Scientific Computing

May 2015

Don't take this class. Mawhinney's impression in class is that of someone that cares a lot about the subject and is overall responsible. Too bad that's not the case. He takes about a week to get any given problem set out, which has its ups and downs. It probably led to larger problem sets, but the guy intended to give us 8 to 10 projects (each of the ones we DID have took 10-20 hours). The problem sets are riddled with typos that, if called out on, he'll duly ignore. He doesn't respond to emails or show up to office hours despite urging everyone to come to him for help. He doesn't teach anyone to code, which, although I came in pretty good at it, defeats part of the purpose of this course. He has short recitations on Fridays that give you a crash course in C that showed up scarcely on two of the problem sets. His lectures are decent, but the content has nothing to do with the work you're expected to do. He gives you a week or less to code something, which isn't kosher for gigantic programming projects. The problem sets, aside from the typos, are loaded with ambiguity as to what to do. The best parts are when he's flat out wrong as in the fourth and fifth one where he makes erroneous assumptions about the calculation of energy or giving you an algorithm for symmetric matrices to run on matrices that aren't symmetric. When approached with some questions about the last problem set, he flat out admitted he didn't do his own problem set and that a lot of the assumptions he made as to how to do it didn't hold up. On top of that, it was about PDE's and he didn't teach us anything about how to handle boundary conditions. The icing on the cake is that he gave us a problem set due in the middle of reading week. The day after, he gave us a "cumulative" final programming project that was about one topic, and it was something that he didn't talk about at all in the class and that took ~15-20 hours during finals week. Flat out the worst class I ever took in the department. I'm sure his 4081 class, given the 5 undergrads still in this 4080 class, will be a raging success next year.