Review Comment

[APPH 4100] Quantum Physics of Matter

December 29, 2018

Venkataraman, Latha
[APPH 4100] Quantum Physics of Matter

I think it's about time for someone to submit a new review of Latha, because the previous two are both incredibly terrifying (but mostly still accurate), so everyone reads them going into the course and loses all hope.

This class is really not all that bad. As mentioned, Latha is a great lecturer and very helpful during both lectures and office hours (never went, but I've heard this). I found her to be very kind and even a little funny, but in a terrifying way. She loves students who participate, so don't be afraid to ask questions! I think she may have eased up on homework in the last few years because I disagree with the review about homework requiring an industrial stapler. It's true that they're mostly reworded Griffiths problem (especially towards the end of the semester) so you can definitely get a really high homework grade without actually learning the material, although you'll just get your ass handed to you on exams.

The exams are really hard, and basically determine your grade. The semester I took it we had no final exam, just three midterms, which were each "cumulative" (but not really). I know the year before mine, she gave two midterms and a final. The first exam, which covered basically everything from a typical first semester course in quantum, was the most conceptual and scared the shit out of everyone for the rest of the semester, but also motivated people to study even harder for the next two, which were a little easier than the first. After the first midterm she also allowed a one-side cheat sheet. You could also choose to not use a cheat-sheet and get a 5% bonus on the exam. The averages on the three exams were 41%, 53%, and 60%. The highest scores on the three exams were 73%, 93%, and 105%.

I think, after asking around, it's true that she curves the class average to around a C or C+, which is pretty jarring considering almost all other classes in APAM curve to a solid B. I have no idea if it's true that she does a historical curve, i.e. it's possible for no one to get an A in the class if it's a "dumb" year. If so, maybe I was in a "smart" year, because there were a few students who still managed to do very well in the class. Someone in the class told me that she, and two of her friends, all got A's, which isn't even that bad considering there were only 20 students in the class! I think the final curve is something like add 10% to your total grade and that's roughly the letter grade you'll get. So it's definitely not impossible to do well, as the previous reviews might lead you to believe (or maybe she's just gotten nicer over the years), but you just have to work really hard. But you definitely shouldn't go into the class with no hope!

Also the biggest tip I can give future students is that she loves Cohen-Tannoudji, and really only lectures out of Griffiths for roughly the last third of the course. Do yourself a favor and read CT to study for the exams, it's a much better textbook.

Workload:

3 exams - 30% each, 90% of grade
10 problem sets, lowest one dropped - 10% of grade
No final for us!

January 04, 2011

Venkataraman, Latha
[APPH 4100] Quantum Physics of Matter

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

Beware of the GPA killer.

Unfortunately, this class required for all applied physics majors. So most of us have no choice in the matter. There have been some clever chaps who managed to take Prof. Green's course in the college but the app physics department frowns upon this. Still, I would suggest looking for any alternatives to the course.

First, let me get the positives out of the way, she is an ok teacher. She knows her stuff and follows the textbook. She has a tendency to speed through her lectures but with a bit of extra reading before and after each class, you can keep up. The course itself is interesting (from a physics student's perspective) and covers much of Griffiths has in his book. I should also mention that Griffiths is perhaps the best physics author you'll ever come across. That's about it for the positives.

The negatives... well just about everything else. Her problem sets are ridiculous and most are a huge waste of time. She loves to choose questions that are algebraically tedious that don't add anything to the understanding of the material. You'll look at a question, take 10 minutes to think of a way to get the solution, work through the problem then encounter an integral that takes you 2 hours to solve. When you are done, you will have amassed a stack of paper so huge that you will need an industrial stapler to fasten them together. The class probably accounted for a several trees in the Amazon. She gets most of her questions from the textbook, so most people end up just using the solutions. I for one am against this but I had to drop this stance when I realize that a lot of these questions had no educational value.

Her exams are doubly ridiculous. Typically, an exam mostly covers what was covered in the course thus testing how well you grasp the material. There might be a curve ball question or two that stretches our minds but that's fair and it gives the grades a good spread. Latha doesn't believe in this. Her exams tend to be all curve balls, which seek to test what you don't know. She might throw the class a freebie so that people actually get above single digits. The exams are also long and the questions can be confusing. The two midterms had averages in the 40s and mind you, this was a class filled with first year grad students who were mostly taking this class as a refresher for their qualifiers. Seriously, how can you give an exam and have the class, on average, not being able to get half the questions right??? I wonder how she sleeps at night. But wait, it gets better. She doesn't curve.

Got that? To be honest, I am really not 100% sure how she assigns her grades but I was about a half a deviation about the mean for her two midterms (~50s), got roughly 90s on the problem sets and I was pretty confident about how I did in the finals. In the end, she gave me a glorious C+. So that means she either doesn't curve and uses a fixed scale based on percentages to award letter grades or she curves but to something like C. Either way, I am positive a few Ds were dished out.

I took Applied Em with her the semester before and about 10 people were in the class. I spoke to about 5 people and the highest grade was a C+. Go figure.

In the end, I can say this class forced me to master QM. I am pretty confident about my grasp of the subject but I have absolutely nothing to show for it. Thank you Lantha for ruining my GPA.

Workload:

problem set every week. Long, very long. (15%)
two midterms hard (20% each) avg. ~40%
final difficulty on par with midterms (40%)
Class participation (5%) I have no idea what this is about.

January 01, 2008

Herman, Irving
[APPH 4100] Quantum Physics of Matter

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

I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND TAKING THIS COURSE AS A JUNIOR!!! HEED THIS WARNING!!!

Everything about this class seems wrong, and yet they allow it to be taught in the department. For starters, Quantum I and Quantum II topics are mashed into one semester. He requires attendance, but he FLYs through material, proofs, and derivations leaving nothing to be learned. The book is ponderous to say the least; it could bore a rock. I would suggest high taking this course as a graduate student, unless you are in Applied Physics in which case you should take this your senior year coupled with A LOT of easier 3000 level classes, or some less demanding 4000 level classes.

Workload:

Weekly HARD TIME CONSUMING problem sets consisting of ~5 problems (start the problem set immediately when you get it) 25%, 1 (suprisingly) moderate midterm 30%, 1 slightly harder final 45%.

December 15, 2006

Herman, Irving
[APPH 4100] Quantum Physics of Matter

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

This professor goes through thirteen out of sixteen chapters in the textbook...tell me, which professor goes through nearly an ENTIRE textbook in QUANTUM PHYSICS? By the end, there is so much material, it is impossible for undergraduates to master everything. To give you an idea of how much time he probably would have wanted you to devote to this class: half the problems in the homework sets are "extra" problems that undergrads don't do (and graduate students should do because this class is almost catered to them) that USED to be required but Herman made them optional because people were complaining about the insanity of the length of the homeworks. It probably wouldn't be as bad if he actually tried to make us understand the material, which he does but unsuccessfully. So you be the judge: poor pedagogy, biblical amounts of work, and it's quantum physics.

Workload:

if you're very diligent, and start early/work nonstop, or if you're a grad student, it can work out.

September 15, 2003

Herman, Irving
[APPH 4100] Quantum Physics of Matter

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

There is no doubt that Herman is incredibly intelligent. Unfortunately, he possesses none of the qualities a good professor has. He is not approachable in that he expects you to understand certain things before taking his class. He will make you feel stupid, not on purpose, but rather because he thinks what you're saying IS stupid. He also thinks that Quantum is the only course his students take during a semester, and that they should devote all their time to the class. The amount of background studying required for this class is far beyond what any undergrad with more than 12 credits can handle. Finally, he lectures for himself and for the grad students. He does not concern himself with the stragglers (undergrads) in the class, and races through the material to maximize material covered rather than maximize understanding. DO NOT TAKE THIS COURSE AS AN UNDERGRAD!

Workload:

weekly PSETs, midterm, final

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Latha Venkataraman 2012 Fall TR / 10:10-11:25 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Latha Venkataraman 2010 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Latha Venkataraman 2009 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Latha Venkataraman 2008 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Irving Herman 2007 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Irving Herman 2006 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Irving Herman 2005 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Irving Herman 2004 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Irving Herman 2003 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E4100: Quantum Physics of Matter Irving Herman 2002 Fall TR / 10:35-11:50 AM 1