Molecular Biology

May 2014

Just wanted to put a quick note here because I thought the TAs for mol bio were, for the most part, fantastic. Thomas was ok -- he was awol at revew sessions and was difficult to understand at times, but still pretty helpful -- but Matt and Darpan were an awesome duo. Both were super clear, responsive to emails, and great at synthesizing course material in a way that was accessible to us. Darpan especially was a gem -- he took the time to post lots of extra notes and study guides (the one for the final was 17 pages long!) that were really helpful in organizing all the material, especially the second half. I think because he was an undergrad too he understood what we were looking for in the class. Hope these guys TA again; by far some of the best ones I've had in the bio department!

May 2014

Mol bio had new professors this year, and I felt it to be really different compared to what I'd heard about from students last year taking it with Profs. Prywes and Jia. First off, Jenni is a STAR. It's clear that she cares a lot about actually teaching and making sure that we are learning material that not only encompasses substantive information but is also of utility. The way she taught incorporated new research and experimental problem solving paradigms that were challenging but also potentially useful beyond just the classroom. It made the class that much more engaging and really helped in digesting the material, which I imagine might otherwise have been quite dry. She also was very responsive to student feedback and willing to help where she could -- all around great. The second half of the semester is taught by Jim, and focused primarily on RNA biology, which is his area of research. Jim's lecturing itself was pretty clear (although the organization of the material between lectures was sometimes a bit confusing), and he did a pretty good job of covering a broad array of topics rather than focusing on just his research interests. However, the focus of the second semester was largely on the details of RNA rather than thinking through research problems or extended analysis. The tests basically just asked for regurgitation of specific details and never looked at integration or the big picture. In his defense, he tried to correct for this a bit in the final, where there were some more research design-type questions, but I think the way he teaches the course doesn't necessarily lend itself to encouraging that style of thinking. In general, I thought this was actually a pretty good course as far as the bio dept goes. I feel like I learned a decent amount, especially with regards to thinking about bio research and keeping up to date with what's going on. If they're teaching it again next year, I'd definitely recommend. --tl;dr-- 9/10 would take again

Jun 2012

Definitely take this class. Prywes and Songtao both teach Molecular Biology similar to the way Stockwell/Tong teach it. Prywes is a better teacher than Songtao, but he likes to write on the board a lot and his tests are harder, but it's all curved in the end extremely extremely generously. Remember, Prywes and Songtao both test on designing experiments and understanding scientific papers rather than memorization from the book. Anyway, Molecular Biology is an entirely different experience from other science classes, so it's a nice break. The curve to this class is between B+ and A- so it's a very high mean grade.

Apr 2012

j This is for the Molecular Biology Class Review. Songtao taught 1/2 of Molecular Biology while Ron Prywes taught the second half. To be honest, Songtao was an okay teacher, nothing great, but not bad either. He has a VERY SLIGHT accent and tends to speak very softly (kind of similar to Tong for Biochemistry), but he's better at enunciating than Tong but maybe because the Molecular Biology classroom size is much smaller than the Pupin huge lecture hall. Anyway, to be honest, 95% of Songtao says is from the book, which does a better job of condensing everything than his lectures, which can go off in some unnecessary information directions. His exams, along with Prywes, are DESIGN AN EXPERIMENT BASED heavy. Generally 60% of the points are memorization based while the other 40% are design an experiment. Of course people usually get the same grade on the memorization part so it's the design an experiment questions that determine your grade in the end. Here's an example question: something like: You have discovered a polymerase that binds specifically to the college gene. This polymerase is similar to polymerase II but not quite, as there are several different factors required for binding to the DNA/gene. How would you find out what these factors are? How would you check to see whether the polymerase dissociates immediately after transcription ends? Songtao does go through methods of doing experiments so it might be useful to attend lecture, but then again, if you work in a lab, you could probably read about these methods online. for Songtao's half, HEAVILY recommend you read/memorize the 4-5 scientific articles per exam, because sometimes the design an experiment will be 90% similar to one of the experiments, with just a slight twist/variation.

Nov 2011

Just say no. This man cannot organize lectures, is not well versed in modern biology techniques and is not helpful inside or out of class. He seems like a very nice person, but I was completely disappointed in him as a lecturer. If you have to take Molecular Biology for the Biochemistry major (like me) - I wish you the best. Be prepared for ridiculous exams and painful lecture. If Molecular Biology is optional for you, steer clear. I am writing this review hopefully in time before others chose this class - I was just made aware that Prywes didn't have a review. I wrote him a really, really, long CourseWorks review last semester - I wish I still had it saved somewhere!