synthetic materials for drug delivery and therapy, including design of stimuli-responsive materials
  • Synthetic materials and design of contrast agents for biomedical imaging
  • Clinical uses of synthetic materials

Advanced Synthesis and Catalysis

1.5 credits (Mach – April)
Chuo Chen, Ph.D.Jef De Brabander, Ph.D.
This course, focusing on advanced methods for stereoselective and asymmetric synthesis, will be offered in the second semester to students who have successfully completed the first semester chemistry curriculum.

Particular emphasis will be placed on contemporary methods for molecular catalysis and new avenues in synthesis made available by them. Topics will include transition metal-catalyzed transformations, asymmetric catalysis, kinetic analysis of catalytic reactions, and organometallic reaction mechanisms.

Advanced Synthesis and Catalysis

Enzymes and Disease

1.5 credits (March – April)
Jennifer Kohler, Ph.D.

This course focuses on the roles of enzyme activity in human disease. Students will learn enzyme theory, quantitative methods to analyze enzyme activity, and mechanisms of enzyme inhibition. Students will study the effects of enzyme mutations on metabolism and how changes in enzyme activity cause or contribute to human diseases. Factors affecting the ability of small molecules to modulate enzyme activity in cells and living organisms will be discussed. Examples will be drawn from research programs on campus and from the recent literature in the field. Course grades will be determined based on class participation, journal article discussion and assignments, performance on quizzes, and a final presentation.

Enzymes and Disease

Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Ethics II

1 credit (January – April)
Stuart Ravnik, Ph.D.

Topics covered through lectures and small group discussions: research misconduct investigation procedures; collaboration and team building; cultural and international RCR norms; authorship and peer review; conflicts of interest; animal research; human research; technology transfer and intellectual property.

Research Rotations

3.5 credit (January – April)

All first year students will have the opportunity to rotate in at least two different labs before joining a research group. The Fall rotation for OC students will be from September to November. The first spring rotation runs from January to February. Most students choose a lab after two rotations. But if you would like to rotate in a third lab, the next Spring rotation runs from February to April. You can review the research programs of the various OC faculty members to decide where you would like to rotate: https://www.utsouthwestern.edu/education/graduate-school/programs/organic-chemistry/

Fall Semester, 2nd Year

Grant Writing Workshop

(September – October)
Benjamin Tu, Ph.D.

This workshop-style course meets once a week and prepares second-year graduate students for the process of applying for pre-doctoral fellowships, including the process of preparing a well-structured and high quality research proposal. Topics include defining a hypothesis and creating a specific aim statement. Students will also participate in a grant review exercise with classmates.