Physical Chemistry I

Jan 2014

PChem was as expected a difficult course. The problem sets were difficult and time consuming (the 2nd one in particular !). Min is a pretty good professor and tries to make the class interactive- however he didn't seem to have a good feel on what was difficult vs easy for the students- the result was that some exam problems were virtually impossible ( he had to make one of the problems on the first midterm a bonus question). The practice exam he gave for the first exam was way easier than the actual first exam. The material was interesting though and for most people it was required for their major. To succeed work in a group for the psets (they were worth 35% so do well in them) study like crazy for the exams and hope that you immediately "see" the solution for the exam's almost guaranteed for some you won't and you'll end up calculating randomly and hoping for partial credit though ( he gives good partial credit). If you've taken differential equations and have a good calc background things will probably be a bit easier but you can get by if not just get the basic calc stuff down. Just ensure you do well on the psets they are worth a lot. The first midterm was harder than the second..,,the exam was probably in between in difficulty closer to the first.

Jan 2013

Its unfortunate that the Chemistry department let Bruce Berne teach a higher level chemistry course like Physical Chemistry again after so long. I apologize to Profesoor Berne, but he definitely wasn't ready to teach Physical Chemistry again, and probably won't be at another point later in his career. You can tell that Prof. Berne at one point was a fairly good lecturer and professor, but he has definitely passed his prime. Most lectures were given via powerpoint, and were lamentable at best. Most information from the powerpoints was repeated two or three times over the span of two lectures and could be found in the book in a more understandable format. Frankly, attending class was mostly superfluous and only necessary for the last week of the course when he attempted to tackle Statistical Thermodynamics. During the sections on phase changes and chemical potential, Berne switched to lecturing using the blackboard; these were his only redeeming lectures, bearable and sometimes informative. Homework wise, Berne never knew what he was assigning nor did he keep to a regular homework schedule. About a third of the way through the semester, he realized that the problems he was giving out of the book had a solutions guide sold with the book in the bookstore. After that point, he started writing his own atrocious problem sets riddled with grammar, spelling, and content errors. These problem sets were often not complete, and the TA had trouble answering many of the problems in a logical manner in the solution guides. The homework was similar to the exams once he started writing his own homeworks. Often, however, I wouldn't finish the problem sets since it had no additional benefit to learning the material and the TA wouldn't care if you finished or not. For the exams, you were expected to memorize how to derive ALL of the formulas given in the class. The midterm was relentless and lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes forcing other students to reschedule other exams. The final was a little nicer, where he said we should memorize all equations but gave us an equation sheet on the back in the end (with errors no doubt). Overall, I thought the exams were fair yet repetitive. Unfortunately, the fate of Berne's next class is up to the Chemistry department; however, if possible, I would avoid taking his class.