Review Comment

Physical Chemistry I

January 17, 2015

Berne, Bruce
Physical Chemistry I

Professor Berne and TA Matt made a great team and made Physical Chemistry a relatively painless experience. I really enjoyed learning the material for this class, but be warned, the textbook (though necessary to read) is riddled with errors. Also, make sure to review the basic techniques of differentiation and integration. You will need calculus for this class!

Professor Berne is hilarious and does not deserve the poor reviews he has received. He truly loves the subject matter, makes himself available after class and during office hours for questions, and really does respond to student feedback. Sure, he makes some mistakes on the board but he corrects them when someone informs him and as long as you are proactive and paying attention, the occasional mistake shouldn't be detrimental to your understanding of the material.

Please, please go to class. There was a contingent of students who showed up to the final and I swear I had never seen some of them before. Even though Matt posted his notes online, Berne is entertaining and his explanations are often very good.


Assigned Work: Biweekly problem sets (not collected)

What you should do:
1. Read the assigned reading BEFORE class (easier said than done). I understood the lectures better when I did this.
2.Study for weekly quizzes but do not fall behind on new material.
3. Ask questions right away as concepts build of one another.

If you do all this and stay on top of the material, PChem can be an enjoyable experience.

December 18, 2014

Berne, Bruce and Mayers, Matthew
Physical Chemistry I

I've been fortunate enough to have a series of great professors in the Chemistry Department. I'm happy to say I can add Professor Berne to this list. I thought by the end of it that I had a solid introduction to the discipline that is Physical Chemistry.

Pre-requisites: General Chemistry (of course). Although the course requires Physics I and II as pre-reqs, I don't feel as though we went beyond using F=ma. Calculus I,II,III are needed. There aren't many difficult integrations (except in Stat Mech) in the course however you should feel comfortable with partial derivatives as they are used frequently throughout the course.

Course: Physical Chemistry I covers Thermodynamics, Kinetics, and some statistical mechanics. It begins by exploring whether or not a reaction will occur spontaneously and then moves into how fast a reaction will occur. Some of this is very reminiscent of general chemistry, only taken a step further and thus more in depth. The class concludes with statistical mechanics (partition functions, the canonical ensemble, etc.) and used to derive the equations used throughout the course. Overall, it was an enjoyable subject mater. I found myself saying "this is cool" and "I love pchem" throughout this course.

Class (Professor Berne): Class was very useful to attend. Professor Berne was always enthusiastic about the material he was teaching and as a result I never really lost interest in the subject matter (he throws in humor periodically which i genuinely found funny). He is very clear with his notes on the board and goes at a reasonable pace. Furthermore, he would always make sure to answer any questions before moving on to the following topic. The only time I was at a complete loss was around Statistical Mechanics. It's more of a fault of the subject matter itself than Professor Berne as you really need to work out the math and derivations on your own to really understand it. This is when attending class is indispensable as I found that the lecture did a better job than the textbook when handling the subject. In regard to the reviews below, professor Berne only used power point maybe once in our class (understandably as the diagrams used would be heard to re-create by hand). He makes them available on coursework as a supplement rather than a required reading. Overall, Professor Berne is funny, concise, and excellent lecturer.

Recitation (TA Matt Mayers): Best TA at Columbia, but I'll be brief. Matt took the time to type out ALL of the class notes and made them available to the students. His recitations were helpful in clearing up any confusion and as a result were worth attending. Definitely made PCHEM less painful than it probably should have been.

Midterm: Actually a Mid-Term. It covers all of thermodynamics (minus electrochem). The questions were related to assigned HW problems and topics covered in depth in lecture. Overall they were reasonable albeit a bit lengthy.
No formula sheet. Probably one of the few things I disliked only because effort was put into memorizing them rather than being able to apply them.

Final Exam: The final exam was split into two tests. Test 1 spanned the whole course. Test 2 covered material after the midterm only. Pretty long so you may want to focus on one test first rather than jumping from one to the other. See Workload for more info.


HW: Professor Berne told us to take our book to lunch with us...he meant it. The assigned readings supplemented the material covered in lecture. If you read the chapters as he assigned them, you will get more out of the lecture. The assigned HW problems were useful and a great indicator of what was expected of you on exams.

Weekly HW problem sets and reading (10-15 problems, 1 chapter-ish)

25% Quiz at end of each chapter (similar to HW problems)

Originally the midterm was 25% and final 50%, however, professor Berne changed it to the following

Three tests, 37.5% each, lowest test dropped

1 midterm (Thermodynamics)
Final Test 1 (Thermodynamics, Kinetics, Stat Mech)
Final Test 2 (Kinetics, Stat Mech)

January 21, 2004

Adams, David
Physical Chemistry I

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I think Adams is an exceedingly nice guy who relates and cares about students. He has a relaxed, approachable manner that put me at ease. He's also really smart, which means he sometimes leaves a class in the dark without realizing it. At the end of the semester, he insisted that people who had 2 other exams take all 3 one the same day - a mistake in my opinion. It pissed a lot of people off, so I think there's some bad blood there. But his exams and grading were extraordinarily fair in my opinion. He will actually test you to understand the material, not regurgitate it. If you want to actually put in the time to learn something, I think you'll like Adams, if not, take a pass. Memorizers beware.


problem sets due each week including exam weeks, 2-3 midterms and a big final. you got to drop a grade.

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