Last fall, 2014, I decided to make a career change to become a Registered Dietitian. I’d apply to a Master’s program in Nutrition, and be on my way.
Not so fast.
With a previous BA in Communications and Journalism, I had a lot of science to catch up on. And because I was interested in going into nutrition, I quickly realized this meant a lot of chemistry was in my future.
Chemistry Prerequisites for a Masters in Nutrition
The undergrad prerequisites vary slightly, depending on which master’s program you’re looking at. But, no matter where you go, you can probably count on needing the following undergrad classes for most nutrition programs.
- General Chemistry (2 semesters or 3 quarters)
- Organic Chemistry (1 semester or 2 quarters)
- Bio Chemistry ( 1 semester or 2 quarters)
Most schools might not list all of these… but don’t be fooled. Sometimes they’ll list only 1 quarter of required Gen Chemistry, and 1 quarter of Organic Chemistry. But here’s the issue – you need three quarters of General Chemistry to get into Organic Chemistry. And, usually, you need at least 2 quarters of Organic Chemistry to get into Bio Chemistry. So, even if they don’t list all of these classes as prerequisites for your program of interest, you’ll still likely need them to get into the required prerequisites. So just be aware of that.
Ugh… that’s a lot of Chemistry…
That’s what I thought. I originally got a BA in Communications so I wouldn’t have to apply my brain to complicated things like chemistry. But I’m now a year into my classes and I’ve made it to Bio Chemistry, and I can say it hasn’t been too bad. I’ve actually enjoyed each class, and been fairly successful in each one. But, it wasn’t easy. Along the way I found a lot of study tools and resources that helped me for each class, and I thought I’d share them for anyone else feeling lost in a sea of Chemistry.
Below you’ll find study tools for each of the following chemistry classes:
- General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Bio Chemistry
1) General Chemistry Study Tools
For some general chemistry is considered the easiest of the series. That’s probably true, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, and I actually struggled with it more than Organic Chemistry. This may be because there’s a lot of new concepts that set the foundation for all of the future classes. So, it’s important that you get those concepts down. Here are a few resources that helped me out.
Tyler Dewitt’s Videos on Youtube
Youtube is a god send to students these days. This is something I didn’t have the first time I went through school, but now you can find a video for almost any topic you want. And, if you’re struggling with stoichiometry, acids and bases, or any other Gen Chem concepts, Tyler Dewitt’s your man. Tyler’s actually a high school science teacher, but that doesn’t make him any less helpful for college Gen Chem. He breaks down concepts and explains them slowly so they make sense. I like that.
Tyler also did a a Ted Talk, which you can see here. Pretty good stuff.
Chemistry Study Charts
This was one of the few study guide resources I bought for General Chemistry, aside from the required text books. Usually, I don’t care too much for these guides, but I did find this useful for Gen Chem, mainly because you constantly need access to a periodic table. Having easy efficient access to a periodic table was enough to make this $7.00 purchase a value for me. It saved me a lot of time and frustration from having to flip back and forth through text book pages from the periodic table to other formulas.
You can usually pick these up from any college book store, or you can pick it up from Amazon for about $7.00. This Quick Study Academic one liked to is the one I used, and liked.
General Chemistry as a Second Language by David Klein
I’ve never actually used this book. But, I did use the Organic Chemistry as a Second Language book when I took Organic and it was key to my success. David Klein does a great job of taking massive amounts of information and breaking it down into the most important concepts. Knowing what I know about him now, I wish I would have had this book for Gen Chem.
It’s about $45.00 on Amazon.
2) Organic Chemistry Study Tools
I took two quarters of Organic Chemistry in an accelerated summer course, that packed the material into 6 weeks. It was great to get this done with quickly, but at such a brisk pace, you had to grasp the concepts quickly and be able to apply them as there were tests every day. This was even trickier for the first quarter as I often felt at odds with the professors teaching style. For that first quarter I leaned heavily on David Klein’s Organic Chemistry as a Second Language and the videos from Leah4Sci.com. And, I pulled off an A-, so I think they did the job.
David Klein’s Organic Chemistry as a Second Language
I mentioned David Klein’s books already, but I really can’t over emphasize how great this book is. If you want to do well in Organic, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase this book. If you have time, I’d actually read through the entire book before you start your first class. If you do, you will have a good jump start and understanding of the key principles in Organic Chemistry. Every day I left class confused, this was my go to book. Klein made confusing concepts from class seem simple in his book.
New, this book is about $50. For such a small book, it seems very expensive. But, because of the understanding it gave me this was one of the best school books I’ve ever purchased. I’ll likely sell back my text books, but I’ll hold onto this for many years to come.
A couple more quick notes if you’re thinking about picking it up.
- Get a new copy. Don’t get used. I saved like $10 by ordering a used copy, and it ended up having a lot of writing in it which ruins all of the practice problems. I returned it, spent $10 more and got a new copy and don’t regret it.
- This book comes in two volumes. There’s one that covers first semester topics, and another for second semester topics. At $50 a piece, that adds up. But, I honestly can’t recommend these books highly enough. I suggest getting both. If you don’t use them, you can probably sell them on Amazon used and make most of your money back, as long as you don’t write in them.
Checkout the reviews on Amazon, and you’ll see that I’m not the only one who loves this book.
These videos are done by Leah Fisch who offers online tutoring services for Organic Chemistry and the MCAT. I never had Leah as a tutor but I imagine she’s great, based on the free videos she’s put together. Her YouTube videos were my second go to for getting concise breakdowns of confusing organic chemistry topics that my professor didn’t explain clearly. For my first quarter of organic chemistry I often left the classroom completely overwhelmed and unclear on everything we covered. Leah helped clear things up. I also remember her NMR videos being particularly helpful, if you have any trouble there. Thanks Leah.
MasterOrganicChemistry.com’s Reaction Flashcards
Technically, you can make these flashcards yourself on note cards. And, I think the process of making those note cards really helps you start memorizing the reactions. But, this app is pretty helpful too. I personally did both – I downloaded the app, and I made my own flashcards. The app was only $5.00 and nice to have for quickly reviewing. Plus it’s nicely organized. You can choose to focus on certain types of reactions, like just alcohol, Acid-base, or elimination reactions. So, you can pick where your weak and focus on those areas. I found it helpful.
You can download it on iTunes here. MasterOrganicChemistry.com also has a number of other resources, including some free guides and an App with information on all the organic chem reagents that all might be worth checking out. I had the reagents app, but didn’t end up using it much personally.
Organic Chemistry Model Set
Most professors will recommend purchasing your own model set for Organic chem. Some may even require it. I had one, and found it especially useful for thinking in three dimensions. In particular, when we first learned about “chair” conformation, and “flipped chair”, this model set was particularly helpful. They also really help you understand steric hindrance, and bond angles, because you can easily visualize why certain orientations are unstable.
I was fortunate enough to inherit one of these sets from my brother, cause these model sets are about $60.00. You can try to pick one up used, or maybe find someone who took Organic chem in the past. These model kits don’t change so it doesn’t matter how old it is. Here’s the one I have. It worked well.
3) Biochemistry Study Tools
I’ve only been taking biochemistry for 3 weeks, so this will be brief. My success is yet to be decided, but I have found a few helpful resources I’ll share. As I discover more, I’ll add them below.
Kevin Ahern’s Biochemistry Lecture Videos
Kevin Ahern is a professor of Biochemistry at Oregon State University, and he’s awesome. Checkout his Youtube channel and you’ll see that he posts all of his Biochem lectures from each quarter. He seems to be loved by his students, and I can see why. Like many of the other resources listed previously, Kevin is great at breaking these confusing topics down and explaining them in a way that makes sense. If you need to hear concepts explained somewhat slowly, these videos are great. Below is his most popular video on YouTube, about Hemoglobin, yay!
Videos by AK Lectures
I just discovered these videos a couple of days ago, so haven’t dug in too heavily. It looks like they have some great Biochem videos on primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structure of proteins. I orginally found their videos while trying to understand SDS-PAGE gel electrophoresis. Here’s that video below. I’m sure I’ll be visiting AK Lectures again soon when I get confused in Biochemistry… guaranteed to happen this week.
Okay – that’s all for now. I hope someone finds these chemistry resources helpful. If you have any other tools or resources you suggest, please feel free to add them in the comments.