Organic Chemistry

May 2014

Orgo is a very hard class that requires a lot of work to keep up. I didn't enjoy orgo and didn't enjoy Doubleday as a professor. Pros of taking Doubleday: 1) he teaches almost directly from McMurry. I got by in this class by pretty much memorizing the textbook, which is a lot of work and time consuming! But I found Doubledays lectures to be a complete waste of time, and towards the end of second semester I stopped going to lectures completely--it was a better use of time to read McMurry and do the (millions of) assigned homework problems. 2) Doubleday provides 5 years of previous exams, which are a pretty accurate representation of what your exam will look like. However, in contrast to a review below, I did think that in each exam there was at least one "curveball" questio that always threw me off. I recommend absolutely ACEING the early midterms because they only get tougher. 3) Doubleday is very willing to hold office hours and is helpful as long as you have specific questions. Cons: 1) The poor quality if the lectures. He is very boring and hard to understand and there is no organized format to his lectures. My lecture notes were not helpful at all, and I never used them to study for exams. Unless you have read the chapters before going to the lecture (which I managed to do for about 3 weeks in first semester) then you will not understand what he is talking about at all. 2) Doubleday is a bit pompous--one of those professors who doesn't understand how his student might not understand material that to him is so easy.

May 2014

I couldn't agree more with the most recent positive review below me. I also felt the need to post on this forum because the reviews I saw for Doubleday were overwhelmingly negative, and I really can't fathom how that's possible. As the reviewer below me wrote: DOUBLEDAY MAKES THE CLASS THE EASIEST IT CAN POSSIBLY BE. It's not an easy class, especially second semester, but Doubleday is enthusiastic and clear most of the time, tho he does have a tendency to look at the board and mutter sometimes. He gives previous years exams for you to review (five per test - that's like, unheard of!) and he is absolutely straightforward about what he will test on, and best of all, THAT'S ACTUALLY WHAT HE SPENDS HIS TIME TEACHING. Both semesters I have relied almost exclusively on Doubleday's lecture notes and the practice tests, only reading the textbook when I was confused or needed clarification on something very specific. I got an A first semester, and found the class relatively straightforward and sort of easy, doing about 4-8 hours of studying per week. Flashcards for reactions are critical at least for me, and I spend a lot of time writing and reviewing those. Don't do what I did and get cocky from good early exams though - the class is very cumulative in what is learned (tho only the final is actually 'cumulative') so you must keep up and don't rely on good grades on the easy early stuff!

Mar 2014

Taking Orgo with Doubleday is legitimately the easiest the course could possibly be. I truly believe that the people who are complaining about how difficult his class is would not be complaining if they had ANY basis for comparison with other Orgo classes. Yes, Orgo is a difficult class...not sure what these people expected and why they feel the need to blame it on Doubleday. He legitimately will announce during class things like "I would never test you on that, it's just too complicated" or "If I asked you about that, that would just be mean, wouldn't it?" He legitimately only tests on the most simple and some slightly more difficult iterations of what we learned. He has absolutely no desire to trick or surprise us. I'm not sure what was going on in the previous years referenced, but this for this entire year the averages for exams have been between the high 70s and mid 80s which is really high for an O chem course. I have been meaning to write this review for a while because when I saw Doubleday's reviews last semester all the other professors were full and I was really really upset that I was stuck with this incredibly difficult professor. Being forced to stick with Doubleday turned out to be the best choice ever. Even if Cornish/Campos exams have averages of 50s/60s and end up curving to be "equivalent" to Doubledays uncurved but easier exams, I'd rather not spend a semester feeling like crap taking exams that demoralize me, memorizing crazy things like pKa values (which Cornish makes you do and doubleday would NEVER). Even if an A student in Doubleday turns out to be an A student in Cornish/Campos etc. as well (which I think is probably the case after curving/test difficulty are taken into account), I promise that taking Doubleday will be a much less stressful experience overall.

Jan 2011

Cornish was great, though probably not who you want to take if you're just trying to skim by. If I had to give Cornish a grade I'd probably give her a B+ and maybe I'm being too harsh. Regardless, I'd recommend her to anyone who actually wants to learn organic chemistry without a second thought. I understand most of what has already been said about her. Some of it's bogus though. She's strick, but she really does care, and you will benefit from both if you choose to. I'll try to help you figure out if you want to take her course. First, she does a pretty good job at letting you know what to expect. The format of the test is always the same. Some of the questions cover fundamental material that would be inexcusable not to understand. A greater amount of the test is about understanding how those fundamentals relate to each other (like considering resonance vs. sterics or the effect of the solvent in boundary cases like secondary carbons). You need to understand all the mechanisms, reagents, solvents, and be able to draw free energy diagrams for every type of reaction. Period. No surprises. If you don't spend some time in the beginning of the semester on fundamentals you will probably hurt later on. And she tells you this. Memorize your pka values, sure, but even more important you need to understand those values relative to each other (i.e. Why does a ketone have a lower pka than an ester? And why is the pka of carboxylic acid anhydride between the two?). Now, Cornish will tell you not to memorize rules and mechanisms and such. She's not lying, but she's also not telling the truth. Memorize all of it. Everything she puts in her notes-- which is not nearly as bad as it sounds. She writes legibly and very, very, slowly-- but you need to understand it too-- as in "defend your answer to your peers" understand it. Ok, so once you go through all of that (it'll take a while, I promise), it's also about your ability to take a test. She'll tell you that you're probably not going to get the last answer right, and she's probably right. So look at it in the beginning if you want, but only commit to it once you know that the rest of the test is as perfect as your going to get it. With that said, some advice for that last question. It will surprise you-- and you just might panic and forget to breath just like the rest of the class-- but before your hand cramps from scribbling for partial credit remember two things: 1. Every time she went over the answer after the test it was always simpler than I had guessed. Follow the hints. Follow the hints. Follow the hints. 2. Maybe it's a bit masochistic, but I learned something from every one of Cornish's tests. That last question is designed to teach you something. Even if you dont get it the first time through go back to it and figure it out. It might not help you answer that next big question, but she's going to assume that you understand it all the same. Organic chemistry is an elegant subject. While Cornish's lectures might not be great at helping you see that, she asks that kinds of questions that will.

Jan 2008

He is the best teacher in the chem department. (Unfortunately for Columbia, that's not saying as much as it should.) He does not make the material any harder or easier than it is. He simply presents it in an incredibly organized manner, and gives straightforward exams. His problem sets and practice exams are good indicators of what to expect on actual exams. Definitely go to office hours for the problem sets (It ends up being a group session, and is very helpful). His lectures are perfectly constructed. I highly recommend going, even if it's on Fridays.

Dec 2006

Cornish is probably the worst professor I have ever taken at Columbia. First the good - The TA's are very helpful The lecture's are, for the most part, clear Now the bad The tests seem to be graded with the premise of giving students a hard time The acoustics in the room are awful and Cornish refuses to wear a microphone She does not erase the board well and the diagrams often become incomprehensible because they blend with what was previously on the board She is extremely unresponsive to students To internalize the material requires LOTS of time - something people here don't have a lot of. FOUR MIDTERMS

Sep 2006

I took Doubleday both terms this past academic year, and thought he was as straightforward as you can expect given that it's orgo. For the sake of disclosure, I got a B+ 1st term, and an A second term. I spent 12-18 hours a week study for this class 2nd term, and much less 1st term, esp at the start. As another reviewer said, one thing to watch out for is the grading where he just adds up all the points and treats all exams equally regardless of what the median score was... The averages were around 90+ Exam1, 70+ exam 2, and 50+ exam 3... Bottom line, don't screw up the first exam, or the second. You'll need those points and have an uphill battle getting them back. That's what happened to me first term, because I didn't study hard enough from the beginning. I did around 20 points above the median on exam 3, but that was only a 70 something, so no cigar. The competition is a little harder given that it's a lot of post baccs (yeah, me too). Overall, I studied really hard 2nd term, and that included studying extensively from Leighton's exams. Doubleday's were more straightforward. Of course, there are all the usual orgo complaints, not enough time on exams, questions you couldn't have anticipated -- but Doubleday comes out looking good compared to the other orgo profs. Orgo and orgo exams are just not straightforward. One helpful thing, he gives out tons of practice exams. That doesn't mean you won't be stumped on the real thing, but it does help.

Apr 2006

This is a great example of why CULPA sucks. Anytime people do poorly in a class they blame it on the professor. If the grading was so arbitrary, if the lectures were so bad, if the tests were so impossible, then how did ANYBODY in the class get an A???? And yes, there were lots of people who got A's and A-'s. Its time for pre-med students to grow up and drop their bad highschool attitudes about school. This is college, it's not supposed to be easy. My tests were never graded unfairly and the test questions were always appropriate for what we had learned. Just because the test problems are not the exact same ones you had on the homework does not mean that you can't do them. This class isn't about memorizing the solutions to problems, it is about understanding chemistry and it is not unreasonable for Cornish to put problems on the test that will test students' depth of understanding, not just how many solutions they memorized.

May 2005

smart guy but sort of a dead beat. the other TA's were always sending practice sheets out to their students and shit but Josh didn't do a damn thing. WTF?

May 2005

First and Foremost, I can honestly say I do not remember the last time I went to class. I remember the first day of lecture, first he tells us that everything that we will be tested on will be in the book. Then we all witness his lecturing skills. He is very disorganized and does not know how to lecture properly. When I went to office hours to ask a question, he answers everything but the question. I feel that for a professor to be successful in teaching, they have to have a passion for what they are professing and also a passion for teaching. Doubleday has neither. I most def. reccomend that you take a class with another professor!

Jan 2005

Peter is the single greatest TA in any university in any country. Period. I cannot express enough adulation for him. His lectures are clear, his handouts are great, he makes himself available to his students all the time, and he has more patience than anyone. If he is TA'ing any class, TAKE THE CLASS, just for him. He's worth it!

Jan 2005

Many of you may be reading this review in order to figure out which Organic Chem class to take Fall semester. If it is the same as last year, there will be a twice a week Cornish afternoon class and a three times a week Katz morning class. Now although the Katz class may seem slightly undersirable due to the timing, take it from someone who chose Cornish just so to not have to wake up at 9am on Fridays that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IS WORTH VOLUNTARILY CHOOSING SOMETHING THAT IS GUARANTEED TO SYSTEMATICALLY THROUGHOUT A SEMESTER WHITTLE AWAY AT ANY WILL OR SOUL OR HEART YOU MAY STILL HAVE COME JUNIOR YEAR. Now there are a lot of Cornish reviews, and it can get confusing because some for some unknown reason seem to be easy on her. Now I must admit, she attempts to teach you a lot about Organic chemistry and in a way that hopes to get students thinking about the science in an empirical comprehensive way, but ultimately when you have five other full classes to handle, you won't give a crap. She hates the textbook, but unless you are an organic chemist, you have no other way of figuring out anything she says in lecture and the TA's are just horrible. To cut a long, painful story short--even though Cornish grades are lower but there is a curve...the mental anguish of just trying to teach yourself a new science and even recieiving lower numbers on exams is simply not worth it.

Nov 2004

If you take Orgo, please please please do yourself a favor and choose Peter as your TA. He is wonderful- he answers questions quickly, holds extra office hours when you need it, and knows what you will have problems with even before you know it. His handouts are awesome, he explains things clearly- usually the smartest TAs aren't always the best ones- but by golly, Peter is both smart and terrific- highly highly highly recommend him.

Nov 2004

Prof Cornish is brilliant and a good lecturer, but her tests are too hard and she blames poor results on the students, which is not fair. The second midterm was very hard for the amount of time we had to learn the material, and instead of correcting her midterms to make them more accomplishable, she blamed us for not doing the homework (which is not true, at least of me). On top of learning new material, we had to turn in 100 problems every week after that, which was ridiculous.My TA would have been a better TA had she been interested in her students doing better. You learn alot in this class, and it's recommended for those who can't wake up for Katz's

Dec 2003

All the reviews of Katz so far say he is either wonderful or horrible. I think heÂ’s somewhere in the middle. He really does seem interested in the class and in helping students. His cheesy (and repetitive) jokes, whether you think theyÂ’re funny or irritating, definitely lighten the atmosphere. His exams could be worse. On the other hand, I found his lectures tended to be disorganized and sometimes confusing. Although he wants to help, heÂ’s not the most spectacular teacher in the world, so sometimes he doesnÂ’t know how. In his effort to get students not to stress about the class, he sometimes brushes off important questions. His problem sets are graded and often devilishly hard, but the TAs were quite willing to help with them.

Nov 2003

This class isn't nearly as bad as many of the other reviews would make it seem. Cornish is an extremely organized and good lecturer, and while the material is difficult, she does a good job of explaining it. She always plans her lectures so that there is review time before the tests, and she is very willing to meet with students during office hours and after lecture to talk about any problems or questions. She doesn't call on random people but only people who raise their hands, and she makes an effort to learn people's names (which you may or may not like). Nonetheless she is a great teacher and if you take her course, you will learn the subject well. Unlike in the past, the tests are during her class which is in the afternoon. They are 75 minute exams, and if you have studied you will have no problem finishing well within the time frame. While the tests are hard, the curve allows those who study to be rewarded. I recommend her class above Katz's, because his tests are so easy that stupid mistakes really hurt you. In her class, understanding the concepts will take you a long way.

Aug 2003

Prof. Merrer is, by far, one of the best professors I have had. She could not be a better lecturer. Her lectures are very well organized and structured. She puts much effort into teaching the course and makes every attempt to help students understand the material. Her tests get progressively harder, but they are fair. The weekly (not mandatory) problem sets are extremely helpful. The best advice for someone who takes a course with her is to do the problem sets and read the lecture notes. Textbook, although well written, is somewhat useless, but textbook problems are a very good practice. Another few good pieces of advice: do not fall behind, stay in pace with the course, if you don't understand ask her-she will definitely help(!!!), use every chance to attend office hours (even if you don't have any questions, it's quite useful to listen), attend all recitation sessions (remember: practice makes perfect!!!)

Aug 2003

I would recommend her. She was well organized, accessable, and mostly kept me awake during the 9:10 classes. She didn't have much patience with overly shy or lazy students during the problem sessions, but she got her point across. Interesting sense of humor. You do need to do the problem sets to keep up with class BUT they make the exams easier.

May 2003

I just want to respond to the negative review, which I think is ridiculous. Professor Katz is the single most inspiring professor I've had at Columbia, enough to convince me to major in chem. He just bleeds enthusiasm. He was always engaging and clearly knew the material inside and out. He seems to really get a kick out of dyes and their pretty colors, and the way he taught the lecture on conjugation was as if it was the single most wonderful thing in the world. I think you'd have to be a pretty hardened premed drone not to appreciate the energy he puts into lecture. Incidentally, he was also friendly to me outside of class. Just a great professor in general.

May 2003

This Professor is very much into his own research and could not care less about his students. every question in class is met with complete apathy. What will be on the exam? we ask. his response is "who cares? it's a test. it doesn't matter." Well, med schools beg to differ. Professor Katz is very distant and unapproachable. If you have a problem, only deal with the TA's because Katz will treat you like a little cockroach. He will step on you and squash you. Definitely go with Cornish. She can actually teach, cares about her students, cares about the course, and you will leave the class feeling like you learned something, and not like you just spent $3000 to hear someone tell you you don't matter and that your life doesn't matter for a whole semester. With the therapy you'll need after this class, expect to spend at least 5 grand.