course
A Better Planet By Design

May 2014

This was a frustrating class. Each week, you'll have either a guest lecture, or a lecture from Professor Park. The class has five homework assignments, a midterm, a non-cumulative final, and a group project. The workload is fairly light and the grading quite lenient, but that said, if it weren't required, I would have bailed. The material is interesting, but there's very little you couldn't have found out by reading Wikipedia. Most lectures are given by guest speakers, so they often overlap in their introductions, or in their actual content. (How many times can I learn the water cycle in one class? About four.) In addition, Professor Park introduces the speakers, and then peaces out to go do something more important than educate undergrads. As a result, there really isn't any common thread to link the lectures together aside from THE ENVIRONMENT. The project as well was frustrating. It's extremely vague and my group had to change our project four times before Professor Park was satisfied with the topic, let alone the content. This process was slowed down by the fact that she is impossible to meet with. She's often busy during her office hours and if you do get to sit down with her, there's a strong chance she'll answer a phone call and then have to leave before you're halfway done. Upsides: you really don't have to attend class. Grading is lenient. Topics are somewhat interesting. Downsides: too few fucks given on all sides for this to be a good learning experience.

Jun 2010

Brah, shit sucks. Lall tried to teach, but the class was a piece of crap. Sometimes it went in "too deep," this class is supposed to be more "big picture," but seriously sometimes they went in too deep into really boring topics that im pretty sure around 80 percent of the people didn't understand. mid term and final were stupid, they pretty much were like the hw problems but with a thing in each problem that made everyone very confused. This class was really sad, you get something out of a few lectures, but many people were absent and a lot fell asleep, especially during Park's presentations, which were very dry. Many of Lall's were dry too. The TAs are useless, VERY BADLY DESIGNED HW sets, which they don't even know how to solve, it was ridiculous... you'd think they'd care a bit more, but literally it was saddening for me to see how much they didn't care. In the end, the projects you get lucky r you don't. There were some people who did really astounding projects but that really didn't even have anything to do with the class, like some guy whodid some economic analysis... and then reaised the standard. I was sure I'd get an A in this class, I did way above the mean on the mid term which would then be replaced for the final... ended up getting a B, it makes no sense... We worked very hard on our final project... It just shows you some shits are just very mean shits... I really hope i end up taking a EEE class i like, because seriously, this class was ridiculous.

May 2010

The saddest thing about this class for me was that it was clear that Prof. Lall actually cared about it and wanted us to learn about the topics presented. This is because he utterly failed in this regard. The lectures were dry, vague, convoluted, contradictory, and utterly useless if you wanted to download them from courseworks and study them. The latter characteristic has no real significance, however, as none of the homeworks or exams have any connection to the lectures. The graded assignments are all math and equation based, and if you can plug in numbers, you can get an A. The term project consists of a lot of research, a presentation, and a paper as a group of 3-6 and is not really that big of a deal; it is very open-ended and can be as everyday or as outrageous as you want.

May 2009

I would have really liked to write a good review for this class as I have taken away much from the lectures -- which were delivered with passion, enthusiasm, conviction, and scholarly knowledge. Unfortunately, however, the class ended up being a disaster -- in any other way imaginable. First and foremost, we were not tested on anything even remotely related to the lectures. The discrepancy was so absurd, that I thought of the two -- assignments and lectures -- as two different classes. The problem sets and the midterm were absurd not only in that they were overly and unnecessarily complicated, time-consuming yet without any educational value, and designed for various and different engineering classes, but also because they represented, basically, everything that you needed to know for a grade in this class. On one problem set, for example, I spent 5 hours trying to figure out how to use excel to crunch numbers. I got 5/10 on that particular problem because I did not get the exact numerical answer they had. Imagine a 7-page (no kidding!) prompt trying to convey to you without ever stating it that you need to add 2 plus 2. On one hand, if it is an "engineering class," why go around in circles? State the problem concisely, and students will do the number crunching. On the other hand, if the idea is to make students think and learn how to approach a problem, why is the grade based on the numerical answers, not on the procedure followed? "Engineering" in this class meant just figuring out what they wanted of you (not how you should solve it; that was the easy part) -- and it took a whole semester of hard work to even marginally comprehend that. Teaching materials were also disastrous. Instead of having a textbook, we had poor pdf scans of chapters, without a particular logic in sequencing, without suggestive titles, and mixed together with tons of other useless material on courseworks. It took me two hours, when studying for the final, just to find and pull all the files I *might* need from courseworks. In the end, it turned out that we were being tested on using 4-6 formulas, which could have been taught in one single session, and which a good TA could have put together on 2-3 sheets of paper. That's all. However, there are more than 2000 pages of literature there, none of which has any educational value (i.e., tons of graphs, charts, useless trivia, random articles, other teachers' lecture notes on this and that subject, and so on). Overall, the class had the unreal air of listening to a fascinating, coherent lecture by, say, Jeffrey Sachs on poverty or economic development, and then being graded on how well you can solve a seven-page rhymed riddle about penguins and laptops to which the answer is 1.63553. I really took away much from the lectures in this class -- so that makes me a better person I guess -- but the grading was based on some other discipline (mind reading?) I had not signed up for. And of course, as the previous reviewer noted, this was not the only problem with the class. A shame, because it could have been one of the most fascinating classes I ever took.

May 2009

Agree with the last reviewer, except that physics/chem/bio isn't actually necessary for the homework and exams. What is necessary is a lot of quantitative experience up to and including calculus. I survived the ambiguously worded (half because they were trying to get us to think critically about the problem, but ONLY half) homework only because I obtained regular help from a quantitatively inclined friend who was WAY more accessible than the professor or TAs. I got a D on the midterm. Well, actually I don't know that for sure because we were only told what letter grade our score was "around." The General Studies website lists this class as suitable for non-science majors and says nothing about any prerequisites or required knowledge. It was only on the first day of class that the requirements were made clear to us. I sincerely hope that somebody gets smashed for that little oversight. The class was very poorly administered. It was clear that there was very little communication between the TAs and professors, which sure sucks for a class of 100+ students which has the aforementioned complications. The professors would come in and not know when the homework was due even though we'd all received an email from the TAs a day or two prior. Then they'd give us a different due date than the TAs had. Assignments were frequently pushed back, which illustrated flexibility on their part, but I got the feeling that the rollbacks were because so many students were having problems with the conflicting feedback and poorly worded assignments. Oh, and I do believe that every single assignment was followed by at least one email providing corrections to the original-wrong numbers, questions that didn't express what was being asked for, etc. So in conclusion, the subject matter is great, the teachers were enthusiastic and they brought in a lot of guest lecturers, which was great. I learned some cool stuff, most of which I couldn't replicate quantitatively on the hw/exams. But if you had any trouble you were, well...in trouble.

Apr 2009

As a humanities major, I came into this class reading the sterling reviews of Professor Lall and noting that the bulleting listed this as a science class for "Nonscientists." That is NOT true. From the third class, I realized how much calculus, computer knowledge, and physics/chemistry/biology knowledge is involved. Unless you are a premed concentrator, I do not see how a "nonscientist" could handle the class. The majority of the class was in SEAS; I ended up dropping this class due to its difficulty and necessity of a strong science/math background, which I lacked.

Jul 2007

Upmanu is awesome... he's one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and kinda funny too. The classes teaches you a lot about what's going on in the world and the need to do something about it. He makes environmental engineering really interesting; that says a lot as i'm going into finance. you dont need to attend the class, but its fun to. Some of the guest speakers are world renowned people. Take the class, you can do well in it with a little effort.

Apr 2006

Professor Lall is quite possibly the nicest man on earth. He is ALWAYS willing to help you, even though he is very busy and the chair of the Env Eng. Dept. He genuinely cares about his students and actually takes an initiative to get to know everyone. Professor Lall is truly a gem. He even treats us to dinner at the end of the year during finals. This class is a wonderful introduction to earth and environmental engineering. You will definitely want to consider this major after taking this class. All the subject matter is very interesting. TAKE THIS CLASS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even if you do not need for a requirement.

Jan 2006

Professor Lall will make any student love environmental engineering. He is enthusaistic, brilliant, and the nicest guy you'll meet. Lall is very approachable and you can talk to him about anything at all. I encourage anyone to take him whenever possible. You will love his classes, and youll love him too!

Jun 2005

I expected this course to be a somewhat dry analysis of mountains of data, the sort of thing you envision EPA bureaucrats doing every day. Boy was I wrong. Professor Lall showed me that engineering is not just a set of techniques or principles - it's a mode of thought that really bends the mind. His teaching takes the form of a "story" of the ways in which people undertake to influence the environment, the assumptions underlying their actions, and how the environment actually ends up as a result. You need to know some hard science, but you really just need a good head on your shoulders to think through the narratives he presents. If you can keep up, you'll learn about a variety of environmental topics - fish in the Delaware River, air pollution in the South Bronx, flooding and arsenic in Bangladesh, and a whole lot more - but more importantly, you'll understand how to think through a problem and what the place of the engineer in the social and natural landscape can be. Lall is a master. He loves teaching this class and will go to extremes to help you out, whether you're looking for help with the homework or trying to find a summer internship. He's also a really friendly, genuine, approachable guy at the same time as he's a world- renowned expert in the field of environmental engineering. I'll definitely be taking more classes with him and I'd urge you to do the same.

Jun 2005

professor lall is amazing. you cant help but want to hug him during class. he is indian, but dont be fooled by his name...he speaks perfect english and is easy to understand. i really learned a lot and loved his class.