Rachel Austin is hands down one of the best professors I have ever had, and definitely the best for an online course. She has made every effort to adapt the class in a way that is both enjoyable for students and engaging for the online class. I honestly never get annoyed at the work or lectures because it's so engaging and adapted to online learning. She completely stopped timed exams and we are instead evaluated through what are essentially weekly problem sets. She is also genuinely so enthusiastic about the content. If you can take a class with her, do it! The best Gen Chem experience.
Coming from a person this finals season, do not (I repeat: do not) if you value your nerves and sanity, take this class. The workload is not reasonable for an "intro" class of its worth. It eats up your time so 1) you can't spend time on classes you actually enjoy and 2) you don't even understand it despite all the time you spend on it I tried learning this whole semester and my mind is honestly drawing a blank right now. If anything, my knowledge is negative. This is actually a weed-out class disguised in the form of "we want to help you all learn regardless of your level! !!! *smiley face*") Bare minimum on topic is taught in lecture. Oftentimes precious time is wasted. (Basically I agree with the previous reviewer that the course organization could use some improvement)
There are four exams total (three midterms and one cumulative final exam). Each is worth 25% of your grade. The required lab course is worth 25% as well. The online Sapling homework (required, and you have to purchase it yourself) is also worth 25%. This adds up to 150% - so two of those 6 grades will drop. Usually, students count two exams, the lab, and the homework. The lab grade must factor into your overall course grade. There is one lab report per week, and takes average 2-5 hours each, depending on the lab. There are "modules" posted on courseworks for every day of class. The module usually contains one or two videos that you are encouraged to watch before class. Each video is about 10 minutes long, give or take. The videos are usually helpful, but sometimes the writing is blurry which can get cumbersome. The online homework assignments on Sapling are due 1x per week, and are about 25 questions each. I spent an average of 3-5 hours on them. They did help reinforce the conceptual material with detailed quantitative problems. Your lowest two (out of 14 total for the whole semester) will drop in calculating your overall homework grade. On the syllabus, it states "exam and semester grades are not curved." From what I've seen, this is simply not true. The individual exams are definitely not curved (although on one midterm they did add +5 points to everyone's score). However, I received a final course grade of an A-, when by the syllabus' guidelines, I got a B- or low B. Rachel Austin does curve the semester grades, which does benefit students at the end of the semester, but goes completely against her syllabus (and what she has said repeatedly during the semester). In fact, Professor Austin failed to follow the syllabus for the majority of the semester. Assigned textbook readings for each class were listed on the syllabus, and often did not correspond to lecture material at all. The lecture schedule on the syllabus was completely different from what actually happened over the semester. Instead of modifying/updating the syllabus, she continued on lecturing whichever topic she thought should be next - leaving us students unable to prepare for class by doing the readings and studying beforehand. In any course, and especially in STEM, being able to prepare for class is considered to be vitally important to succeeding in the course. By refusing to modify the syllabus, Professor Austin showed complete disrespect towards her students. Moreover, Professor Austin regularly wasted at least 5 minutes of class time at the beginning of each lecture. There were several occasions where the actual lecture did not start until 10-15 (and a few times, 20+ minutes) after the actual start time. Her lectures are generally helpful, and focus on the conceptual basis for the material with some easy problems. Whenever we were given a problem to work on in small groups, she wasted about 10 minutes per problem walking around the huge lecture hall answering questions, instead of simply putting the explanation on the board. She would often not finish a problem in class, say she would put the solution on courseworks, and never would. She would also repeat problems discussed in the videos (or similar problems with different numbers), which was a waste of everyone's time. Please do consider taking the chemistry sequence at Columbia. Yes, there are more office hours for Barnard's chemistry course. However, the syllabus is not followed, the course is not structured well, and there is an obvious lack of transparency that results from Professor Austin's policies.
Dr. J, as he prefers you call him, is a bit of an enigma in the Barnard chemistry department. While a lot of people have a strong aversion to him, I have grown to be "okay" with him. He is the director of the BC2001 gen chem lab, meaning he teaches pre-lab (recitation) and some of the actual lab classes (I had him as one of my instructors). I really appreciated his concision and knowledgeability in pre-lab lectures. He knows what he is trying to say, he says it very well, and he answers questions, albeit in a smart ass way, vey well. He isn't a lovely dovey guy in lab and won't tell you exactly what to do or answer any basic questions that you should already know before entering lab, but he will help you if something goes completely wrong in your experiment and he will answer small questions here and there. His demonstrations of the lab are very concise and make perfect sense, which I couldn't say for the other lab instructor in my class. Most people dislike the guy because of the grading though (he doesn't directly grade your lab reports, but he is in charge of the rubrics the reports are graded off of). I found that the quality of your actual lab report (you record data in your lab and then write the report at home and the report is due at the beginning of recitation the next week) doesn't matter much; the grading is mainly focused on the quality of your data. It can really suck if you aren't good at procedure, but if you try your best it will mostly all even out. There are lab office hours every day which are extremely helpful and I am surprised more people don't attend. This class is hard as hell in some aspects, but it really won't be the worst experience of you college career. I would recommend taking this course over Columbia chem just because of all the resources available to you in the Barnard chem department and the better quality of teaching (they will really help you understand the material if you put in the work to do so, even if you are not a super chem student ((like me)) ).
Rachel Austin is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever had in my school career thus far. Gen Chem is not easy at all, but I am sure anyone who is reading this already knows that. I spend many, many hours studying and doing homework for this class every week. However, if you put in the work to study and do your homework, Rachel will make sure you succeed in the class. You must attend her office hours if you are not already great at chemistry and are still hoping for a high grade. Not every lecture is specifically helpful, but during her office hours she will explain anything to you and I promise you will understand even the most difficult concepts if you attend office hours and come with questions or with a mind ready to learn chemistry! She is patient and kind, no matter how basic and sometimes dumb the question is. She also answers questions online in the class discussion form all of the time, so basically her office hours are always happening online. I mean, the woman takes the time to memorize most of the class's names and there are 170+ students in the class! Her classroom style is flipped. She uploads videos (which you can get through quickly if you watch them at double speed) before class and then instead of lecturing she puts up problems for you to work through with your peers during class. This doesn't work for everyone but I guarantee it will work better if you actually watch and digest the videos before showing up. Again, if this isn't helpful for you just make sure you watch the videos, don't go to class, and attend office hours instead to clarify any point from the videos. The tests can be a little tricky, but her "automatic curve" that results from her lowered grading scale (an 88 is an A- just for example) and the fact that she drops two of your four test scores (you don't even have to take the final if you are happy with two of your other test scores!!!) basically even it out. If you know the basics very well and can apply your knowledge you will do well on the tests. This is super long winded, but the main point is that this class can be fun if you decide to have a growth mindset. As someone with no chemistry experience in the past I can honestly say I have learned so much and I have thoroughly enjoyed being in Rachel's class. I would take the harder class here at Barnard with Rachel and really understand chemistry, then have an easier time in huge gen chem class at Columbia where I don't comprehend as well and don't get the same personal attention.
I had a pretty good experience with Gen Chem. I personally loved the way Magyar lectured.He's very good at walking through the points in a logical way and he's not as boring as most lecturers. I do concede that he focused heavily on the big picture and occasionally moved quickly, but what do you expect? He has to teach an entire textbook in one semester and he's not going to be an expert at every single topic. He definitely tried his best to help and he's the least intimidating person I can imagine. The optional weekly problem solving workshops were incredibly helpful especially for exams or even just to clear up general confusion. For everything Magyar didn't go over Sapling totally covered. As long as you don't wait until the last minute to do the problem sets, Sapling was completely manageable and was like a second instructor. The only actual negative comment I have to say is that the exams were sometimes worded strangely in which case you would waste time trying to figure out what the crap you were supposed to do which was totally possible. The curve at the end of the year was very generous in my point of view.
I took Gen Chem with Magyar last semester and I really just don't understand all of these bad reviews. I don't think people realize how hard he tried to make us understand the material. Yeah maybe he wasn't the best at teaching ALL of the material in depth, but it's not his responsibility to teach us all the small details. He's just supposed to present the basic principles and we're the ones who are supposed to study the rest. I thought sapling was a fair amount of work. The tests weren't easy, but neither is Gen Chem. You need to study the labs and sapling if you want to do well. Magyar is always willing to help during office hours and he holds weekly workshops that really help! Give Magyar a chance!! He's a bit awkward but he truly is adorable. You'll do well if you put in the time and effort that Gen Chem deserves.
Most of these reviews make Magyar seem like a jerk which he isn't, I guarantee you that. He is a great professor if you intend to learn. Notice how all the previous negative reviews are from people who were very grade focused and probably couldn't manage to get a stellar grade to impress med school admissions or such. Many of them are pre-med and are trying to get oh you know an A or A+ because they deserve it so well. Funny thing is they haven't learned that you have to put in the effort and earn a good grade. If you're pre-med, you know you have to to take it and many of your science pre-reqs will consist of lectures where you learn the concepts and you do problem solving on your own. Why is Magyar so bad that he lectured and you had to learn to solve problems on your own? All this negativity on a professor who teaches well and means well when all one could do is basically go to his lectures and then apply the concepts on the given problems online or those corresponding to the topic in the book that he did ask you to get in the beginning. Sure, he may assume that you have some previous chemistry knowledge but it's gen chem, most profs will. If you don't know something you feel he has assumed you do, the book will clear it up plenty for you or ask him in office hours. It's just wrong to say a good professor cannot teach when perhaps you were too busy trying to get good grades while putting in the minimal amount of effort. What's with complaining about having to read the text or solving problem on one's own? That's part of the course, it's expected. It seems like many of these negative reviewers wished Magyar to sprinkle some pixie dust on them so all his knowledge and skills could transfer to them, without them having to put in any effort to learn. and now they're expressing their disappointment on culpa after learning a truth of life. I don't want any of these grade-oriented, most likely premeds, to scare off anyone who wishes to take gen chem here. You'll do great if you put in the effort and it doesn't require too much. It's gen chem and i'm sure you're aware the higher level courses will require you to put in more no matter where you are.
Gen Chem at Barnard is a tough class. From the very first couple of weeks of school, I had been so surprised at how quickly the class speeds through topics, wondering how students with no AP/IB experience were doing (I had 3 years of chem prior to this class). Despite my experience, however, I still found the class to be difficult and spent hours studying for midterms I ended up doing poorly on anyway. Though I use the word "poorly" loosely since you never really know how you're doing in this class since midterm grades range from 12% to 99%. They weren't lying when they called this the weed-out class. It's a tough class, but I had a terrible HS chem teacher so I will have to disagree with other reviewers and say that Magyar is an okay (not bad) professor. Sure, it is sometimes difficult for him to answer questions, but most of the questions asked weren't important (as in wont show up on exams/don't need at this level of chemistry) anyway. I was surprised and even applaud him for always asking for questions in a 150-student lecture class. He incorporates a demonstration for almost every topic, which I think really helped with understanding of some topics but not so much in others. His lectures covers the basic chemistry that we need to know, but students are expected to take a lot of time outside of class practicing more difficult problems. Sapling problems (the online homework) are a great resource for more difficult questions, but it's easy to just speed through them and look through hints instead of understanding how to actually do them. The latter half of the midterms contained questions very similar to sapling questions, so I recommend taking time and actually understanding how to do each problem! Yes, there is quite a bit (a lot) of math involved. Overall, it's a tough class, though I don't think it's Magyar's fault. The class covers a lot of information in one semester. He has to get through all this information in one semester so he really can't and don't spend a lot of time going over examples after examples during class. He really should have had more office hours though! Office hours with TAs were a waste of time, in my experience.
I disagree with some of the previous reviews. First of all, any professor (no matter how good or bad he/she is) deserves all our respect. They have put in a lot of effort to reach where they are today. So, derogatory words or statements should not be used. As students, we also expect the same from professors. Also, as an integral part of academia, a professor should carry more weight and responsibility to encourage more students to feel comfortable in the classroom (rather than making them feel awkward) and thereby encouraging them to pursue a career in pure/physical sciences and research fields. I don't know why I am writing this but I felt the need to write this. I personally gave and continue to give Prof. Magyar the due respect he deserves for his hard work and for his expertise in his field of study. To be very honest, I literally felt as if someone is writing what was on my mind after the final exam in the last review. Whoever wrote that, that's how I exactly felt after turning in my exam and just walked out of the classroom. But later I realized, there is no point in getting a straight A in an easy exam. If a professor gives you an easy exam, and you end up getting an A, but believe me, that's never going to help you in real life. Yes, that will help you if you want to get into a normal job as every normal person does, but you will never be able to do anything on your own. You can work under someone and earn enough of money, but you will not be able to make hundreds of people work under you. This is where grades matter to many people, and doesn't matter to a few original thinkers who want to create something, not to work under someone. I myself didn't do well on any of my exams in this course but believe me, I enjoyed solving problems Prof. Magyar gave us on tests. These questions were challenging not just randomly chosen from textbook. They required us to think. I believe Prof. Magyar just can't give us easy questions because he himself does in-depth research work and he wouldn't like to give us a direct formula based questions. I did really bad on exam 1, but I appreciated the quality of questions, exam 2 was pretty normal, exams 3 was great, had really interesting questions, exam 4 was pretty straight forward and final exam was just a bad surprise. I studied a lot (I have never studied for a test, as much as I did for finals). He should have at least given us an indication on the format of the exam in the last class but he didn't. I didn't know what I did on the final exam. But still, I liked the class because I was not taking the class for just requirement or getting an A. I took the course, to learn more and I was taught the course in the best possible way. For me, this was one of the best classes I took at Barnard. PS: I do not write reviews on these sites but I really wanted to write reviews for two of my professors this semester. The other one will be up soon :)
I really wanted to like Magyar as he seems like a nice person, but I just couldn't. He does move quickly which wasn't a problem for me as I pretty much learned to teach myself through reading the book and doing the Sapling online homework problems. He probably actually lectures on 10% of the material that we need to know. Like the other reviewers said, the problem solving workshop is great to hear more from him and to actually apply the material in ways that you will be expected to do on the homework/exams. The biggest thing was the exams which most of them were incredibly unfair as they were nothing like what we had been doing in class/for homework. This wasn't for all of the exams but definitely the final which I walked out of completely shell shocked. A little less than 70 multiple choice, 2 short answer problems with about 4 parts each and an essay in 3 hours is A LOT. I had no idea what I was doing. I scribbled down equations and some work to try to get some partial credit but I wasn't able to solve ANY of the short answers. Two of the regular exams were scheduled immediately after breaks which was a dick-move. Also, he never keeps promises on when he will return our exams, which is a bit ridiculous considering he doesn't even grade them all. If he says he'll get it back to you by a certain date, expect it to be a week later. Regarding the curve, he never explicitly told us what to expect, and the ballpark that he did give us was not very encouraging nor big considering how poorly a majority of the class is doing. We'll see how things work out. This was his second year teaching Gen Chem and it was a miss. Better luck next year Johnny boy.
I agree with the last review.Just finished my Gen Chem final exam and IT WAS THE WORST EXPERIENCE EVER. Magyar has screwed us throughout this semester.He kept us confused with exams, what to study and how to prepare for the test. He said the final exam will be like all other previous tests but he changed the format in the last minute with 61 multiple choice questions. Just made up my mind to change my major from Chemistry to Political Science.
Magyar isn't the best lecturer you'll have but his problem-solving workshops are a god-send! During the lectures, he tends to get nervous and scatter-brained when confronted with questions on the spot, but if you go to him after lecture or during office hours, he tends to do better at clearing confusion. I seriously recommend the workshop though (during lecture we barely go through any problems and that's what the tests entirely consist of)! Lab office hours are said to be for everything in the course but most of the time students come in and out for lab questions. Also, both lab profs and Magyar say they won't entertain questions about sapling problems which is annoying since how else are we supposed to get any help! Their method is to answer your questions back with questions so that you think, but in my opinion, it's NOT VERY HELPFUL!! For Gen Chem, Magyar assumes you already have a background in chemistry from high school (although most students do not!). He also kept putting exams inconveniently after breaks so this semester has been a nonstop, uphill run. Be warned, this class is very consuming time-wise.
Rumor is he is leaving the college, so you shouldn't have to worry about him. He isn't the best teacher, but I attribute this to his inexperience in teaching an into level chem class. He is really interested in what he teaches and does a lot of fun experiments, so if you like chemistry at all he will foster this love. If you have never taken chem before, good luck. He assumes you learned a lot in high school chem, especially in the beginning of the semester, so you are pretty screwed if you didn't take AP chem or remember any past chemistry courses. He doesn't always make sense in lecture, but clarifies things in problem solving workshop when he explains how to do problems. BASICALLY, you teach yourself by reading the book and doing all the homework problems. Take chem at Columbia if he teaches again. Columbia Chem moves at a slower pace too so its relatively easier to follow along. Note: He is a really awesome and considerate guy, just a really bad lecturer.
A piece of cake--as long as you do the Practice Problems every week and make sure you know how to do them all, you will be fine. The three midterms are all based on the practice exams she gives you so study those and make sure you know how to do all the problems. The final has a lot from lab so make sure you know the important reactions and titrations. The final is also full of redox, so learn that well! The weekly hand-in problem sets don't affect your grade very much, and neither does your weekly lab report grade. My lab average was between a B- and a B and I still got an A in the course because I rocked the midterms and final. Just make sure to do the Practice Problems, and of course, practice all available problems, and this class will be a GPA booster, guaranteed.
One thing that should have become very clear from all of these reviews is that Chapman is not very warm and friendly. Even if you know what you're doing, she can be very intimidating. Nevertheless, I don't think that this makes her a bad instructor. She is not the type of professor that will coddle you, but she's fair. She's extremely clear about all of the grading, has almost ridiculous amounts of office hours, and she gives you practice tests for all of the midterms that are extremely similar to the exams. That having been said, this is still a very difficult course, especially if you don't have a strong background in Chem. I took AP Chem in high school and got a 5 on the exam, so this class was very little new material for me and was relatively straightforward. If you have a strong background in chem, this class will be fine. However, I had several friends who, while very intelligent and hardworking, had a very difficult time in this class because they hadn't taken much chem before, which made this class a struggle for them. Overall, I enjoyed the class and thought that it was taught as well as any chem lecture course could be. I didn't think that it was an unreasonable amount of work, especially since it's a 5 unit class (with the lab). Also, the information you need to know for exams is never outrageous, and it always seems like Chapman is more interested in seeing that you know the material than trying to trick you. Also, she curves pretty decently, which is a plus.
Okay, so I think that most of the people who wrote these reviews have been overly harsh. Chapman is a stickler for rules and sort of a bitch when it comes to enforcing them. Yes she's not the nicest of people, BUT she's a good professor. Her lectures are clear and organized and she explains things well in class. One thing to know is that sometimes her problem sets ask questions that only the kids who took AP Chem in high school know the answer to because she didn't go over them. Find a friend and ask for help. Her office hours are sort of useless because she works so hard to avoid giving you the answer. Her idea of "help" is useless, but a friend (as forbidden as that is) can often explain it simply and quickly and you'll manage. I know some of the girls who work in the help room though, and they're great. The help room is most definitely worth it. The real reason why you should suffer through Chapman: you get to take Orgo at Barnard which is either taught by Rojas or Merrer--both INCREDIBLE professors. Once you start taking Chem at Columbia you're stuck there, and the Chem Department at Barnard is incredible. If you did well in AP Chem this class is completely fine, don't worry about it. If you didn't take AP Chem, be prepared to work your butt off. Either find a friend asap or learn to suffer through office hours.
Chapman is a really great lecturer, extremely clear and organized while being willing to take questions during class. She is very stern and not so warm unless you make a true effort, going often to office hours (of which she has about a million, which is so great) with good questions. Overall, this was an amazing class and it totally turned me into a chem major. And it's not nearly as hard and scary as it's made out to be, especially with Chapman there to answer your questions.