Jean-Luc Picard Failed Orgo

April 29th, 2013

Yes, you read that title correctly: Jean-Luc Picard, the greatest starship captain of all-time, failed organic chemistry at Starfleet Academy. In his defense, it was probably less to do with intelligence and more to do with being distracted:

I pulled that video clip so I can show it to my students during our opening lecture. It should go well with the “How to Win Orgo” handout.

Update (5/1): Thanks to a tip in the comments from “bad wolf”, I went and pulled a clip from Star Trek: Generations where it is revealed that one of Picard’s ancestors won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It makes his failure in orgo all the more astonishing.

16 Responses to “Jean-Luc Picard Failed Orgo”

  1. Paul Says:

    Also, I love Wesley Crusher from Season 5 (after he went through most of the hardships of growing up and before he became disenchanted with Starfleet).

  2. Slurpy Says:

    Just read your handout, and I’m glad I’m not the only person that appreciates Fleming’s texts! In fact, I just wrote a review on Amazon here!

  3. bad wolf Says:

    Isn’t there a line in an episode somewhere that one of Picard’s ancestors had won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry? Alas details elude me…

  4. shoy Says:

    Yeah, but to be fair, there are a bunch more compounds/elements to remember in the 25th century!

  5. Lyle Langley Says:

    Where does one download the “Who is Jean-Luc Picard” handout? So you’re going to be one of those “trying” to be funny profs, huh?

  6. qvxb Says:


    I would be nice if you could post a video of one of your lectures on YouTube, for thiose of us who can’t be there in person.

  7. bad wolf Says:

    By the way, i always wondered what the point of organic chemistry was in a world of matter replicators and transporter technology.

  8. Slurpy Says:

    Hey, if Kirk needed to make black powder, maybe Picard needed to make meth. #breakingtrek

  9. Paul Says:

    @qvxb: I am probably going to set up a YouTube channel for course related stuff. I am slated to teach orgo I and II to the chemistry majors this year. With that said, this will be my first time heading a course and I imagine it might get a little choppy at times.

    @Lyle: I think humor can be used to good effect to connect with students. Granted, not every student will agree on what is funny and what jokes are effective, but I’ll stand by my record.

  10. Lyle Langley Says:

    I hope your shoulder is still intact after all the back-patting you’re doing.

    I hate to burst your bubble, but those evaluations are pretty meaningless. I was someone who really didn’t care for the teaching aspect of graduate school – still don’t really care for it – and was by far the hardest of the TA’s at the time. Yet, at the end of the semester got nothing but great reviews – no, my shoulder is fine. Yet, other TA’s that were really into teaching, and had a great rapport with their classes received much lower review scores. Go figure.

    Now, go get that shoulder checked out.

  11. Slurpy Says:

    Maybe you were a good teacher, despite your best intentions, and the TAs that really tried just sucked at it. Having a good rapport with students doesn’t mean they actually learned the difference between cerium and cesium.

  12. Paul Says:

    @Lyle: It’s great that you made a positive connection with your students and they appreciated it. I just don’t understand what you’re advocating. Here it seems to be: (i) don’t use humor and (ii) don’t share your successes. I believe it’s fine to use humor when teaching, and I provided data in support of this belief with a link to the old teaching eval post. I also have no problems with sharing stories of past success, especially considering this is my site and there are plenty of examples where I’ve discussed past failures and weaknesses. Maybe some people who come here will find them helpful? So many of the comments you leave here and on CJ’s site drip with disdain. What is it that you like about our sites that makes you return? Just the ability to dissent and steer readers in what you believe to be the right direction in the comments?

  13. bad wolf Says:

    He congratulates himself for not patting himself on the back. Tautology!

    Also the old “I was better at something than other people that cared about it even though it’s beneath me.” Bonus points!

  14. Paul Says:

    @bad wolf: I pulled the clip about Picard’s relative who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (see update in main post). It’s from Star Trek: Generations.

  15. qvxb Says:

    bad wolf,

    I think the original replicator synthesized organic molecules from alcohols containing four carbons or less and any needed inorganic reagents.

  16. bad wolf Says:

    Nice find! I guess it illustrates that there’s no “royal road” to chemistry. Or perhaps Picard was exaggerating a bit–i can also imagine that he would think of a B as “failing.”

    qvxb–that also sounds like an exercise for first-year organic students.

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