course
Intensive G. Chem Lab

Jun 2011

Avila's class was decent at best, but a lot of times it just seemed to lag on endlessly with a plethora of annoying and senseless protocols. Moreover the manual is terribly vague and cryptic, and though during mentoring sessions you and your partners can try to distribute the work evenly and try to obtain a grasp of the lab so that you are not unprepared, once in the lab you will be left to deal with unclear instructions and complicated and antiquated equipment and will oftentimes be frustrated and in submission to spent 6+ hours in the lab. Also, a lot of the equipment is faulty and in unison with the vague and horrid procedures in the manual you can end up seriously getting flawed results. Although Avila is kind and truly caring of his students, the organization and grading associated with this class is truly a hodgepodge of chaos. You will only get back about 15% of what you completed graded, and be left with no idea as to where your grade is headed. Also, the TAs who graded are way too harsh. They essentially gave everyone poor grades because they grade on completely ridiculous terms. Lab reports can end up being in the 70s and low 80s because of random points taken off for not appropriately numbering graphs and tables, for you data analysis or procedure going here instead of there (pure arbitrary organization parameters never mentioned) and for not mentioning percent error on an abstract (it was never clearly explained what goes into the abstract!). Furthermore, papers and plans of actions got lost, and yeah, it was not good. The worst part of the class however was one of the TAs. I would first like to mention the presence of two TAs, one defined and TA 1 and the other as TA 2. TA 1 was nice, kind, and although obviously very unknowledgeable, he did in fact try to help in whatever way he could and helped expedite any struggling students. Even if he partook in the harsh grading, his kindness and support was something refreshing in the hell that is Havermeyer. Now, on to Mr. Joshua Hyde, or shall I say, TA 2. This person was the most lazy, condescending, narcissistic, diminishing, hypocritical and horrid person that I in my life had ever met. Not only was he rarely present to help the students at all, but at any chance he got he would step out of the room and be on the phone for hours and hours. Also, when anyone would ask a completely logical and good question, this horrid individual would try to make you feel stupid and never truly answer your questions. It was evident that he himself did not know the answer to a question, but instead of saying that he was not aware of the question, he would answer something totally vague and laugh and you and try to make you feel like you were a moron. Also, a lot of the times when people were unsure about something and would ask him for help, he would merely yell at them and them and tell them that they did not read the manual or that he was not going to answer the question. Also, when actually assigned by Avila to help out a group, he would just spend time on the phone and get frustrated when you would ask for help, and furthermore when you told him that you were ready for him to operate the machinery, he would always find some stupid way of saying that you forgot to do something to delay the progress of the experiment. And every single time he would coldly tell you that you forgot to do something totally unnecessary. I also once saw him rudely tell a student to not talk back to him. He also yelled at someone for trying to run a machine without his supervision (a poor soul trying to move on with the experiment when he was nowhere in sight) He was a nightmare. But here's the best part: when Avila would come, the phone would go away and he would become the most well-mannered individual, completely halting his condescending rant to a student for trying to use the machinery (Hyde thought he was the only one who knew anything about the machine) and only saying to Avila (as Avila tried to work the machine) "I was waiting for you, because I wanted to make sure everything goes perfect, and that I did not mess anything up." His hipocrisy made me almost regurgitate my Passion Iced Tea Lemonade from Starbucks. I was glad to leave him, All in all, my grade in the class was far below what I expected, but then again, I had no solid foundations as to what my expectations were. I had to take this class because I was in organic chemistry, and I would have never taken it otherwise.

May 2011

Dr. Avila, the TA's, and the labs themselves are great. They're very instructive, and the labs teach you how to use equipment and methods that are mentioned in class and used in research. However, 5 hours of lab can be tiring, and the Plans of Action are a hassle, and lab reports suck. It's also easy to make a costly mistake (in terms of time) if you don't know what you're doing or weren't paying attention. My group ended on time most days, but the same cannot be said for some of my classmates. This class is definitely worth the effort and time though, and I recommend taking it if you have any prior lab experience or interest in chemistry.

May 2011

If you are taking Intensive General Chemistry or Freshmen Organic Chemistry, I strongly recommend you take this course. Professor Avila is one of those rare teachers in the Chemistry department who genuinely cares about his students and what they learn. At the beginning of the semester, I was debating whether I should take Gen Chem Lab or this class. I am so glad I took this class! To some extent, Gen Chem Lab is like a giant puppy mill for pre-meds who aren't science majors and engineers who despise chemistry. By taking this class, you avoid all of it! I was in Avila's Friday Lab. Although I often spent 6+ hrs in the lab and had no life on Fridays, it was well worth it (Monday lab class tends not to run over). The lab class is only 18 students max, and the experiments are really interesting to do and really applicable to chemistry (especially organic chemistry). The workload is really manageable though tedious. If you have a laptop, I highly recommend you watch a movie while filling out your Flow Charts and Plans of Actions. The lab reports tend to also be really long, but the deadlines for these are extremely flexible. My group turned in one report 2 weeks late, and we were not penalized. Although you may feel like you are drowning a bit in this class (especially at the beginning), the class is curved so most students get either an A or A+. It is definitely well worth it!!!

Jan 2011

Dr. Avila is great. That being said, only take this class if you are a chem major and really like chemistry or if you like inflicting pain upon yourself. Well, it's not that bad but after a few weeks the repetitive plan of actions and 5 hour labs, this class may not be your favorite. And because Mondays generally suck anyway, don't kill yourself and take the Friday section. There are better things to do in life than spend 5 hours of your Friday in lab. If you're a pre-med you really have no reason to be in this class (unless you are in orgo and they 'required' you take this class, not sure how this is enforced though).

Jan 2010

This class was INCREDIBLY frustrating but in the end, very rewarding. You basically never knew what was going on until you got to lab. And even then, you still spent 3 hours just trying to figure out what exactly you are supposed to do. That being said, the group work in this class was a good experience. For the first part of the semester, half of my group did no work at all, forcing this class to be much more work than anticipated. In the end though, I think we all got it together and learned how to split up the work equally. Painful start, though. The teacher and TA are great!!! They are both very interesting and want to help you learn, which was very refreshing! THINK CAREFULLY BEFORE TAKING THIS COURSE. It is intensive, but you don't get any more points for it than taking regular chemistry lab. It is A LOT harder than regular chemistry laboratory, from what I've heard. On the other hand, the experiments are very interesting and realistic. The course was very rewarding once it was over. And another thing to note--- It claims to be 5 hours long, which was hardly ever the case. Most weeks, I spent 6 to 7 hours in the lab.

Dec 2009

This class (c2507) was fantastic; however, only people who have to take it will end up taking it anyway (chem maj, premed, etc.). P. Avila is the nicest friendliest person ever (like a grandpa), and was always helping us to understand the material. Labs were interesting and thought provoking, with many different topic areas (lasers, synthesis, IR, solutions); however this isn't really a gen chem lab, more like a baby pchem lab (He teaches pchem lab also :) 2 more semesters!) I really feel comfortable in a lab now. If he sounds too over your shoulder, he isn't because better than regular gen chem lab, this one is very independent and group based. The labs are long--we stayed late most weeks, plus prep for the lab reports is a pain--a lot of work (~8-10 pages of report per week). Our TA was a pain at times, but helpful if harsh. Tough grader.

Jan 2005

I've heard this said before, but Pechukas is a chem god. For a chemistry class, the lectures were interesting, well organized, and well explained. Morgan Mihok was a decent TA although her section of the course was a little haphazard at times. The problem sets are tough, but once you get them, you are set for the test. Pechukas and Mihok won't help you very much with them but most of the problems are possible if you work in a good group and everyone puts in some time. Also, this is really a physical chem course and not a general chem course, so the math can be tricky at times. All in all, a worthwile class, especially with its amazing curve (B+/A-) and with its ability to get you out of a second semester of chem.

Aug 2004

This course was really one of the best lab courses the university has to offer. Professor Avila is bent on having the students discover science on their own. TA's will only offer you ask them for it- the whole purpose is for the students to reach conclusions on their own. Prof. Avila is almost always present during the course, and he is more than happy to teach the students. You can tell he is very dedicated to his work.

Jul 2004

The class simply sucked. The lab notebook has at least a thounsand mistakes, and worst of all, the instruction team doesn't even bother to follow the notebook. And then there's the problem of those TA's. If you get one of those Chinese TA's, good luck. At first we thought it was the language barrier, but after people communicated with them in Chinese, we realized that they're just idiots. Some other TAs, however, were good.

Jan 2003

Avila is one of the most well-meaning profs i've had at columbia. He really cares about the students and wants them to understand the material. Very excited about chemistry and a great prof to get to know. However, he is highly disorganized and gives A LOT of work. The TA's for this course SUCK (at least when i took it) and usually confused me even more. All lab write-ups are done in groups of 5, which gets really annoying especially when your in a group of slackers