Miller School Scientists Publish Organic Chemistry Textbook

Bohdan Khomtchouk, a third-year genetics and genomics Ph.D. candidate working in the Center for Therapeutic Innovation and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has spearheaded the publication of an organic chemistry textbook, Survival Guide to Organic Chemistry: Bridging the Gap from General Chemistry, with CRC Press (Taylor & Francis), a leading academic publishing house.

Khomtchouk, a recipient of the prestigious three-year National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship awarded through the US Department of Defense, is joined in authorship by his graduate advisor, Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Dean and Center Director for Therapeutic Innovation, and Patrick E. McMahon, Ph.D., adjunct faculty member at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois.

“As DNA is a polymer, understanding its activity in the three-dimensional context of the cell has direct roots in organic chemistry,” said Khomtchouk. “For example, mathematically modeling the spatial and temporal dynamics of chromosomes via computational simulations is a difficult task if done without a good understanding of the chemistry behind DNA polymer ensembles in different states of compaction. A strong background in organic chemistry is essential towards satisfying this prerequisite.”

Organic chemistry has a reputation for being a tough class in college.

“There is certainly a conceptual and intellectual leap going from general to organic chemistry,” said Khomtchouk. “This was, in fact, a driving force behind writing the textbook. Now is a time more important than ever to lay a strong organic chemistry foundation in today’s college population. We owe it to the future of genetics and genomics, as well as other areas such as cutting-edge drug discovery.”

Wahlestedt, who has close links to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, echoes those sentiments.

“The foundation of successful drug discovery is creative organic chemistry, from the whiteboard, through computational approaches, to the bench,” he said. “We hope that our textbook not only helps students navigate the waters from general to organic chemistry, but also inspires the next generation of drug hunters. To this end, the book’s title is a fitting reflection of its aim and content. We have sought to create a textbook designed to be picked up immediately after finishing the general chemistry I/II course sequence. We hope that this contribution leaves a lasting, measurable effect on the success of the undergraduate teaching curriculum, both in the U.S. and abroad.”

Khomtchouk, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Mathematics and Physics at Benedictine University, noted the importance of the subject matter to science at large.

“Organic chemistry is at the heart of not only DNA, but also the biological sciences in general,” he said. “However, nature doesn’t think in terms of biology or chemistry or physics. Instead, it tends to throw some pretty complex interdisciplinary questions our way, challenges that students need to be educationally prepared for in order to solve. Understanding the underlying organic chemistry of many of these complex processes is a significant step towards achieving this goal. This is where we hope our textbook will make its most meaningful impact — arming young scientists with the knowledge they need to make great discoveries at the interdisciplinary crossroads of scientific research.”

The textbook is available for pre-orders on Amazon and the CRC Press website.

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