Physical Chemistry I

Jan 2020

This class is a grind and a half. I hope you're good at math because you're going to need a lot of it. Most of the first unit is combinatorics and statistics, with the following units being more focused around taking integrals and partial derivatives. The textbook usually goes into way more depth regarding the mathematical derivations used in the class than Tim does, so it doesn't hurt to just skim them (as long as you know the physical meaning of what the math is telling you, Tim is big on that. As far as the lectures go, Tim is a fantastic lecturer. He knows how to keep the class engaged with rather dense material and can answer practically any question you throw his way. Workload is fair, but expect to study a good amount. There is a weekly problem set posted, with 3 or 4 of the problems each week to be collected and graded. Make sure you give these the time of day because it's an easy way to get a good grade that's worth 25% of the total. If you want to do well on the final, however, it's a good idea to go through all 10 or so problems posted on each problem set. On one exam, he slightly altered a question from the textbook that wasn't included in the problem set, so going through extra problems can only serve to benefit you. The midterms (25% each) and final (50%) were difficult, but fair. Averages were usually around the 70% mark. Time management is usually the limiting factor; no one every finished their exam earlier than the allotted time (including the 3 hour final). If you went through the problem sets diligently, the material should all be familiar, Tim wasn't one for throwing complete curveballs. He also is generous with partial credit, so even if you can't show all of the math, he usually grants points if yo can explain with words the concepts.

Jan 2015

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.

Dec 2014

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.

Jan 2004

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.