Review Comment

[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

June 05, 2019

Paerels, Frederik Silver_nugget
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

He is the nicest human being. This is the kind of class where you have no idea what's going on but with some intuition, you punch everything into a calculator and you do well. Solid choice for your science requirement.

Workload:

Pretty light

May 12, 2019

Paerels, Frederik Silver_nugget
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

Super chill class. Interesting lectures. Easy Homeworks and Exams.

Workload:

1-2 hours every two weeks

May 02, 2014

Kay, Laura
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

Professor Kay does not a good professor. She is not enthusiastic in class, is a boring lecturer, does not explain concepts well, creates bad exams (she is not clear in her questions what she wants the answer to be), and does not accommodate students with disabilities well (for quizzes, if they are unable to come to class early to get their extra time, she has them sit in the hallway and miss part of the lecture to finish the quiz).

This being said, Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology is a very easy class to pass. She drops the lowest homework and quiz grade, the quizzes are open notes, and you get one page of notes for the midterm, and two pages for the final. She also offers an extra credit assignment (paper 3-4 pages long about an exhibit at the Natural History Museum or a book on astronomy). And, because so many people take this class to fulfill the quantitative reasoning or lab science requirement, and are just looking for a pass, the curve is HUGE. She also posts the power points from class online beforehand, so you only need to take notes on any extra or clarifying information she says in class (but she does not always post them ahead of time, and not all the information from the in-class powerpoint is the a same as the one on courseworks).

But if you're actually looking to understand the concepts, you need to put in a lot of extra work on your own, go to office hours, and I would recommend taking the lab. If I had not been in lab for this class, I would not have understood many of the concepts as well as I did. Also, a physics or math background (which I have) is extremely helpful, as she does not go over how to use the equations in class. If you want a sample math problem done out, you need to go to office hours.

Workload:

Bi-weekly problem sets. Bi-weekly open-note quizzes. One midterm, one final.
Lowest homework and quiz get dropped, and you are allowed one page of notes for the midterm, and two pages for the final.

November 21, 2013

Kay, Laura
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies and [ASTR BC1753] Life in the Universe

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

Are you a SEAS junior or senior with some time on your hands and want 2 easy A's (possibly A+'s) to boost your GPA? Are you interested in Astro? Then these classes are the classes for you- minimum amount of work for maximum grade return.

Here's some back story- I found myself starting 2nd semester junior year just having gotten the lowest GPA I had ever had. I had literally hit rock bottom. I needed some A's to neutralize the bad grades I got and my major courses weren't helping, so I decided to take this class and what a great decision it was. Yes, they fulfill literally no requirement, but they also factor into your GPA, and 6 credits of A isn't insignificant.

As a SEAS junior or senior in an intro Barnard science class, let's just say it couldn't possibly get more stacked. I literally never went to class except for exams and to hand in homework. Just printing and reading the powerpoints posted online for maybe 10-15 minutes a week is more than enough to learn all the material in this class. The homework is so easy that it becomes almost enjoyable to do them. As a SEAS junior, I'm used to looking at a pset and thinking, Crap, I have no idea how to do this. As a result, just being able to understand all the work at first glance makes me feel accomplished since I'm so used to getting completely pwned by work. Quizzes are also easy as pie. Never study for them- just print the powerpoints and use them in the open book quiz. The questions are real straightforward, just plug and chug. I found myself consistently the first to finish. Midterms and the final, while not open book, are similarly easy and require a minimum of studying. Heck, you even get something you will never ever hear about in a SEAS course- extra credit. In the spring it was a book report- something I hadn't seen since elementary school.

Just a few examples of how easy the course is- the textbook (which is online by the way), literally teaches you ROYGBIV. And in the powerpoints, Kay actually reassures you that there isn't much math and to not panic when logarithms are introduced, as if those would make someone bat an eye, much less drop the class (oh wait...)

In the end, I aced nearly everything and got an easy 6 credits of A with almost no work at all. And to boot, I also got an awesome boost in self esteem and confidence from being easily at the top of the class- something that hasn't happened since high school.

Workload:

If you're in SEAS, literally none compared to everything else you've been through.

June 06, 2013

Kay, Laura
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

Do not take this class. If you’re anything like me, you’re a non –math or -science major looking for the path of least resistance to fulfilling your science requirements. This is not that path.

To be fair, this class is some of the things you’re looking for: absolutely no attendance is required save the midterm, final, and quiz days, nor would it benefit you – of all the bored people with glazed eyes that fill the lecture hall, Professor Kay is by far the most bored of all, her eyes glazier than any. Kay stands up front, reads her Power Points verbatim, and then posts them at the end of class for everyone to download – I can genuinely say I sat through not one full lecture. And it wasn’t for want of trying; each month I’d recommit to attending class and being participatory, and each time that I tried I fled the lecture near the halfway point, re-outraged and re-in-disbelief that all the professor does is quite literally stand at the front of the room and read her bloody slides. Frankly, I am qualified to teach this course.

And please don’t misunderstand me: it’s not like I wasn’t interested, and I’m not allergic to science or anything. Rather, the class is structured in such a way as to wholly eradicate anyone’s interest in the cosmos; it’s an inferno for even the slightest hint of interest or passion you might casually harbor for the subject of stars and the like. The six homework assignments and five quizzes ensure that something is due every week, and the vast majority of the work is math based. The math is by no means difficult, but the concepts necessary to understand the correct application of the given formulas is also never taught, making the process of figuring out what to do with which pieces of information a real bitch. What’s worse, the grading system is really just one big fat curve that doesn’t get applied till after the final, so basically you spend the entire semester getting 16/25 on this quiz and 14/20 on that homework, and stressing frantically about how this stupid class is going to ruin your GPA and wondering whether or not you should cover it up and if it’s even too late to do that, and then, lo and behold, two and half weeks after the semester ends SSOL tells you *Your grade has recently been submitted here* and you click the hyperlinked ‘here’ and there’s a decent grade sitting in the box next to Stars, Galaxies, and the Cosmos.

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not an embittered student seething about a poor grade, or an angry Gender Studies major vexed I had to sit through a class where someone made us use the ‘Cos’ button on a calculator. I got an A, and I was very interested in the material going in. That being said, I spent the entire semester under the pretty-understandable delusion that I was getting a C, I resented every single homework assignment that asked us to apply formulas to complicated concepts that were absolutely never discussed in class, and I reviled the quizzes that seemed a deliberate attempt to conceal what form the answer should be in – often times I would get 7 points off a 20 point quiz for giving a numerical answer when a verbal one was required, and I was far from the only one. Ultimately, I went through the entire semester feeling ignorant of and combative with the material, and the fact that I ended up on the good side of the curve only deepens the farce, indicating how poorly everyone else must have done.

In a word, I can only say that this class seems wholly and perfectly designed to suffocate any interest you may have in astronomy, and to demoralize and discourage those of us silly enough to hope we might enjoy an introductory course in a subject unrelated to our major.

Workload:

See above.

May 06, 2012

van Gorkom, Jacqueline
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

This is actually a really good lab class for non-science majors who need to fulfill the requirement. It is definitely more conceptual than math-based, but there is still a knowledge of basic math for this class.

The class is somewhat boring, and a lot of people chose not to go. She puts all of the slides online after class, so you don't ever really need to take notes, but it is sometimes helpful to go in order to clarify or ask questions.

She seems very sweet, although her accent is a little bit understand at first. She happly answers questions and answers them well. I didn't have a lot of problems with the harshness of the grading, and often got 100% or more on assignments or quizzes with minimal effort.

Workload:

4 homework assignments (make a group for these)
4 quizzes
Midterm and a final

All of the quizzes are open note, and you are allowed to bring a cheatsheet for the midterm and the final.

March 20, 2012

van Gorkom, Jacqueline
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

Worst class I've ever taken because I am a humanities major. She is a very nice woman but her classes weren't much help to the homework or the exams. She is a very fair grader and acknowledges your efforts. The problem sets were very annoying because her lectures didn't have much to do with the questions. But the homeworks and the quizzes overall aren't too bad compared to the earth-shattering exams. I have never seen a midterm graded out of 20 points.

Her TAs need to be fired because they grade WAYYYYYYY harsher than Professor Van Gorkom herself which is absolutely ridiculous.

Workload:

Problem sets for homeworks, quizzes, mindblowingly confusing midterm, final

May 16, 2011

Kay, Laura
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

Are you an art or humanities major? Do you need to fulfill your science requirement? Didn't get into a psych lab? Don't like the idea of environmental science? Like stars? Maybe this class is for you! Yay!

This class was fine. I wish I could give a rave review or brutal critique, but it was just so blah. Professor Kay has a genuine interest in the subject, is clear and organized, and occasionally makes some funny (if incredibly geeky) comments, but somehow, none of that helped.

I think the class lacked energy because so many of us were there to fulfill a science requirement, and Professor Kay knew it. And she was very open about it. I have never had a professor tell me it was OK that I was pass/failing her course, or that getting a C was enough. It's upsetting to me that she didn't care. If she had come into the room with the goal of convincing us that we should be astronomy majors, I feel like the class would have had been much more engaging.

On the other hand, she knows who her audience is (English, Film, Theatre, Art History, Philosophy, and Architecture majors), and teaches accordingly - lots of pretty pictures. One lecture had absolutely no math, but tons of political issues and whatnot.

About half the class only showed up for the midterm, quizzes, and to turn in homework. Professor Kay puts all the PowerPoints online, and if you purchase the textbook, you're set for the all of the homeworks. Somewhere around spring break she started showing a lot of videos every class, mostly melodramatic documentaries/interviews with astronomers with Morgan Freeman narrating.

Oh, last but not least: On the first day of class, she ok'd food and drinks, but banned laptops. By the end of the semester, there were usually about 3-5 people on laptops in every class. Just something to note.

Workload:

- 6 homework sets (make sure you have a calculator!)
- 4 open note quizzes (print out the answers to the last homework assignment - she always puts them online before the quiz, and they're usually very helpful)
- midterm (you get to bring a 1 sided cheat sheet)
- final (you get to bring a 2 sided cheat sheet)

May 08, 2011

Kay, Laura
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies and [ASTR BC1753] Life in the Universe

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

Prof. Kay is great; she's pretty funny, brings in toys during quizzes, and shows a lot of movies. She posts the powerpoints on CourseWorks so you can easily get away with missing a class, but I found myself hardly every wanting to skip her class. Life in the Universe is particularly interesting towards the end of the semester, when she covers alien abductions and UFO sightings. Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology isn't too hard and it covers some of the same material as Life in the Universe so some of it is just review.

Workload:

Quizzes and homework sets every 2 weeks or so, midterm, final, extra credit essay.

September 10, 2009

van Gorkom, Jacqueline
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

Professor van Gorkom is an extremely friendly and accessible professor who is eager to help her students. She loves astronomy and can get students excited about the subject matter. That said, I was often frustrated at the fact that the lectures did not prepare us AT ALL for the difficulty of the problem sets. The problem sets were heavy on the math and physics, while the lectures involved fun discussions about pretty pictures of stars. You walk away from the lectures thinking the class is a breeze, and then you get hit with a problem set from hell. She is more than willing to help you sort it out, but that's not always enough. This tests actually aren't nearly as bad, though- they focus more on the concepts you read up on in the book, which are simple enough to grasp if you devote the necessary time and effort- which is quite a bit. All in all, the lectures are clearly pretty useless, so if you don't understand her through her accent, don't worry. And seriously, the accent isn't quite as bad as some of the previous reviews suggest.
Basically, although I think van Gorkom is a sweetie who really knows her stuff, for a liberal arts student like myself, taking this class is a source of unnecessary stress.

Workload:

About 4 difficult problem sets, 2 or 3 quizzes, and a midterm and final (to which you are allowed to bring a comprehensive "cheat-sheet")

August 06, 2007

Kay, Laura
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

I love Laura Kay! She's funny, interesting, and takes her class seriously, even when most of the other students don't. Her power points were useful, especially to bring to the quizzes or to fill out the "cheat sheet" for the final. I wish I had taken my first semester with her instead of Patterson, but thankfully I had enough sense to switch over spring semester. Stop debating and DO IT!

Workload:

5 quizzes (lowest grade dropped), 5 problem sets (lowest grade dropped), midterm, final

May 15, 2007

Kay, Laura
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

She would post all her notes online, and in her class she would just go through them. Some classes were super-interesting and some very super-boring. The problem sets are easy beyond imagination, but her tests are amibigious and too general.

Workload:

5 problem sets and 5 tricky quizes, final

June 03, 2006

van Gorkom, Jacqueline
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

I have no idea why people had a hard time understanding Professor Van Gorkom's accent. I have a auditory processing problem and had no trouble with it. Get over it people! She is phenomenal, it is amazingly clear that she loves teaching her subject. I was always excited to attend her lectures. While the problem sets may seem difficult at first, with practice they get easier and you get loads of partial credit. She is also very accessible, she always responded ASAP to my e-mails and made time to meet with me. Also, she rescheduled the midterm, so that it did not conflict with a religious holiday. I have recommended this class to my friends.

Workload:

The workload isn't bad: 6 problem sets, a midterm, and a final.

April 20, 2006

Paerels, Frederik Silver_nugget
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

Frits is a really cute guy, and the course is easy--it is a good class for anyone who wants to get a quick, easy background is some major topics in astronomy. Frits is also very helpful and approachable, the only thing is he speaks a little quietly, so make sure to sit in the front!

Workload:

Light. 5 problem sets, midterm and final, all pretty easy.

November 30, 2005

van Gorkom, Jacqueline
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

I have to agree with previous reviewers and say get over your problem with her accent. I found her easy to understand and overall a great professor. She is passionate about Astronomy and wants to share that passion with her students. She is a fair grader, giving LOTS of partial credit if you show your methods, etc. Most of the problem sets can be done easily by just looking up the topic in the book. I am math and science stupid and I am passing the class just fine. I reccomend her over the Columbia professors. You get a lot more individual attention, but can still skip the lecture as you feel necessary.

Workload:

5-6 problem sets (she drops the lowest grade), midterm, and final.

October 15, 2005

van Gorkom, Jacqueline
[ASTR BC1754] Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmologies

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

All those people who have a problem with her accent, really need to GROW UP, and try listening with both ears. If you can motivate yourselves to do the reading, you will be really rewarded in class. She may not be the most effective teacher, but she really is an interesting lady, and she really really cares about her students. ALthough the material she assigns in the problem sets isnt really reviewed much in class, you can figure it out, and she makes herself SO SO available for help. I like the way she runs her class as well, she loves when people ask questions, and she likes letting the class debate in it, its really up to the people in the class to make it a good class. If you take the time to get to know her, she will take the time to get to know you, and ask you about your experiences with science and math, to get a feel of what your background is, and ask about your major and things like that. So stop hating!!

Workload:

5/6 problem sets, reading weekly assigned chapters, midterm, final.

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
PHYB / ASTR PHYB ASTR BC1754: Stars Galaxies & Cosmology: Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology Jacqueline Gorkom 2012 Spring TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
PHYB / ASTR PHYB ASTR BC1754: Stars Galaxies & Cosmology: Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology Laura Kay 2011 Spring TR / 2:40- 3:55 PM 1
PHYB / ASTR PHYB ASTR BC1754: Stars Galaxies & Cosmology: Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology Janna Levin 2010 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
PHYB / ASTR PHYB ASTR BC1754: Stars Galaxies & Cosmology: Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology Laura Kay 2007 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1