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## Chemistry Blogs

I received my BS in Physical Chemistry from Chongqing University, China and my Ph.D in Biochemistry from Miami University, USA. I have extensive teaching experience in college-level General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry and Plant Biology as I served as a Teaching Assistant in Miami University for 4 years. I know their backgrounds and ways to improve their grades. Right now I am tutoring AP chemistry and Chemistry Olympiad in an education institute in the Bay Area. During my Ph.D, I did independent research in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and plant biology. I also mentored undergraduates in developing research proposals and projects for fairs/conferences. My goal is to help students to understand, summarize and prepare for their exams to obtain desired results in a reasonable period of time. During my teaching, I strive to foster an exploratory atmosphere by asking questions and knowing their backgrounds/weakness. I try to make connections... read more

Example problem: A doctor has ordered 325 mg of aspirin. The aspirin is available as a solution that contains 0.50 g of the medication per mL. How many mL of the solution would the patient need ? 1. Write down all of the information that you have. a. 325 mg aspirin b. 0.50 g/mL aspirin solution 2. What are you looking for?   a. x mL of aspirin solution needed 3. Set up the problem to solve for mL of aspirin solution 325 mg aspirin x (1 mL) = ________ mL of aspirin                         (0.50g) 4. Convert mg aspirin -> grams aspirin 325 mg aspirin x (1g) = .325 g aspirin                      (1000 mg) 5. Solve by plugging Step 4 into Step 3. .325 g aspirin x (1 mL) = 0.65 mL aspirin                    ... read more

The Table of Metric Conversions is especially important for the students I tutor in chemistry. Below are some tips or important aspects of the table to keep in mind. The table I have included has common conversions   Prefix          Symbol            Factor   Giga               G                  10^9 Mega              M                  10^6 Kilo                k                   10^3 Base unit        _                   10^0 or 1 Centi              c                   10^-2 Milli      ... read more

I am a High School Science Teacher and we deal with a lot of word problems that contain many variables that could fit into many different equations. Here is how I break down the content step by step for my students.      Physics Problem A box is accelerating across a frictionless surface. It is being pushed with 75 newtons of force and the has a mass of 10 kilograms. What is the magnitude of the box's acceleration?   1) You want to identify and label all variables presented to you in the problem.      Ex: F = 75 N, m = 10 kg   2) Identify and Label the Variable the question is asking you to find.      Ex: a = ?   3) List possible known equations that have the variable you need to solve for.      Ex: a = v/t            F = ma   4) Choose the equation that has variables that are known from the problem.  ... read more

Labs associated with the pre-med sciences are also required, and the difficulty of these labs varies depending on which school you go to.  The most frequent lament by college students is that their labs and lab reports command an unreasonably large chunk of their time, despite being only worth 1 credit.  Most college courses are 3 credits, meaning they meet for three hours of class per week; but labs, usually take anywhere from 3-6 hours per week, and ultimately do not carry much weight in terms of your overall grade in being just one credit.  You would think that the work required to succeed in labs is adjusted proportionally, but it's not. Most labs have weekly reports and a final paper/project at the end of the semester, right before finals begin.  Last year, I spent every Sunday just working on weekly physics lab reports.  I did well, but consistently lost a full day that I could have used towards other work.  That's the dilemma, though.  You... read more

Hi all,     So I've reached capacity again this year on students, but I'm trying something new.  I've created a Waiting List rather than hiding my profile.   I'm curious if I'll have a number of students waiting for the same subjects, which will allow me to come up with new ways to help everyone.  Perhaps if I have several students uptown (or wherever) I will be able to offer a group lesson that any/everybody working on the same subjects can attend and help out people on the waiting list. If you're looking to get inspired about Chemistry, I recommend you check out the very cool reactions in this video:  http://time.com/3481898/amazing-chemical-reactions-true-beauty-of-science/   Or if you're a student (or a parent) trying to convince yourself (or your child) about the importance of working hard at Math & Science, I recommend checking out these infographics: http://www.vox.com/2014/10/7/6910485/13-charts-that-explain-why-your-college-major-matters   Hope... read more

Chemistry, in my opinion, is the most widely applied subject in the educational system. You can apply chemistry when you're cooking, cleaning, filling up your car, brewing beer or wine, welding, dating (carbon and speed dating), and thousands of industrial processes. I once heard from one of my chemistry professors, Dr. Chad Morris, "Chemistry is applied physics, and physics is applied math." Therefore physics, chemistry, and math all work in harmony.   You probably apply chemistry every day and don't realize it. When you make coffee in the morning, ever wondered about the chemistry involved in making a cup of joe? You have to first grind the roasted coffee beans to expose the caffeine and flavor compounds housed within the beans. You then have to filter hot water through the grinds to extract the much needed caffeine and flavors. Water works as a solvent to dissolve the polar caffeine and flavor molecules which pass through the coffee filter and into your... read more

I think, by far, the most important part of being successful in organic chemistry is the ability to stay on top of the material. I'll start with this piece of advice for those you who are planning on completing both sections.     Make flashcards.   I know, I know, it's advice that everyone gives for every type of memorization, but I think that it especially helps with the amount of new reactions that you will see, especially in orgo II.   My recipe for the cards is to make cards that have the reactant(s) and the reagent(s) with a question mark where the product(s) would be.   e.g. CH3CHCHCH3 -----Br2----->  ?     This way will help you to recognize which reagents do what.   The other style is to leave out the reagents.   e.g. CH3CHCHCH3 -----?-----> CH3CHBrCHBrCH3   (You'll want to draw them out probably, but this software doesn't allow that)   If... read more

If you are like me, you want to get a head start on things -- "hit the ground running," as they say. What better way than to get started on the new year in academics! I always found that when I was in high school or college, summer reading was very enjoyable. There were no deadlines -- I could nestle up by a tree and read for hours. I recommend giving it a shot.   When it comes to chemistry, what better way to get started than reading some basics. One of my favorites is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It is a great overview of science in general. I also recommend John Gribbin's In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. It is an amazing story about the discovery of quantum mechanics and is a must for all explorers of science.   It is also a good idea to get a chemistry set and do some basic chemistry experiments. It is a fun and interesting activity! A lot of chemistry experiments can even be done in one's own... read more

I have found many schools unable to expose students to math and science in the laboratory environment due to costs. I have found a great place fro students to work on all kinds of math and science activities on line. I have all of my students work on the speed drill under arithmetic. Fluency in math is critical.  Please take a look at this website and let me know what you think.   http://phet.colorado.edu

The education system, such a complex and convoluted series of practices and hierarchies, where does the student of the 21st century fit? Education now-a-days seems to have a greater goal of higher efficiency compared to student individuality in the class room. With a ballooning population, low teacher salaries, and out dated resources, we are in for a crisis situation in the coming decades with our current system. So many individuals I know that have entered the teaching field with the mind set that they are going to shake things up, and really start to perpetuate a difference, have more often than not been met with stark opposition and resistance. Something that people may find counter-intuitive at best. The education system isn't going to change overnight, that the beauty of incorporating a tutor into a student's life. This gives the student the individual one on one attention that a growing, curious mind deserves. I'm a scientist in my day to day life, holding a BS in Microbiology... read more

Let us be brutally honest here. You, the student, have spent the last few weeks agonizing over doing well on the chemistry regents and subsequently had nightmares about the prospects. Even being a victim of Freddie Krueger “Nightmare on Elm Street” seemed to have much more appeal than preparing and taking the chemistry regents. On the BIG day you probably put on a good face as you made your way to your seat. Then, you sat down just in time so that your classmates didn’t see your knees knocking together and detect that anything was amiss. Once the test started you turned the pages and looked at the problems. At this moment you wished you could just get up and leave and never come back. Instead, you take a few minutes and hope that the question would somehow trigger some signal in your brain that would unearth some forgotten memory of how to solve the problem in front of you... read more

The school year is nicely wrapped up and New York students are filled with trepidation at the prospect of encountering the chemistry regents face to face which is just a few short days away. Next Tuesday to be exact. Admittedly, there is not much time to learn concepts that should have been learned earlier on in the school year but if you absorbed just a few critical elements along the way you should do pretty well. In other words, you need to put your thinking caps on. One thing that you should have picked up is the concept of the ionic bond. In everyday English, this translates to an electron from an atom( the less electronegative one) is literally transferred to the atom with the greatest electronegativity. Electronegativity is in my estimation is a hunger for electrons in an atom by another dissimilar atom. It actually is an electrostatic attraction for the electron from the lesser electronegative atom. The electron that was transferred... read more

The school year is nicely wrapped up and New York students are filled with trepidation at the prospect of encountering the chemistry regents face to face which is just a few short days away. Next Tuesday to be exact. Admittedly, there is not much time to learn concepts that should have been learned earlier on in the school year but if you absorbed just a few critical elements along the way you should do pretty well. In other words, you need to put your thinking caps on. One thing that you should have picked up is the concept of the ionic bond. In everyday English, this translates to an electron from an atom( the less electronegative one) is literally transferred to the atom with the greatest electronegativity. Electronegativity is in my estimation is a hunger for electrons in an atom by another dissimilar atom. It actually is an electrostatic attraction for the electron from the lesser electronegative atom. The electron that was transferred... read more

The Spring 2014 semester has ended, along with my first full semester of tutoring. Reflecting back on my roster of students, there’s one piece of advice I want to offer the next batch of students. If you’re starting to struggle in a class, find a tutor NOW. Don’t wait. Why the urgency, you ask? Because once you start to slip behind in a course, it’s an uphill battle to regain the ground you are losing. I think there are two connected reasons for this: 1) You start spending your time worrying about your performance and your grade. You aren’t focused on learning the material; you’re focused on your anxiety. 2) Because you’re worried about your performance, you are losing valuable time that you could be spending on your studies. As a tutor, I can help you learn the material. I can offer you insights on how to improve your performance. And with more time to work with you, I have a better chance of helping you reach your academic goals. Tutors... read more

As human beings with limited time, energy, and resources, we naturally desire to get the most done with the least amount of work possible. From reading books and experimenting throughout the years, I have accumulated a collection of techniques that maximizes efficiency and has allowed me to achieve a 3.93 GPA while studying less than three hours a day. Below are some of these techniques. Although I have separated it in general and chemistry study tips sections, these study tips can be applied to every class you will ever take in high school & college. Furthermore, some of these tips, especially the blocking technique, will skyrocket your ability to get more done in less time not only in school, but in life in general. I hope these tips will benefit you as much as they have and continue to help me. General Study Tips 1. Study in purely focused block periods Our body functions in cycles. For example, our circadian rhythm dictates when we sleep... read more

It is natural that as tutors we get called in to the help kids that are struggling.  It is no surprise that almost 100% of my students have attention problems.  I love to see the beauty in these kids' minds.  They can be so talented.  But the drawback is when you have to tutor them in a subject they don't enjoy or shine at.  I find myself constantly trying to keep things exciting and they usually respond.  But what do you do when the kid who has been doing his best just gives you the cold shoulder, falls asleep in your one-on-one lesson, or is just staring into space?  I know from experience that not everything is going into a black hole when I am explaining something to a "zoned-out" student.  But what do you do on days when you know everything you are saying IS going in a black hole?  Please share your tips!

I am studying stoichiometry with a student right now. It can be confusing sometimes to think about the two or three steps required to reach your final answer. We ran into a problem that required converting weight to moles of reactants, converting moles of reactants to moles of product using mole ratio, converting moles of product back to weight, and then finally calculating the percent yield. Anybody can get lost in this soup. Take the time to write down the units at each and every step. If your units don't add up, then you know that you didn't do the problem right.    When you're down and they're counting When your secrets all found out When your troubles take to mounting When the map you have leads you to doubt When there's no information And the compass turns to nowhere that you know well   Let your units be your pilot Let your units guide you They will guide you well

Now that finals have passed for most of the college students on the semester schedule, I'd like to reflect on the panic that arises when students in required introductory physical science classes come to the end of a course and realize that they haven't retained anything! What is the correct approach to triaging such situations? Of course, the best way to engage with material is by answering questions that are similar to those that will be on the examination, and most professors will be kind enough to tell you what the format and types of questions will be. Generally, there are two types of questions you will find: qualitative and quantitative. I'll deal with the best way to study for each type of question in turn.   Qualitative Questions The tendency here is to think that cramming and memorizing facts is the best way to go to answer such multiple choice, free response, or essay questions on qualitative subjects. However, this is not often the case.... read more

A lot of my students always wonder.  Why is Chemistry so hard?  Why is Chemistry important? A teacher that I look up to once told me there is no higher road to learning.  There is no way around learning science other than practice, practice, practice.  Make sure that you are employing problem solving skills.  When you approach a problem, one technique that I always use is to write down all the information that I can gather from the text body of the problem.  And then write down what the question is asking for.  This will always give you a hint as to which formula to use.  This works with Chemistry, Physics, Math and a innumerous other scientific subjects. Is Chemistry really hard?  Yes it is.  It is a narrow road that Medical Schools and the like use to "weed out" their students.  Why Chemistry, you say?  The problem-solving technique that you use to approach Chemistry problems is the same problem-solving... read more