Introductory Biology

May 2015

I don’t understand how Dr. M still doesn’t have at least a silver nugget. She is a fantastic lecturer and when you are sitting in her class, you can easily tell that she is well-seasoned in teaching and talks with ease. She gets the material across very clearly, and as long as you do the problems honestly, you should be able to do fairly well in the class. Yes, introductory biology may be more stressful than it needs to be because of the exams, but that does not mean Dr. M is a bad lecturer. In fact, she is one of the best I’ve had at Columbia.

Jan 2014

I came into the class thinking that it would be filled with impossible problems and materials. It didn't end up being too bad. Yes, there is a certain way you have to think about the problems -- some people get it right away, and some people don't. If you don't, then you'll probably have to spend some extra time doing the problems from the problem set book. I did end up doing almost all the problems from the book, but even though there were a few that I just gave up on doing because they were long and/or confusing, I was fine on the tests. I received an A in the class, and to be honest, the course was one of my easier ones this semester (I'm in applied math in SEAS, so had a handful of other technical courses). Be prepared to spend a decent amount of time studying and doing problems, but the content of the course isn't more complicated than what would be covered in AP bio. Id say the most difficult part of the course is just plowing through the paragraph-long questions, and to be careful and attentive to detail.

Jun 2013

This class is not about biology. It is about teaching yourself to think like a Mowshowitz. As a high school student I taught myself more conceptual material in AP than I ever garnered in C2005/6. Mowshowitz's dedication to teaching is very admirable, as she devotes all her time to her several hundred students and publishes papers on undergraduate education. That being said, her lectures are extremely repetitive and her notes are "organized" in a swirl of unnecessarily coordinated colors and prints that bring me back to kindergarten. The material she covers is interesting, of course, but her manner of presenting it kills its beauty. Her tests, however, are the most abominable part of this course - and not because they are conceptually challenging. Mowsh's questions are designed to trick you, which is not an inherently bad thing. The problem is that the only accepted answers are the ones she thinks as such. Even if you explain your logic in a perfectly sound manner, you do not get full credit (at least that was my experience). You have to teach yourself to look at what she wants you to know, biology notwithstanding. Never over-think the problem, and don't make too many logical assumptions. Instead make assumptions based on the material presented in class (for example, a seven-pass transmbrane protein will always be a GPCR, even if you have no experimental data to support that). To do well, do the problems and do them again. If you're premed, I pity you for having to take this course and I hope in the future Columbia's biology department will expand its repertoire of Intro bio professors. Columbia does a great disservice to its biology students by forcing them through a single introductory course fueled by one professor's well-intentioned but ineffective methodology and perpetuated by premed angst.