So, this is the first time Heicklen teaching Molecular Bio along with Manley. Manley lectures were great, the exams fair, and he was very clear on his expectations and the material overall. Heicklen is a stark contrast to Manley. She's never taught the subject before-except in Intro.Bio- and it really shows. Her slides are all over the place, she gives extremely poor explanations to results of articles that were not assigned but presented in the lecture by herself, and her exams are a poor and pathetic imitation of Mow. Her deficiencies as a lecture do not show in Dev.Bio because she's been teaching it for ages and she knows what she's doing and how to hide them... However, in Molecular Bio she's been a huge disappointment.
The class was divided as usual - the first half of the class covered DNA, and was taught by an adjunct (Professor Arias). The second half covered RNA, and was taught by Professor Manley. Arias's half was organized and structured pretty well - the homework assignments helped a lot with reinforcing the stuff learned in class and there were a lot of tie-ins with current research in the field. However, the execution was pretty poor - for all his enthusiasm and helpfulness, Arias was honestly a pretty poor lecturer, and the slides could be pretty boring or pointless at times. Manley's half seemed to be the complete opposite - his lectures were clear and excellent, but most of his exams involved heavy rote memorization (some questions were along the lines of "Describe the function of the enzymes whocaresase and dontrememberase"), and research articles were relegated to presentations by the TAs on the last day of class that left a lot to be desired (I'm pretty sure the majority of people in the class couldn't answer the article questions on the final). In addition, while Arias had a kind of animated enthusiasm about him, Manley's style of lecturing was a little monotone and slightly dry - "measured doses of enthusiasm," as friend of mine in the class put it.
If you've worked in a research lab before and want to understand the basis behind a lot of the techniques you've been doing (DNA extraction, ChIP, PCR), you should definitely take this course. Jenni Punt is a fabulous lecturer, also one of my favorite's in the Bio Department. She's genuinely interested in having her students come to understand the material and her approach to learning isn't just stuffing you with textbook facts from Alberts but also includes placing certain scientific advancements in their historical context and discussing experimental applications of these techniques. Unfortunately for Jim Manley, he has to teach the second half of a class already bedazzled by the wonders of Jenni; that's probably why I think many of us find him to be *a tad* more uninteresting. While Jenni covers DNA, Jim's work is on RNA, and his lectures mainly involve copying/pasting figures from Albert's (and occasionally from other sources) onto the powerpoint. I found his lecture slides to be entirely incomprehensible without attending lecture, so be sure to do that. His pacing can be erratic, as some topics take unnecessarily long for him to unpack, and he breezes through other things (like rRNA processing) which did end up becoming an exam question. Both Jim and Jenni also love asking those "pondering" questions that involve class contribution...I found them to be quite enlightening, as they helped me see many different approaches to a particular problem, even though they oftentimes may have been looking for a particular answer. Bottom line—this class is definitely worth taking, and I believe it was curved quite well. No reason to not succeed if one keeps up with the material, as is the case with any other upper level bio elective. Also, Darpan and Leila were both fantastic TAs and deserve a shoutout.
After having a horrible AP Bio. teacher in high school, I didn't think it could get any worse, I was wrong. If I had not taken AP before, i would have NO idea what is going on. He loves to complain about how the textbook has some mistakes, talk about calling the kettle black. One of his favorite things to do, is to go into tedious details about certain subjects, and then say "but you won't need to know that for this class", inferring "I need to continually remind you that I know everything about microbiology...". Last class we switched between the lecture notes for three classes because he has no focus.
This was her first year teaching molecular bio, so I will give her some leeway for that. And surely, Prives knows her stuff as a researcher. However, she did not do a very good job of explaining the material on her slides. Actually, it's not quite accurate to call them her slides, since she just re-used Carol Lin's slides (the prof who used to teach mol. bio) for most of the course. Since they were not her slides, she sometimes did not know the significance of one slide or another, and when they'd come up, she'd look confused and then just move on. In general, she didn't do a very great job of explaining the more complicated concepts. The big upshot was the textbook. Which was awesome, and extremely straightforward and clear (which Prives was not). I studied the book for hours, and then referenced it with her notes, and only then understood what she was trying to say in lecture. I think our TA made our tests, and it wasn't very difficult, as long as you read the book and understood it. If you tried to study from class notes alone, you might be a bit lost.
Carol Prives is without a single doubt, one of the worst, unimpassioned teachers that this University employs. Her hour and 15 minutes of slow droning lecture seemed to last forever and often made me regret being alive. I as most students in the class found our only solace in the exceptionally deep sleep that her badly organized and uninspired lectures put us into. I'm not even sure that the woman even knows what half of the things covered in her course are. Most questions during lectures were met with "umm, I don't know", or "i'm not sure about that, i'll have to check," and were never followed up. The material is not otherwise so uninteresting, but there was no clear overall structure to the course and the facts that we needed to study were often random. Her powerpoint lectures were clearly not made by her, and the slides were often filled with errors where she did make an effort to change them. Professor Prives seems to want nothing more than to not have to teach at all, and perhaps this would be better for us all. Her half of the course is followed by Manley's, whose is marginally better. He is a terrible lecturer in his own right, but at least he knows what he is talking about and has an idea of what the word "organization" means. Exams mainly asked for explanitory definitons and rarely for any kind of analytical thinking. Prives really solidified an idea in me that upper level Biology at Columbia strips the fun and critical thinking that Biology is supposed to be about. Do not take this course.
Hands down the worst professor I've yet to have at Barnard or Columbia.
Prof Mohler is very kind and cares a lot about his students. He has good intentions, however you may leave his office more confused than when you came there. He's brilliant and thinks you are not, however, you will feel that you have learned so much by the end of the course. You must study the notes if you are to do well in the class. If you want to understand your notes later, you really should tape the lectures. The take-home midterms are nearly impossible. you will stare at them for a few days before you even begin to understand what he's asking. but if you put enough time into them, you will do well. he puts a lot of time into making them, and they are entertaining, but don't try to figure them out right away, b/c he's notorious for finding mistakes in the data given. you may spend hours and hours trying to figure out a problem only to find that he messed up. this class is hard work, but gratifying if you are up to a challenge. also the curve is very accomodating.
Pretty much anyone can teach a molecular biology class. Just look at the textbook, make some PPslides, and regurgitate. But to be a good MB professor takes something extra - a unique insight into the field, an ability to introduce details as part of broader concepts, or maybe just enthusiasm. One thing is for sure, Mrs. Lin does not have that "something extra." She has managed to turn lecture into nothing more than a pointless formality. I have yet to learn one thing, to be given one insight, that I could not have read directly out of a textbook. Beyond this, she is just ANNOYING. She's smug, she has no sense of humor, and she tries to show that she has some kind of expertise by making horrendously banal comments about biology and the nature of research. If you have any sort of intellectual interest in molecular biology, this is not the teacher for you.
The material in this class is often difficult and Prof. Mohler's teaching style was sometimes confusing. However, despite it being a 9 AM class I never fell asleep. He is a mediocre lecturer, not the worst, not the best. But here comes the good part: He curves around an A! The median grade (usually in the 70s) on all his tests were an A. The lowest final grade he gave was a B or B-. One student even got an A+. His curve is the best kept secret.