course
Genetics

May 2010

Maybe, in a couple of years' time, these two instructors will be decent lecturers. For the present, they're just plain bad (consider the fact that Mowshowitz sat in on two of our lectures). Perez-Cheeks is marginally better than Lim, but I may be biased because I found her material more interesting. The first couple of lectures were insanely rushed because Lim assumed we'd learned it all in intro bio. Like the previous review said, whenever Lim didn't like the Clicker responses, she'd tell us that we needed to review the material. The fact is, we never actually LEARNED that stuff in intro bio (at least not in such depth), which only covered the very basics. My main frustration was that with all the time she spent talking about how we needed to review intro bio material, she could have just taught the material to us. Even when she did slow down to re-cap the more confusing concepts, it wasn't that helpful because she couldn't explain it any differently from the book. I'm fine with textbook lecturers if the textbook is any good, but our textbook was terrible, so Lim's offhanded responses ("Well, this was in your book, so take a look at that") were hardly reassuring. She also liked to work out problems on the overhead, but her explanation of the process sounded like something regurgitated and didn't really give us time to absorb the information. Perez-Cheeks was at least a clearer lecturer, but she lectured heavily from an unassigned textbook (which was kept on reserve). With such a heavy emphasis on prokaryotic genetics, I wish they'd assigned us a more comprehensive textbook. I think my main issue was that it was so obvious neither of them really wanted to teach this class. For the most part, they slavishly followed the textbook's explanations without stopping to consider whether the textbook was all that good at explaining the concepts. At the beginning of the semester, they told us that they would prefer it if we emailed the TAs instead of them because it'd be too time-consuming to respond to so many emails. On top of that, they didn't hold office hours because neither of them worked on the Morningside campus (the logic being that in the past, no one had bothered going to office hours when they were held at the medical campus... So why couldn't they have reserved a room on campus for an hour or two before each class?). This meant that if we wanted to ask them questions directly, we had to cram them into the few minutes before and after class. I'm sure a lot of people just resorted to emailing them anyway, but I was floored by how eager they were to distance themselves from the class.

May 2010

The semester started out pretty inauspiciously, with Lim rushing through the lectures absurdly fast, making obvious errors/getting somewhat offended when people pointed them out, and spending over 15 minutes fiddling with the stupid iClicker software. This software was particularly useless during these first few lectures when, even when she saw that less than half of the class got the right answers to the clicker questions, she dismissed the class's lack of understanding telling us "You should have learned this in intro bio" and that we should "go review it on our own time." Eventually she got the picture and slowed down for a few lectures, unfortunately to a snail-like pace that left many asleep. Thankfully, by a month or two into the semester she figured out a decent pace and started getting her act together. There were still a few topics that seemed very rushed, though, and more than once I had to go home and reread the lecture notes before I understood a lick of what she was talking about. I preferred Perez-Cheeks as a professor, though I wasn't crazy about the actual material she taught. The class discussed more prokaryotic genetics than I particularly cared for. This was especially problematic due to the fact that our textbook was primarily eukaryote focused, leaving Perez-Cheeks to assign homework out of a textbook nobody owned (she thought she rectified this by keeping the secondary text on reserve, a slightly laughable idea since it was two copies for about 80 students.). Not that the book was particularly useful for the material it actually did cover. In fact, I found myself referencing Becker (World of the Cell, from Mowshowitz bio) more than our textbook. There were some times when the class felt exceedingly disorganized, which had me feeling nostalgic for Mowshowitz's wonderfully choreographed teaching. The material was often presented in a strange order, material awkwardly switching between eukaryotic and prokaryotic or being taught almost piecemeal. But all in all, the class ended up being decent, despite its flaws. They definitely weren't the best professors, but they weren't the worst by any means, and were generally nice people. It was even somewhat interesting at times, and I could stay awake through it most of the time.

Sep 2009

Engaging professor, but Yin should not be teaching. As sweet and good-intentioned as she is, she's a horrible teacher. Aviv is interesting, though goes really fast. If you miss a beat, you won't get the rest of the lecture. The subject material itself isn't extremely captivating, at least not the way it is taught. The textbook was much more interesting, at least to me. If you're the kind of person who needs to get a lot of details to work into the general, the book would be useful. Professor Aviv, I know you're reading this so PLEASE put up some sort of powerpoint BEFORE class. As much as you are opposed to this, it'll be a huge help those who are a bit slower at picking up material. And slow down during the Lambda phage lessons. You went way too fast there and did not break up the different stages distinctively enough.

May 2009

Aviv is an energetic professor that seems to care about his class and his field of work. That is until he had a first time grad student (Yin Mei Lim) teach a little over half the course (but more (now professor) Yin Mei Lim). His office hours are in the morning and at the medical campus, thus it is quite inaccessible (why can't he just have them on the college campus?). His lectures are quite interesting, and you must study them religiously since the exams are solely based on his lectures and some extra material such as a research paper or a wiki article (on lambda phage). Now, with Lim: she tried at first to write on the black board, to utter failure. Then she tried writing on a projector, to utter failure. Finally, she resorted to doing her lectures via powerpoint, like what Aviv does. But, her lectures were much more tepid, boring, and straight from the textbook. Also, you must go over all your exams (including your final), because the TAs (I've heard) will make some mistakes on grading.

Feb 2008

This was one of the best classes, if not the best, class I have taken at Columbia. I found Professor Chalfie's class to be very organized, his TA's were superb (he picks the best graduate students from the previous year), and his lecture style to be engaging and relatively well organized. He does not use power point, which in this day and age I feel is a crutch not an asset used by lecturers. The lectures flowed very well- and I in fact did record the lectures (as did many other students in the class) and they were helpful. To reiterate the advice from previous posts- download the exams and answers, they will take them down, buy the Griffiths book (I bought mine for discount from amazon uk and it was much cheaper than the bookstore), and BORROW Ptashne for the lambda lecture. I loved this class.

Jun 2007

The secret to this class is to study the slides, religiously. Don't bother reading the text, unless you don't understand something from the slides. Memorize every important concept from the powerpoint presentations. I found that I didn't need to go to/ask for the Professors' office hours--the TAs should suffice. (Just talk to them, they will tell you what you need to know.) Every exam is long and has many points dedicated to short answers so UNDERSTAND what you're memorizing or else it will come back to haunt you. As an aside, there was a guy in the class who ran back and forth across my row like a crazed monkey during our final. I thought I did okay--I got an A in the end. I wonder what grade he got?

Feb 2007

No excuse for no office hours. There's just no excuse for that. Lectures were hard to follow, a lot of studying on own necessary. The problem is, though, that so much information is presented that you end up studying a lot of it for nothing; moreover, other stuff you think is too complicated to show up on the test does.

Dec 2006

As the other reviewers have mentioned, this class requires effort. Chalfie is really a terrific lecturer, but do not expect to be spoon fed genetics. Much of the learning in this class will be done on your own or with the TAs. For your own sake, save every electronic copy of old exams, and if you want answers to current semester exams print them immediately because he asks the TAs to remove all the exams prior to the final so you will be out of luck if you dont print or save them immediately. I got an A- in the class and this is what I did: 1. I did the problems before the exams- every frigging problem twice b/c the dude recycles questions like its going out of style- there are a shitload of problems but just do them and reap the benefits. 2. I read the textbooks when he lost me in lecture- Do yourself a favor and buy Griffiths, borrow Ptashne for the lambda lecture and read the books. His lectures are riveting but not always organized 3. I went to the TAs- who were wonderful Do damage to the mean on the first exam- I scored two standard deviations above the mean on that exam- and had mediocre perfomances on the next two. If you do well on the first exam you may not have to take the final!!!

Sep 2006

Professor Morton is a really nice guy and is extremely willing to help in any way he can. Like most other upper level bio classes this class is definately not easy. The problem sets are difficult and the tests require a lot of memorization. Take advantage of Professor Morton's office hours. He can be very patient and helpful.

May 2006

Aviv and Russo split the lectures. All their lectures are powerpoint based. We had homework due on Monday (only helps if you are borderline between two grades at the end of the semester) and quizzes (20% of grade) every wednesday. Overall, the class is very typical science class. I attended lectures (I don't understand why one wouldn't at Columbia; you avoid spending more time reading the book and in this class, the book was more a reference for the lectures then actually required reading) and overall found them to be very informative and interesting. However, Aviv's powerpoints are MUCH better organized than Russo's. When I reviewed for the exam, I found it very easy to go over Aviv's lectures. He is less wordy and organizes the slides well. Russo is the opposite. Too many words, not very articulate, and too much information per slide. I never went to recitations so I can't comment on the TAs. The exams were average; not too hard, not too easy. Because they make you take quizzes, I kept up with the material and only had to study/review the day before the two midterms and one final they give. I did above average on both midterms. I haven't taken the final at this point, but it's exactly like the midterms (combination of multiple choice, T/F, fill in the blank, short-answer questions) and is cumulative. One warning about the exams: they take forever. Both midterms, the majority of the class stayed all the way until the end trying to finish. Russo's material is generally harder to study, not just because his powerpoints are worse than Aviv's but because he likes to teach methodology in genetics research, which can be confusing if one doesn't have confidence in understanding scientific research (Aviv more likely will present a breakthrough experiment that helped move genetics forward and you are expected to know the general methodology and conclusion of the experiment; i find it easier to study examples rather than to learn the general methodology like Russo teaches). I liked the professors alright; Not a huge fan of either, but didn't hate them. Overall, I would recommend this class if you're interested in genetics.

Jan 2006

Chalfie's lectures are truly amazing, it is a pity I didn't record them. He did occasionally have some good jokes and generally you can have a very good glimpse at the real life behind science. He does not require you to use the textbook and indeed you need it only for background. The problem with grades of course is you cannot easily figure out what he wants from you. Doing the problems is probably a very good idea, but even just understanding them is quite enough. Most important is good notes from lecture cause often problems would refer to particular examples he used. This is the frustrating part - often you will have to just memorize what is the experiment you need to do in a particular situation. Simply knowing the general principles and thinking on your own on the test won't work always, unless you are a genius or already have significant experience in the field.

Jan 2006

In contrast to the last reviewer, I very much liked Chalfie's lecturing style. I didn't think they were disorganized. It is true that he doesn't use powerpoint, but in my humble opinion, I think that science professors in general should use powerpoint very sparingly, because it makes lectures boring as hell. All you have to do in a powerpoint is follow the slides with the prof, without making sure you actually understand the stuff, and this would be especially detrimental in a genetics course, as genetics is a problem-solving-oriented discipline, and you wouldn't really learn anything from memorization. When you're actually taking notes, you are more likely to engage the material and learn it as you go. All in all if you put in however much effort you need to put in to do well (which will vary from person to person), you gain a very good understanding of basic genetics. Same comments about the problem sets and Chalfie's large intelligence, enthusiasm and question-answering.

Nov 2005

A great class and he actually makes the boring stuff enjoyable. I have learned a lot about genetics. The homeworks are not collected but if you are good at it you will certainly do well on the exam. Dr. Aviv is very organized. It is not that they dont care about students it actually depends on you whether you are self motivated or not; it is true for other columbia science classes as well. Dr. Russo is kind of disorganized and tends to make the exam little harder but if you do the assigned problems you are fine. Overall, the class was a great experience.

Nov 2005

Aviv is very young. He pretends like he cares about students but really he and Russo have no office hours. He tries to joke around, tries to be engaging, but it's just very sad. He does seem to care about the material, but in his actions, it becomes clear that he doesn't really care about you.

Jun 2005

I too took this course a while ago. It takes a week or two for it to come across, but in my opinion Bore-ton really is mean and nasty underneath his very thin fake-nice facade. True, he repeats everything 6 million times during class, but you won't hear it even the first time because you'll be sleeping or staring out the window or making a grocery list--anything to try to stay awake for even a minute or two. I guess if you really need to catch up on your sleep, this would be a great class to take, but otherwise stay away. I hated this class more than just about any I've taken.Don't let it happen to you.

Apr 2005

took the course a while ago, but Professor Morton is definitely Professor Snore-ton. Boring as all get out, doesn't care at all about the students, aways ready with a sneer or patronizing comment. Stay away from this class if you have any choice!

Apr 2005

This was the worst class I've taken at Barnard. Morton is patronizing, mean, and talks down to the students more than any professor I've had. Nice? I don't think so. Sometimes he was fakey nice, but it didn't fool most of the students in my class for very long. I agree with the other reviews: MIND-NUMBINGLY boring for sure, but I don't think the other reviews expressed that he really is not a nice guy. His grading curve sucked and I hated the class, not because of the grade I got (an A-), but because this guy is really awful. Avoid like the plague!

Mar 2005

I don't particularly agree with the last viewer. The class was certainly very difficult. I also felt like there was a diconnect between the lecture material and the homework material. Some exams resembled the homework and some would focus on your comprehension of the lecture material. To do well in this class, a student must be particularly motivated and fill in the details missing from the lecture (which are rushed and always seemed to run out of time). Prof Chalfie lectures spontaneously and extremely fast--so no powerpoint, which would really help his organization. I couldn't believe that some people actually fell asleep in this class as I thought they were all so interesting. Plus, you can miss a lot of material by dozing. I definitely wish that I had started tape recording the classes before the end of the term (there are generally 5 recording devices in front of the chalk board each class). Printing out outlines from the website doesn't really help one keep up with the speed of the lecture. The problems were difficult--and the answers provided were sometimes wrong--but the TAs during optional recitations and review sessions were very bright and capable of answering your questions. Prof Chalfie is exceptionally intelligent (I believe he was recently accepted as a fellow to the National Academy of Science and from what I understand, he invented GFP). His lectures are full of really interesting and often funny anecdotes (many about worm research--his specialty) that really take you through the most important genetic experiments and humble you, thinking about the brilliance of these scientists. Prof Chalfie is very enthusiastic in answering questions outside of class. He has an office hour everyday and two on Friday. This class was very hard but it also makes me want to drop pre-med and study genetics. It was probably the most challenging course I've taken at Columbia, and it's definitely rewarding. I recommend it.

Dec 2004

If you can help it, don't take this class. It was absolutely ridiculous. To be fair, the material was understandable and the professor would help you if asked (and if you can get a hold of him), but that's where the good parts of the class ends. The problem sets were very very hard and the answer keys often had mistakes which made doing the problem sets even more frustrating. And the exams were impossible; they were too long and the questions were worded in such ridiculous ways that I often felt like I was being tested on if I could understand what he was asking rather than the material being tested. To give an example of how impossible his exams were the mean on one of the exams was a 42. I worked my butt off, and at the end I was relieved to get a B-. If you can take genetics with another professor I strongly advise doing so.

Jan 2004

Generally agree with the other reviews... if you're the typical columbia pre-med you already know how to do well in this class if you've taken bio. his pace is relatively repetitive - you'll find yourself taking the same notes over and over - but it doesn't make the class easy. Book is pointless as far as I found, make sure you go to class and get all the notes - every last three-time-repeated detail of them - and if you can get previous tests to practice on - it's priceless. Problem sets are tough, very tough, they take much longer than you'd expect. Start the night before and you won't finish - not for a decent grade anyway.

Dec 2003

Break News!!!!! Genetics is assassinated at Barnard College. WHO IS Responsible???? Professor Morton In my opinion, he is a boring professor. Lectures suck, and exams are tough. He is there to show students how much he knows, and how much he can trick students on exams. He even has an attitude that the author of the book does not know as much as he does. The way he speaks, the way he explains the stuff are confusing, and sometimes, it makes me wonder if he really knows what he's talking about. I don't agree with other ppl saying he is a nice guy, a good looking and an intelligent guy. I think he is funny looking. He is intelligent enough to be a professor, but no more than that. And he was not nice to me.

Jun 2003

I slept through every class, didn't read the textbook, learned little to no genetics, and still got an A in the class. Really, Erickson is boring, and the fact that this class is taught on Tuesday/Thursday night didn't help much either. There were no graded problem sets, so the workload was fairly light. Tests not too bad either, and I managed to do well on all of them. BUT, if you want to actually learn genetics, find yourself another class, or at least I hope you're a hell of alot more motivated than I am.

May 2003

Mind-numbingly dull. He should be called Professor Bore-ton. Yes, he's a nice guy, but his lectures are some of the most miserably soporific experiences I have ever had. Despite the fact that much of the material covered in Genetics is fascinating, his monotonous drone makes it very difficult to remain interested or excited during class. He is often irritatingly repetitive, and even worse, sometimes muddles up his explanation of important concepts, so that you have to turn to the text in order to make sense of them. His tests are difficult, and you need to know every last detail of every topic covered - right down to specific subunits of ribosomes and every single protein associated with every kind of replication, transcription, etc. Put in the necessary effort and you'll learn a lot, but trust me, it won't be much fun. My recommendation? Drink a lot of coffee before class - not only will it wake you up, it will also make you have to pee about halfway through class, thus providing an excuse to take a much needed break from Morton's monotonous misery.

Jun 2002

Honestly, this course sucked unless you were a good little student and did your genetics every night. I came to this course as a senior, and so I had a good amount of previous knowledge from my other bio courses. But the material was explained so badly, and important concepts glossed over so quickly that it was a nightmare. Add to it the unavoidable stupor that comes with listening to incomprehensible gibberish, and you are a strong, courageous soul if you manage to keep awake. Of course, I noticed that all the nerdy-types in the class who understood the material enough to ask intelligent questions had no problem staying awake and would even whisper to themselves the answers to the professor's rhetorical questions. It was obvious that these were the students who actually did the optional (but highly recommended) questions at the back of each chapter. All in all, the only reason I mention these things is to give some of you hope. Although I barely studied for this class, and got the mean on each midterm, somehow the curve gave me an A after the final. In any case, don't take Chalfie's version of Genetics. Erickson is much more approachable (although his answers to your questions will probably leave you just as confused anyway).

May 2002

Fairly organized lectures. class gets progressively more difficult. this is not a class for non science non biologists. class attendance is a must to understand the exams.

Apr 2002

Brian Morton, the good-looking, nice-guy professor with the strong Canadian accent, has a very strong command of the subject. first half of the semster is hard core probability and very math-based. the second half is molecular genetics, more bio based. his class is filled with bio majors, i found the material to be difficult to master, his tests very challenging, and his curve not so accomodating. i guess if youre a natural science and math person, go for it. if youre looking for a cool elective, find something else more worth your time.