course
Physical Chemistry Lab II

Jun 2010

As a student who has had Professor Avila for three semesters (intensive gen chem lab and two semesters of p chem lab), I can say that he is one of the best professors you can ever have. The classes themselves can be incredibly frustrating, given the age of most of the equipment in the p chem lab and the amount of time and effort involved, but Avila's attitude totally makes up for it. He's incredibly enthusiastic about the field and completely dedicated to the success of his students. He wants everyone to get research experience, both on and off campus, and is always willing to write recommendations for any students need them. He remembers his students over time, and tends to offer interested former students the chance to TA intensive gen chem in their junior and senior years. He also cares about his students; he always checked to make sure we had eaten and gave us breaks to do so, if we needed it, and he always checked if someone didn't look well. He also loves to take apart equipment to see how it works - one day we were out behind Havemeyer getting liquid nitrogen and he picked up a broken balance off the ground and dissected it just for fun. In terms of P Chem Lab itself, it's hard work; it's two semesters long, and the reports can easily take more than 12 hours, so really, don't leave them til the last minute. I know what it's like to be absolutely alone in a 23-hour room in Butler, because I was finishing a report for the class. Avila sets up the reports in a variety of manners: first semester, we were assigned to write a paper, give an oral presentation, or present a poster for each report (much like you would doing research in the real world). Second semester, all of the reports were presentations of some kind (complete with scenarios. It's strange, but doable), except for the final project, which was submitted as both a journal article and an oral presentation. Often, if he was dissatisfied with a presentation (and definitely with our journal article), he'd give feedback and give you the chance to redo it before he'd grade you on it. I'm pretty sure he graded more on the effort you put into the class instead of the absolute correctness of all of your work. Pretty much anyone who takes P Chem Lab is probably going to be a chemistry or chemical physics major, just given the intensity of the class. I'm not one for physical chemistry usually, and even though this class was sometimes hellish, I look back on it fondly. Added bonus: field trips! Our first semester he rented a van and took the class to Brookhaven National Lab; the second semester, we were supposed to visit Exxon-Mobil, but they wouldn't accept a group of only four students. Also: Avila really values student comments and feedback (so much so that he created a separate anonymous survey for p chem lab) and takes it to heart, so if you take any of his classes, actually let him know what you think was good and what needed improvement.