Organic Chemistry With a Biological Emphasis

The traditional approach to teaching Organic Chemistry, taken by most of the textbooks currently available, is to focus primarily on the reactions of laboratory synthesis, with much less discussion - in the central chapters, at least - of biological molecules and reactions. This despite the fact that, in many classrooms, a majority of students are majoring in Biology or Health Sciences rather than in Chemistry, and are presumably taking the course in order to learn about the chemistry that takes place in living things.

In an effort to address this disconnect, I have developed an Organic Chemistry e-textbook in which biological chemistry takes center stage. For the most part, the book covers the core concepts of organic structure, structure determination, and reactivity in the standard order. What is different is the context: biological chemistry is fully integrated into the explanation of central principles, and as much as possible the in-chapter exercises and end-of-chapter problems are taken from the biochemical literature. Many laboratory synthesis reactions are also covered, generally in parallel with their biochemical counterparts - but it is intentionally the biological chemistry that comes first.

It is my hope that this e-textbook will be a valuable resource for instructors who are interested in trying a more interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of Organic Chemistry.

Organic Chemistry With a Biological Emphasis is available for free download from the University of Minnesota Morris Digital Well (PDF files with hyperlinks)

Volume I: Organic structure, structure determination, introduction to organic reactions, acid-base chemistry, nucleophilic substitution reactions.

Volume II: Phosphoryl group transfer reactions, nucleophilic addition to carbonyls and imines, acyl substitution reactions, alpha-carbon reactions, electrophilic reactions, redox reactions, radical reactions, coenzyme-mediated reactions.

Solutions to In-Chapter Exercises

Solutions to Selected End-of-Chapter Problems

Black-and-white printed and bound copies of Organic Chemistry With a Biological Emphasis can be purchased from at the links below.

Volume I

Volume II

Organic Chemistry With a Biological Emphasis is available in doc file format for instructors who wish to use the content to make Powerpoint slides or to create a custom textbook for their course. A Google account is needed to access these files (they are too big to email, but I can share them on Google Drive).

Also available to instructors is a metabolic pathway prediction problem set and key (these types of problems are the biological equivalent of traditional organic synthesis problems).

Please contact me (via your university email) at if interested in either of the above.