August 28, 2006

Mauel, Michael Silver_nugget
[APAM 1601] Introduction to Computational Math and Physics

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

This class became my favorite of the semester in no small part due to Prof. Mauel. He is an excellent teacher. I had not seen that level of enthusiasm in a teacher before. Sometimes he'll even exclame: "Isn't that cool?!" I sincerely hope that I can take another course of his before I graduate.

I had no real programming experience before this class. I had worked a little with computer algebra systems before, but not extensively. This course gives a broad introduction to the world of computational science. It makes use of Mathematica, which is installed in all the computer labs. The topics vary from year to year, but expect to see some of the following:

* Orbital dynamics
* Chaos theory
* Fractals
* Digital signal processing, e.g. image/audio compression, filtering
* Protein folding
* Quantum mechanics

Every week, Mauel gives an assignment that incorporates much of what was discussed in the last class. All the files are available for reference and often all that is necessary to complete the assignment is to copy and paste the code from the class notebook into the homework notebook and modify the code a little. You don't need to be a programmer: just pay attention in class and don't be afraid to ask Mauel for help. He is extremely helpful and understanding. Mathematica has detailed help built-in for every function. Information can be looked up very quickly.

In addition to homework assignments, the class has 4 projects to be completed through the term. There is no final exam. The projects are like harder homework assignments. If you satisfy all the basics, he'll give you an A. If you really put in the effort and do something original, he's happy to give you extra credit.

Of all the pre-professional courses, this one may be the trickiest, but you'll learn a lot of really cool stuff and Prof. Mauel is a fantastic teacher.

Workload:

Moderate: 1-3 hours for a homework assignment
Workload can increase substantially if you complete original projects.