course
Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology II

Sep 2020

The class is certainly difficult, but it was not at all like what I expected (in a good way!) from the Huge Reputation(TM) that it has. I feel like maybe people are really frustrated with the format of the exams in comparison to the clear-cut, all-multiple choice tests for Gen Chem. Seeing as a lot of undergrads probably feed in directly from that class, I will say that the experience is entirely different. Yes, the tests involve a lot of writing/explaining and the question prompts are like, half a page long, but they're not horribly unpredictable if you do the problem book questions. And there were definitely questions on tests that I looked back on and thought "How the hell was I supposed to infer that??????" but they were relatively few and far between. I don't have a very strong bio background either, and I struggled way more in ochem than I did this class. 70% of the stress around the class was literally just that it was Mowsh Bio in name. That being said, I would really not recommend taking this class if you already have a heavy schedule. The workload can feel deceptively light during non-test weeks because there's no mandatory HW, but if you don't pace yourself you WILL be doing problem sets for an entire day before exams and still feel unprepared (trust me).

Oct 2018

I am a former postbac who linked into medical school. I am writing now in hopes of giving prospective students my retrospective hope and advice. While taking Professor Mowshowitz's intro biology course did prepare me for the course content in medical school, it made me recall biochemistry with a specific unease. Coming into Columbia with no biology background, and looking back on the experience now, one of the long-term effects of experiencing this course the way I did was to plant a seed of dread in the subject matter, which I am now spending dedicated effort to undo. Students in this biology course perpetuated an atmosphere of constant alarm. Professor Mowshowitz's lectures were illuminating, but overshadowed by her trademark multiple choice examinations. Each exam was a jigsaw puzzle, and your learning experience doesn't need to be this way. What I wish I had done more of is to consciously seek joy in learning the clinical relevance of each topic early on, much earlier than medical school. Hidden behind each peril to my GPA was a fascinating world of molecular biology that I wish I had embraced. While this optimism may not improve your immediate score, it may salvage your relationship with the subject for the future. In terms of scores, some students will do well, and others will not. You are all capable individuals. Please remember this as you navigate school life at Columbia in general. Take care of yourselves, eat and sleep well (not in class), maintain your physical and mental health, and best wishes to you with school.

May 2017

This is a difficult class. If it matters to you, I got an A- the first semester and a B+ the second semester (FYI this was my first ever B at Columbia). If this were any other class I would be really mad at myself for getting a B, but the amount of interesting information I learned made up for it and I don't regret taking this class at all. I'm premed, and I thought Mowsh bio would be the reason I drop premed. The class ended up instead making me want to continue to be premed even more. I think professor Mowshowitz is one of the best teachers I've ever had at Columbia—there's a lot of information, and some of it is difficult, but she is so good at explaining concepts. This is why my number 1 tip for this class would be to simply FOCUS IN CLASS. I started to pay a lot less attention in class second semester and ended up having to learn a lot of information on my own (which is much, much, harder). Another thing that made this class so great is that there was no required readings—95% of the things you needed to know were taught in class (which is another reason you need to FOCUS IN CLASS). If you pay attention in class, do all of the practice problems in a timely manner, and read her lecture notes (which are easy to read, to the point, and teach you that last 5% you don't learn in class), then I promise you will enjoy this class and not get a terrible grade. Mowshowitz isn't this demon everyone seems to portray her as—she's actually a very nice person and a great teacher. I'm surprised she doesn't have a nugget on here. I feel like her culpa page is dominated by people who got bad grades in her class (which is ok, grades aren't everything! Enjoy the more important things in life for god's sake). And yes, it's true, there is no real "curve" in this class, but this past semester if you averaged an 86 on the exams you would get an A-, which is doable. Good luck!

Aug 2016

If You're Reading This It's Too Late.

May 2016

Taking these courses was probably the worst decision I made at Columbia! I did well, but the experience was taxing, demoralizing, and thankless. The lectures themselves are fine—not earth-shattering as people claim—but the exams are outrageous. Some questions are fair, but others are ambiguous in their wording and meaning to the nth degree, and are testing us on how well we can intuit what was *meant* to be asked, without being given enough information to know for certain. Basically we're betting. I know people beg to differ on this point, but I am an experienced test-taker, am totally capable of critical thinking and deduction, and knew the course material backwards and forwards (spent countless hours at recitation, reading the class notes, re-listening to the lectures, working through the problem sets, etc.). I am certain that in many cases these weren't edifying puzzles we were solving, but intentional obfuscations. In short, unless you have a taste for aggravation, ambiguity, and fear-mongering, don't take this class! And if you do take it, do not for a minute let anyone make you feel stupid for not being adept at solving "Mowshowitz problems"; it isn't a reflection on your intelligence, or a prognostic for your future, in any way.

Apr 2014

I am an alum (graduated from CC 2011). I am now in medical school, studying for my boards. Why am I writing this review? Because after taking Mowshowitz, everything in medical school is a PIECE OF CAKE. I am studying for the boards right now (Step 1 USMLE), and I just got 3 questions from the Question Bank right because of what I remembered from Mowshowitz's class. Take the class, because you will be thankful later, especially if you become a medical student.

Jan 2014

I am now an alum of Columbia and I am writing this review to help other students make an informed decision about taking Mow bio. I didn't take AP biology in high school and didn't have an incredibly strong biology background. I went into Mow bio very unprepared and found it VERY difficult. We studied cellular respiration early on and while most of my classmates already had the basic idea (any maybe even steps) of the Krebs cycle mastered, I was still trying to figure out what it was. Ultimately, I withdrew from her class (after failing a midterm) and took biology at Barnard the next year. Yes, biology at Barnard is easier (those of you who struggled and made it through Mow bio... congratulations). However, there is nothing wrong with easier. College biology doesn't need to be as difficult as Mow makes it.... its just not necessary. I worked hard in my Barnard biology class (again, I was far behind in terms of biology knowledge), but I didn't let it take over my life. I ended up with A's both semesters. Fast forward two years... I did incredibly well on the MCAT and graduated magna cum laude from Columbia. Again, biology doesn't have to be as hard as Mow makes it. If anyone is trying to tell you that you have to take Mow bio to get a good score on the MCAT... they are wrong. I have been accepted to multiple medical schools, including one that is tied in rankings with Columbia (for those of you that are tied to rankings). So, if anyone is telling you that you have to take mow bio because med schools know that you chickened out and went to Barnard for the easier bio.... well they are just wrong again. Not one medical school has even mentioned my biology class. I promise that all that matters when you end up applying is your grade/GPA (not whether it came from Barnard or Columbia). Overall, this is my advice: If you are a student that took AP biology/similar class, has a strong biology background, has a relatively light courseload (Mow is doable but it takes A LOT of time), and is interested in the challenge.... take mow bio. If you are a student that doesn't have a strong biology background or is taking a heavy courseload (or one that just doesn't want to invest 20 hrs/week studying mow bio).... take biology at Barnard. It isn't a walk in the park and you will still have to work for an A. However, you will learn all that you need to know to do incredibly well on the MCAT and succeed in future courses. Also, PLEASE, don't let your pre-med friends guilt you into taking mow bio. If you think that Barnard bio is a better fit for you, take it. Your GPA/med school applications will thank you, I just wanted to put this all out there because I heard a lot of rumors when I was at Columbia (med schools know the difference between the two classes, mow bio prepares you much better for the MCAT, etc) and they are just not true.

Sep 2013

Take a deep breath! It's going to be ok. i took mowsh bio and now i'm a yale med student, so you can do it! I heard terrible things about intro bio with mowshowitz and i was incredibly scared to take her class, but it actually turned out to be completely manageable and one of the most, if not the most, important classes i've ever taken. it lays a very important framework for understanding biological mechanisms and will guide you through the rest of your biological studies. tackling every bio class since mowsh has been so much easier because she teaches a special way of thinking. even today in my med school classes i feel like i understand what is going on so much better because of what mowsh taught us and how she taught us. sometimes i even go to her c2005/c2006 websites to review basic topics. my suggestions: 1) go to lecture, her demonstrations are key and so are the questions she asks in class. 2) go to bio recitation, ask a lot of questions. stay 5 minutes late or come 5 minutes early if you still need more clarification. 3) if you have questions, email mowsh! she is amazing at sending back clarifying responses. 4) do the practice problems! it's best if you can review them in a group, but doing them on your own works too if that's how you learn. you can learn a lot of key concepts from the answers. 5) don't focus on little details. mowsch cares about the bigger picture. she doesn't care if you remember the name of something, she cares if you remember the pathway. in this way you can apply your logic to any new situation. 6) dont read the textbooks! there is no mandatory textbook because it is unnecessary. she teaches you everything you need to know. its a waste of your precious time. BUT looking at the pictures in the book and reading their explanations is a good idea. 7) print the lecture notes and annotate them with her lectures. read them several times over, at least 3 times. it takes time for your mind to wrap around certain ideas. 8) get a good night's rest before the test. since her tests are mainly testing your way of thinking you need to make sure you are awake and sharp for the test! 9) look for clues in the paragraphs she gives you on the test. THERE ARE ALWAYS CLUES. pay close attention to bold words. if you think you don't have enough information to answer the question, you're probably missing something. move on and look back at the question information again later. 10) make sure you can explain your answer all the way to the end. sometimes you'll follow your logic to the end and realize that that was the wrong train of thought! and then you'll realize what the real answer is. if you aren't doing as well as you would like, please don't freak out. that's the worst. it's bad for your health (mental and physical) and it won't get you anywhere. you might even freak out so much, you impair yourself from studying well. also, you can do badly in one class and still succeed in life guys! for example: a close friend of mine got a C in 2nd semester of mowsch bio and is now in a great medical school. i wouldn't recommend it, but you can always make a come back. don't give up! lastly, make sure to do things that you love: run, paint, walk your dog, sing some songs. butler isn't going to make you happy.

Sep 2013

DISCLAIMER:If you're reading this review, chances are you have to take this class. Tough luck. (Also, for full disclosure, I got an A in this course for both semesters.) I don't think reading all of these reviews will help you with this class. There's no real sage wisdom to be found here. These reviews are here solely for comedic purposes, written by burned out pre-meds who are either venting about the unfairness of it all or by students who drank the Kool-Aid and bought into the personality cult of Chairman Mow. This is a flunk out course. Pure and simple. It is designed to weed out people that should go to medical school from those that should not. Once you dispel any other notions you may have about this class and accept that, you will be able to do well in this class. A lot has been said about Deborah Mowshowitz, aka Chairman Mow. People, even if they're doing poorly, seem to think she's an amazing professor, albeit one with a penchant for students' suffering. The truth, however, is that she is only an average professor. Those handouts look like they were drawn by a 3rd grader and they're not very well organized. The class notes, the surrogate textbook for the course, is just an outline of the lecture which doesn't have any additional information/references. So, if you don't understand something in the notes/lecture, you're stuck. My biggest gripe with her teaching is that she acts as if she's bringing great wisdom down from the mountain for the benefit of humanity. It's Intro Bio, and the actual information taught in this course is not far above what they teach in AP Bio (and in some cases, is at the exact same level). Then there's studying. You buy the problem book, do the problems, understand how to do the problems, make sure you logically understand the material, and replicate this process on the exams in order to do well. That's it. There is no magic formula for studying, no easy way around it. For the people who say they study for hours and hours on end and still don't do well, you're probably not studying effectively. This class will teach you how to study if you don't already know how to. If you can't learn how to study, then medical school is going to be tough for you. The Chairman is often accused of decreeing, "Well, maybe you're not cut out to be a doctor." I don't doubt that she's said this (in fact, I can almost guarantee she has), but I don't think that's an extraordinarily mean thing to say. To be honest, I think it is a little bit of hard truth. I've talked to people in my family who are in medicine (one of whom is a professor at a med school), and when I've told them about this, they say. "You know, as harsh as that sounds, it is true. And it's probably better to hear it earlier rather than later." Some of these reviews complain that "the only way to do well is to think like Mowsh." Well, ok. All I can say is get used to it. Just about every professor thinks this way, including STEM professors and med-school professors. That's kind of the whole point of taking their classes. Lastly, there are some people (possibly including Mowsh herself) who think that the comment "Maybe you're not cut out for medical school" is a dig at your intelligence, suggesting you should do something easier, "like history or philosophy." First of all, those subjects aren't necessarily easier than medicine (as a STEM person myself, you're not automatically smarter or better than humanities kids, sorry). Second, it's not a dig at your intelligence. Even though I did well in this course, I ultimately decided (partially because of this class) that I shouldn't go into medicine. So I guess the system works. Ultimately, you should stop complaining so much about this class. If you really want to go to medical school, then you're going to have to get used to classes like this. It's just the first of many. And if you do poorly, don't let it get you down. No one's going to care about a B in Intro Bio.

Jun 2013

As for the overwhelming number of posts about unfair and hard the class is – this is not for some classic or psych major student. The majority of students in this class are pre-med/pre-PhD students. Yes it is hard, but hell would have to freeze before I would ever want my doctor not to be able to do this class. If you are pre-med and seriously have a complex about having to “teach yourself” the material and think this is too difficult/tedious- reevaluate your current life path, what do you think med school is going to be like? This is a weeder class, the whole point is for it to be hard. That being said the only people I ever heard say the class was extremely hard or unfair or just general complaining were the post-bac students. Maybe the rest of the undergrads have just already been beaten into submission for the workload at Columbia but they tended to have the mentality “yes this is hard and I have to work to get the grade I want.” Going in to this course you have obviously read about how hard it is and yes you will change your way of problem solving and test taking yadda yadda- but a good grade isn’t unobtainable. There is no way to BS your way through these tests. You know the material inside and out or you don’t. The exams are not unfair and if there is ambiguity in the questions, Mowshowitz compensates for this with the grading. She has a certain way of asking questions that can take some time be able to follow how the specific phrasing of the questions should guide your thought process. If you are unsure which answer she wants put both and EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWERS – if your logic is right you will get points. It amazed me at how inefficiently people prepared for these exams – read the lectures notes (its pretty helpful to look at the referred figures in the textbook – Becker – don’t waste your money on Sadava, they give a much more in depth view of processes that help on the exams when you have to infer information). Now re-read the lecture notes and do the problems in the ORDER THAT SHE ASSIGNS THEM in the notes. They are assigned in order bc the answers sometimes have info you didn’t have in the notes and need for further problems. People seemed to get really frustrated with the problem book when they started a pset at questions 1 and went in order. Yes is would be totally logical for her to put the problems in the order you should do them but it just didn’t happen. Going to lecture is really up to you, it helps some people to see the models and drawings etc. Chavin doesn’t get enough credit on these reviews he is a great, although sometimes monotonous, lecturer – the powerpoints are helpful to see in class as he goes through them. As for the guest lecturer Hinkle-something, she’s obviously brilliant but she was very scattered and her notes were atrocious/skeletal compared to Dr.M’s. Go to lecture, decipher what topics she is covering, and then read the accompanying textbook to teach yourself.

May 2013

I just completed this course as a second semester freshman planning to major in Biology, and I don't think any teacher has ever taught me more than Dr. Mowshowitz. Dr. Mowshowitz does her utmost to help you learn the material. She is an excellent lecturer who explains the concepts very clearly and rarely, if ever, leaves anything for you to learn independently. Before every lecture, she posts notes online that contain everything she hopes to cover, and after every lecture she posts recordings of the lecture for anyone to listen to. Basically, there is absolutely no reason for you to be clueless when exam day comes. In fact, I learned enough just from the lectures that studying for tests was just a matter of rereading the notes to remind myself what she'd said. The only times I really needed to thoroughly review the material and take notes while studying were when we had Dr. Heicklen as a guest lecturer. The material covered is also a great deal more in depth than high school biology classes, and if you're here to learn rather than to get a high GPA, then you shouldn't even think about getting an exemption from this class. As far as her exams go, Dr. Mowshowitz has gone to great lengths to make this class useful to you in the long run. Most biology classes have you memorizing mountains of material for tests so that you can promptly forget them afterwards -- I took Environmental Biology I last semester and Dr. Naeem, also a great lecturer, had us memorize upwards of 500 terms every 6 lectures. On the other hand, in this class, the exams focus on problem solving, which emphasizes the reasoning necessary in all sciences (yes, biologists have to think too) and teaches you to pay close attention to the details -- if you forget an important detail, you can come to a conclusion that is completely wrong. Some people here seem to think that these things aren't important in biology and medicine, but they really are: research is entirely logic-based and requires much more detailed knowledge than she asks of you here, and doctors need to use everything they know about their patients to make life and death decisions all the time -- neither you nor your doctor has the luxury of ignoring the details of your medical history when you have a life-threatening disease. It seems that many people here don't like Dr. Mowshowitz because they aren't used to a biology class like hers, but this class will probably be a lot more helpful in the long run than most other classes you'll be taking. My only qualm with this course was with some of the incredibly anal policies are -- I ended up sitting an exam with a fever because you need to file an incomplete to take a makeup. The problem book she makes is also worth the money as it helps you get used to the types of problems you'll see on the exams and helps you learn what type of answers she'll expect. TL;DR: Mowshowitz is good teacher. Take this class.

Aug 2012

Students who say this course is mazy, confusing, has unfair grading and testing policies. Your complaints are valid. Those who say they've learned more than ever, I doubt it, friends; you're just obsessive compulsive puzzle solvers who are giddy about having taken a college course in sudoku biology, and have an inhuman appetite for homework, that would cause the 98% of the species to commit suicide. For those who are willing to commit a full time job amount of time to excelling at this course, you will find it helpful. But be honest, students. Most of us will not do problem sets twice. We won't study fours a day for this course alone, and get tutors, solve problems till our personalities deteriorate into lifeless, pale robots without any social sentiment. But this route is possible and achievable especially for the "?" that is the Columbia student. Also, let's not evade the fact y'all munch on adderals like m and m's to produce your insane work ethic or simply you can withstand a type of human experience which would send the regular person into a hopeless depression. Or you're so talented you don't give a F--- what I say. Nice.

Jul 2012

I was a premed at Columbia College and now I'm a 3rd year med student at Columbia. This review was written 4 years after I took the course with Dictator Mow and is meant to give you (whom I assume is premed) some perspective on why you should or should not take the course. The following may offend you, but if you're truly intent on going into medicine, thick skin is a prerequisite. What D.Mow does is an important function for Columbia undergrads. Like it or not, she's the grand filter for premeds and her class does a hell of a job at sorting out the failures and likely to be failures. Her exams test you on logic and technicalities as much as knowledge of the material. This is a lot like what the board certifying exams and shelf exams are like. Medical school exams are, obviously, much tougher than D.Mow's exams, but D.Mow's exams does a good job of replicating at an undergrad level of just how cruel med school exams and board exams can be. Now, this absolutely does not mean you have to do well in her class nor take her class. No medical school admissions gives a shit about who taught you intro bio None (they do care that you took courses at a reputable school though). Professors and physicians who hold high level academic positions and are extensively published will woo the hearts of medical school adcoms (admission committees). D.Mow does no medically related research and has no lab. Again, no adcoms will give a shit whether you took intro bio with her or a regular, non-sadistic professor. Taking a higher level bio seminar looks much more impressive. Also, if you got a B- in her class, it does not mean your chances of being a physician are screwed. I got a B- in her class, I'm going into surgery after next year. In the end, yes, her class is tough and sadistic. But if you want an undergrad taste of what med school materials may be like, do take her class. But if you have AP Bio credit and don't want the risk of damaging your science GPA, by all means, take higher levels bio classes which are more interesting and look better on your transcript.

May 2012

I truly believe that professor Mowshowitz is probably the worst professor that I have encountered at Columbia, and it is not because of her teaching style or her lectures, which surprisingly are excellent, but rather her grading policies and her behavior as an instructor and symbol of Columbia's educational system. You will definitely learn a great deal in this class, and the way Mowshowitz teaches is excellent for the most part. Albeit annoying that she starts the lecture 5 minutes before the class actually is supposed to start, and often throws so much stuff at you and ends up rushing and holding the class for an extra 10-15 minutes, for the most part you will learn a lot. Most of her lectures are really good, and although she can be disorganized or disjunct in the content she teaches (the kidney, cancer, immune system, nerves, muscle contraction), and sometimes in the rush be unclear, she does take time to answer questions. This aspect of the class will help a lot on the MCATs. Okay, now down to the dirt and grind. This woman is by far the cruelest and least compassionate person I have ever met in my life. First off, despite you paying $60,000 a year for tuition, she is the ONLY option you have for introduction to biology, a key bridge class to so may pre-med and biochem/bio major courses. She has a silly chart with the minimum cutoff, and if u make just two points below that average, you will not receive the higher grade, so even if u got the average in all the exams, just one splitting hair can smack you with a B-. Yes, it's that bad. Any attempt to try to ask her to check your exam will result in her telling you that you must submit a stupid regrade form, and if you do so, you will not be bumped up gradewise even if you're one point from the cutoff. She seems to think that she is the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter that determines whether you're cut for med school or for failure in life, but in the end she is nothing more than a neurotic woman who never got residency in med school and dedicated her life to being cruel and creating unclear and untested educational testing methods that in truth go beyond critical thinking to a realm of just stupidity, randomness, and most of all, unfairness. People who have gone to her and asked for help were shrugged off and told they were not good enough for med school, and she treats certain students preferentially. Her exams are horrible---they're all adopted from research papers she read and that she created questions about. She even has her own problem book, and in the end you will struggle through her problems and see that stupid technicalities and not what you learned, such as her poor control of the English language, or just her diabolical and stupid (read unfair and unjustified in a clear way) her explanations for why your completely valid educated guess was wrong. She needs to understand that unlike her we haven't read the research papers and that it is totally fine if our guesses don't perfectly align with the findings of research conducted over several months. Her TAs that grade the exam seem to be just as bad as she, grading harshly and giving a 50 on an exam that only had a few errors. This is also a class where you see the same kids acing the exams without effort just because they have a natural ability to solve her ridiculous problems and have their answers totally aligned with her. She seems to think all her unclear and stupid problems earn her some role as a paragon of critical thinking education, but in the end they are void and totally useless. I struggled on her exams and got a 40 on the MCAT, as her "critical thinking" is too extreme and just downright ludicrous and that her explanations are bunk, even compared to the MCAT. In the end, be relieved that your grade in her stupid class will not really matter a great deal in he grand scheme of things, as even medical school interviewers have told students who bombed her class "don't worry too much, we've heard about THIS class." Be assured that Moshowitz is not a Sorting Hat for medical school admissions, and smile and have hope that you will attend medical school. My advice for Columbia is to use some system of checks and balances to at the very least prevent Mowshowitz from the administration of ridiculous exams and untested/ ridiculous teaching methods, or just let her go. Don't let this class destroy your hopes, this woman is nothing more than a joke.

Jan 2012

I'm surprised that no one has commented/reviewed on how extremely detailed (read controlling and neurotic) Mowshowitz is. Written forms to request regrades? No regrade if anything on test is written in pencil? We only allow one regrade per semester and by the way if you do a regrade, you will not be considered for a bump up if you are on the cusp of a better grade. I'm sorry but what happened to the days where you could actually have a normal discussion with the professor about your exams? When I asked for advice, the only wisdom she had to offer was "some people just are not fit for medicine...whether it is their work ethic or level of intelligence" What?? I'm not even pre-med?! Also, why does she not have a CV/ background history on her webpage? Every other professor has one. What is she trying to hide? Could it be the fact that she has not published a single biology research paper since 1982? Or is it something worse?

May 2011

I am not adding this to vent, just to give some perspective from someone with a learning disability specifically for people like me who find themselves in Mowshowitz' course. First, Mowshowitz doesn;t seem to believe that learning disabilities are real, and seems to try to thwart the ODS system. Thus, exams are not quite as relaxed as they usually are with ODS. Plus, you may find yourself face to face with Mowshowitz saying something like "well, not everyone is cut out for medicine" upon learning about your LD. She doesn't seem to rely on current educational research research for her teaching methods - she is very old-fashioned. Her lectures are good - she uses demos and tries very hard to plan her lectures, but she is all over the place sometimes. Her exams are killer. She thinks she is teaching you to "apply" your knowledge (she even tries to use good old 'Bloom's taxonomy' to make it look like she is really a professional educator). But in truth, she tries to make biological problems as tough as physics problems by limiting the amount of information she gives you. Bio is not like physics - it's a systematic science that requires different approaches to problem solving. I think that for people with LDs, this class can be particularly hard because of her attempts to teach in this strange way. I prefer straignforward profs who try to help their students achieve, not by creating new, untested teaching methods. That said, lots of people seem to do well in her class. And the MCATs indeed are easy in comparison. I was not one of those who did all that well. I learned a lot because of the amount of studying I did. But there is no reason for bio to be made this hard. It is a fun subject that is normally quite easy to learn for people with learning disabilities compared to the other sciences. I regret coming to the post-bacc program specifically because of this class. I will be taking a couple of other bio courses afterward to lift my GPA back up. If you insist on taking this class, get a tutor who was once a TA for this class if possible RIGHT AWAY! Don't wait. And yes, shell out the cash.

Aug 2010

As with anything on this site, you should take this review with a grain of salt. That being said, HOLY SHIT this class was an absolute ball buster. I don't think I've ever [insert miserable adjective; examples include: lost sleep, cried eyes out, worked as hard for nothing, etc] than I have for this class, and I predict for the rest of my academic career at Columbia. Upsides: 1) MCAT Bio is an absolute joke after this. We didn't get so much into anatomy but that's easily solvable with renting a basic guide 2) The bonds you make with people in this class are hard to break. Something about collective misery really brings out the best in people 3) Really awesome war stories 4) Unless you're a genius or really bomb all your classes, you can only go up from here and upward trends are good trends. 5) If you ever consider working for biotech, all the time we spent on genetics and proteins instead of general bio makes so much more sense. 6) The most amazing catharsis comes with ending the second semester 7) This class is the great equalizer: Pre-Meds, Engineers and PostBaccs will uniformly struggle with this class 8) Most importantly: YOU WILL LEARN HOW TO STUDY Downsides: 1) You will have a bio induced breakdown 2) Your GPA will be shit until you figure out how to study 3) You're GPA most likely will continue to be shit 4) You will hate, with every fiber of your being, Mowshowitz. This hate will probably spill into other areas of your life. 5) If you're really lucky you'll get to hear Mowsh tell you you're not smart enough for her class and should take the easier version at Barnard (truest story ever told). 6) How much you study has NO CORRELATION to how well you do, whereas in other science classes (notable exception: physics) I feel like the fact that I can come up with more positives than negatives after being raped by this class with little reward (1st sem- C, 2nd sem- B-) speaks to the utility of this class.

May 2009

Bio was a really valuable experience for me. Yes, it was painful, frustrating, and often disheartening, but I thought that Mowshowitz's problems were a good way to learn the material. I liked having to apply the concepts instead of just memorizing names and pathways (but there was a lot of memorization the second semester). Many of the problems are based on real research results, and some of them are quite fascinating. She's a fantastic lecturer and uses a lot of models. The organization can be a little confusing sometimes, but I think this has as much to do with the complexity of the material as with her lecturing skills. I definitely suggest going over the lecture notes in detail before starting on the problems because you don't want to waste them on learning the basic material (i.e. the memorizable facts). You should use the problems and the detailed solutions to become more familiar with the nuances of the material and the kinds of questions she asks. After going over the lecture notes, you may feel that you know the material, but the problems always make you think about it in a new way. It also helps to do the problem sets more than once. The first time you do them, you're learning. The second time, you're reviewing. A TA once suggested knowing the problems and solutions by heart, but that's really not enough. It actually doesn't matter if you remember all the answers or not, but you should understand all of them. It's also incredibly important to stay up to date with the material and problem sets. There's just way too much information to absorb for most people to cram successfully. I also suggest writing down what you learn every time you get a problem wrong and making notes of your most common mistakes. Mowshowitz is very helpful during office hours, and she's genuinely interested in making sure people learn in this class. She's also really good about replying to emails. Lastly, I think the grading is a little more generous than people assume. First semester, she lowered the cutoffs by several points. Second semester, she offered extra credit (max 4 points). I honestly don't get the feeling that she's out to crush anyone.

May 2009

Many of these reviews are rather exaggerated. Yes, it is a tough course, but it is not impossible by any means and should not end your chances at med school so long as you do all the problems and are decently intelligent. Yes, she is a good lecturer and does a decent job with making dry topics not too dreadful, but "brilliant" and "fabulous" are a little extreme. Often, you will read the lectures and think "Why, Deborah? Why are you telling us these random, unrelated facts? Why must we know the details of this seemingly arbitrarily selected disease?" Sometimes, you will leave class feeling like your knowledge is more random trivia than cohesive, comprehensive, biology knowledge. Many topics that should be in "normal" intro bio classes are never covered, many topics that we covered are too specific and detailed to be in an intro bio class. But if you're reading this review, you likely have no choice. So, tips: go to lecture and try to pay some attention; or at least pay enough attention to annotate her increasingly cryptic handouts (oh, dmowsh, I know you want us to learn by going to lecture, but a handout full of blanks and third-grader style sketches isn't very useful at all). Do no problems yet. About two weeks before the exam, read through/highlight the lectures (unless you actually absorbed the material in lecture, you star student, you) and make your way through the problem book (skipping the R's and stars). Do the R's and stars last. Then do the practice exam the day before the exam.

Sep 2008

well let's see... once there was sunlight, now there is darkness once there was pleasure, now there is sadness once there was hope, now it's despair once i thought i could get into med school.. now, i don't really care. in summary: i have just wasted 10 minutes of my precious time writing this horrible poem about the woes of intro bio with the Mowsh. she is really and truly a wonderful professor but if you do not make time for her class, she will bring you down. Study like you have no life but if, in the end, you find yourself dangling from a fine thread of despair, don't take it personally. Her class is not a test of how much you know your bio, it's how well you can deal with her questions.

Jun 2008

It's time someone said it straight out: The emperor has no clothes. Everyone at Columbia knows how hard Mowshowitz is, but even students who do poorly in her class seem to swallow the myth that it's their fault, that they were somehow deficient in learning her method of Deep Scientific Thinking. And those who get A's actually seem to think they learned something about biology! Sorry, all they learned is how to think like Deborah Mowshowitz, and that has almost nothing to do with real science. First of all, Prof. M doesn't practice real science: she hasn't published a genetics paper since 1982, and she doesn't even have a lab. So she presents herself as some kind of authority on science education instead. The way she talks, you'd think she invented Problem-Based Learning, but that's not true (it was developed in Canada in the 1970's). But what's worse, she violates the whole spirit of PBL; the goal should be to TEACH students by example, not to deliberately confuse and trick them as she does. In her problems, half the challenge is figuring out what the question is-or more accurately, what she thinks it is. Standard English doesn't matter; she speaks Mowshowitz, and if you don't, too bad for you. Little did you know that words like "before," "after," and "during" can have special meanings that are found only inside her head, and can even change from problem to problem. That's pretty sad, considering that the goal of science is to be consistent and reproducible. Instead, she's arbitrary and capricious. You can have the "right" answer on a test question, and a written explanation that is virtually identical to the one on the answer key, but somehow what you wrote is worth less than full credit-and you can never get a straight answer as to why. Her famous lectures are also overrated. Many students are in awe because they're packed with so much detail, but it's all trees and no forest; there's no thematic organization and no connection between topics, yet each is presented in mind-numbing detail. In just the last 3 weeks of 2nd semester, we covered (in order): embryonic development, temperature and blood pressure regulation, hormones, the structure of the kidney, and the immune system. It felt more like a grab-bag of random topics than a biology course. The final insult is that, for all her obsession with details, she gets quite a few of them wrong-sometimes in a big way. For example, she gave an entire lecture about 2 proteins which store and release iron in the body, and it turned out the whole thing was backwards. (One protein works only when iron is high, and she said low; the other was the opposite.) She never even admitted this in class, but relied on the TAs to tell their students about it, even though recitation is optional for many students. That's just wrong. In summary, this is less a class than a form of torture. Just grit your teeth and get through it as best you can, but get rid of any illusions you may have about learning anything, other than how to survive Mowshowitz' educational reign of terror. I guess our only consolation is that she'll retire someday.

Dec 2007

I guess I must be an idiot according to the reviewer two below. I took Prof. Mowshowitz's class during 2006-7. I felt that she did not adequately prepare me for the MCAT. She covers extremely little about physiology, the respiratory system, and a lot of simply factual information. She's certainly interested in biology, but the critical thinking exercises can often detract from the biology and leave you unprepared. She should teach a section of biology called scientific reasonsing, or biological reasoning, but not biology in my opinion. But the real worst part of the class is Professor Mowshowitz's language. The reason her exam questions are so ambiguous is that she does not want to give any hint whatsoever about the the answer might be. So she strips her sentences and never expands on what she writes. Let me give you a good Deborah Mowshowitz question: QUESTION: True or false: There are 7 national banks in the U.S. ANSWER: True--there are more than 7 national banks in the U.S. False--there are not 7 national banks in the U.S., instead there are many more than that.

Nov 2006

An amazing lecturer who gives utterly DEMORALIZING examinations. The best advice I can give is to stay on top of the homework - the problems are far too difficult to put off until the exam is approaching. You don't really need the suggested textbooks, though you might glance at the Becker text for reference on some of the gene regulation material. (Reading the text will waste valuable time - that is better spent doing the homework problems.) Also, you might want to bring a pocket recorder to class, for some of the gems she inserts into her lectures. A word to the wise: if you are a postbacc pre-med student, do not get confrontational with her, in the event that you disagree with her grading. People on the postbacc committee will tell you that they hold Dr. M in very high regard. You do not want to get Dr. M upset. Good luck, and keep your cool.

Sep 2006

Does it really have to be so bad? Life is too short...

May 2006

Background: I just finished taking Dr. M's 2nd term of Intro Bio. I got a B 1st term and an A 2nd term. Maybe that'll help you all put my review in context. Second term she eased up by giving us more time on the exams, which helped substantially. As with most science classes, you can know the material well but still get screwed running out of time after you misunderstand or get bogged down on one question. This is particularly a problem in her class because the questions are confusing. There are both honest conceptual "tricks" and stupid semantic "tricks" that may or may not be thrown in. You really need to concentrate very, very hard taking these exams or you won't be able to show what you know. IMPORTANT: 45 min or so of extra time 2nd term on exams helped. Instead of just having 1 class period for exams, we got 1 class period plus and extra 45 min to an hour. Don't let her get away with going back to her old tricks next term. There's no trick to this class except to get an early start on the problems. There are 2 ways to go wrong with the problem book. #1 - you hurry through the lectures, only skimming them, then get to the problems, don't know how to do any of them, and look up the answers. You are wasting your one opportunity to come at these problems fresh. Take 2-3 hours (not more than 5) to look over each lecture in some detail and make notes on the important points. Then tackle the problems. #2 - you want to understand everything thoroughly and completely before you tackle the problems. I tried not to spend more than 5 hours reviewing a lecture on my own, including looking up stuff in the book and drawing out diagrams, making flashcards, whatever. Trust me, come back to this *after* doing the problems, if you have time. If you want a shot at an A, you need to do all the problems. Also, its important to actually remember the valuable notes she makes in her answers. Some of which she doesn't cover at all in lecture. I would spend my time making flashcards and diagrams of the answers to problem book questions before I'd spend it on the lecture itself.

May 2006

It's been a full year of my experience with Dr. Mowshowitz and I must say, it was quite an adventure to remember. A couple of pointers for those yearning pre-meds who are expecting to get a B+ in this course but really really really want that golden "A." -Read up on every single of CULPA review on her and Chasin. I'm not kidding. I remember during the summer being scared absolute shitless when I read her CULPA reviews, but now I'm thankful for having been so demoralized. Because of what I learned early from culpa, I came into this course more than aware of and prepared for her ambiguously-worded and infamously tough exams (and yes, they are as tough as if not worse than how they're reviewed here). -It is after taking her first exam that you will realize that you're now in college and there's no turning back. Prepare well for that first exam with the right mindset, and it'll probably define the mood for the rest of your year in Bio. I studied harder for each midterm than I did for any of my GChem finals combined; that attitude helpfully carried me on for the entire rest of the year -Go to every single of her live lectures. Although her downloadable lecture outlines are almost written word-for-word, there always exist a few minor details that she clarifies so well in class. And it just happens to be that those details are the ones that end up in some way on the midterms. -Read her lectures outlines thoroughly, over and over and over and over. Read them once, you'll probably retain only 60% of the material. Read them again, and you'll get all the materials that you missed out on the first time. It's those sneaky little details you disavowed on the first run that end up on the midterms. If you ever think that "ah, there's no way she can put that on the exam..," she can and she will. -Treat your problem book like your new significant other. Do the problems over and over and over again. Bring it everywhere with you, take notes on it, sleep with it. If you're already in a relationship with someone else, tell him/her that some things are going have to change this year. If you're single, then that's great; you won't be so bored at Columbia anymore. -With that said, take NOTES on how she asks questions (what she means when she says this and that). There's a way she words her questions that you should pick up on early on before it gets too late into the year. Therefore, take notes on her lectures and problems, and then take notes on your notes. -Start a study group and teach the material to each other. The recitation teachers always say that there's a huge difference between knowing the material and teaching it. And remember that the recitation teachers are the selected few undergrads who all got A's in the course. Know the material, and then be able to teach it to others. -NEVER EVER GIVE UP! You can go in with an "oh shit" feeling but never feel that one bad midterm grade will destroy you. You can always drop one midterm; just don't take a midterm with the plans to already drop it -- that's the wrong way to approach this course. Always give your 100% to every single midterm and if you have the stamina, you'll be proud of what you've learned and accompliahsed. -Don't buy bio textbooks if you plan on going to every live lecture. You'll be in a better mood to start off your year having saved at least $200. Spend that money on food to eat while you're studying furiously into the night. Good luck premeds! and godspeed.

Mar 2006

lets get things straight since you will have no choice but to take this class. Dr. M is a really good teacher but her tests are freaking impossible she thinks that if you "understand the material" that the tests are not challening, but the wording of the questions is always ambiguous and misleading and she intentionally throws you off with diagrams that are difficult to interpret. the key to doing well in this class is learning to think like her. this is not a skill that can be learned by everyone. sorry. youre out of luck premeds. pros: you will be well prepared to think like a scientist inthe future, you will LAUGH at the bio section of the mcats, and you will have a lot more information about modern biology than anyone else in the country taking an intro bio class. cons: you can put in a massive amount of work and still end up with a C. no tutoring, practice books, or textbooks can help you unless you take that damn problem book and graft it to your body, letting the style of scientific thinking slowly seep through.

Nov 2005

I took this course last year and I've got to say that this course is difficult for exactly the reasons stated in the 23 December 2004 review -- it's spot on. Doing well in this class' exams requires brains and the skills of a detective -- you have to integrate a huge number of details to deliberately tricky test problems. I attended every lecture – but for me, the recitation section was the key to surviving this course. Switch asap if your recitation leader seems bad. (Ask around and find a good section and claim that a schedule conflict arose.) The great thing about this course is that if you don’t understand a concept you have no lack of places to turn for help: a) lecture notes b) a recitation section led my an undergrad that recently took the course c) two textbooks d) a problem book e) lots of friends in the course Mowshowitz is much better than Chasin (although it might just be that she gets to teach the more interesting lectures). I should also say note the Purves textbook is fantastic -- well diagramed, concepts well-explained and put in context – if you’re having trouble with something, read Purves closely before reading the lecture notes or doing the problems. There's not much to say that hasn't been said before. The material on the tests are really unpredictable and you must learn every detail to do well. So all i can really do is acknowledge that the problem book and lecture notes are at times confusing – lots of mistakes, typos and confusing grammatical issues. And the tests are brutal and the lectures are sometimes disorganized. But suck it up, and you’ll learn a helluva lot of bio.

May 2005

Let me make it simple for you. Class and D-mow are a waste of time and space. I don't even know what she looked like, but I walked out with an A. If you want to do this my way, screw going to class, read the notes VERY CAREFULLY, and do every single problem twice or three times. Thats all there is to it. Still, its quite time consuming, and I went into the class liking bio, and left hating it.

May 2004

I think that most of the mean reviews of Professor Mowshowitz come from people who didn't do as well as they expected to. If you're not ready to deal with a biology class that actually forces you to think instead of just regurgitating facts, this is definitely not for you. You have to do a ton of work. The reason that Professor Mowshowitz doesn't use the established textbooks is that they throw so many details at you that the key concepts get overlooked. This is probably one of the few problem-based intro biology courses in the country, so all the materials and problems are from Dr. M herself. Here is the deal. If you want to actually understand the concepts and learn to apply them, then take the course. If you want a bio course where you memorize the "established" textbooks and get an A by regurgitating material, go elsewhere

Feb 2004

The severity of the problem with Introductory Biology at Columbia has not been truly brought to light by these other reviews. Allow me to raise a few points: 1) Why does Dr. Mowshowitz (with a little Chasin and Gibber sprinkled in) have a monopoly on the Intro Bio racket? Have any of you stopped to think that in Physics, G Chem and Orgo, Columbia offers you a choice of at least 3 different professors per semster. So why is she the only choice one of the most prestigious institutions of our country offers for such an important subject? 2) What right does Dr. Mowshowitz have to filter a class through her lenses the way she does? Let me explain: in G Chem, Physics and Orgo, the main source of material is a textbook. But in Dr. Mowshowitz's class, the information comes mainly from her on-line notes and the problems (which mirror her exams) are based on problems she wrote or co-wrote. Not trusting the industry standard Campbell (or Becker and Purves for that matter) for problems she forces students to wrestle with her style. If that style does not fit yours, well you're out of luck, there are no alternatives or other professors offered. 3) Down to the nitty gritty: Her problem sets and more importantly exams are comprised of a set of questions with subsections which are often interconnected. For example there is #1 1-a, 1b, 1c.....and #2 2a, 2b, 2c. Now, not only is all of problem #1 (i.e. 1a, 1b etc) based on one question, but often problems #1 and #2 are connected. The point being: there is a domino effect. If you get one part wrong this leads you to get another part wrong and often even other entire problems. I would prefer questions that are wholly independent of each other so there is no double jeopardy. Again, I am asking that she model her exams like G Chem, Physics and Orgo. Amen, Thanks for Listening. Petition Columbia to hire some more Intro to Bio professors.

Dec 2003

In my opinion, Dr. Gibber is an odd lady. She always sounds like she has a cold and lectures rather quickly. She is quite disorganized. Visit her office sometime and see what a mess it is--papers everywhere. She only taught a section of Bio using her famous Powerpoint slides. My advice to the Pre-Meds who are in Bio with Gibber is to go over the slides and to USE THE BOOK to uncover the tiny details portrayed in a vague manner on her slides--as these details will be on the Test. She is big on application questions and a student must get use to her method of testing--if you know the answer, be as specific as possible in your response. If you dont know it, then spit out some vague memorized phrase telling the reason for your answer and youll get some partial credit. Take Physiology if you want a great prep for the MCAT and are willing to deal with the frequent cramming for the 5 mini-exams. And I do have to say, I found it tough to be a male in her class--3 Asian girls for TAs in Physio and the study of the male reproductive system was interesting...

May 2002

I thought the material was taught too fast. it seemed like we constantly had exams and i often felt very lost in the course. Even when i went to all the lectures, read the textbooks, did all the homeowork, went to recitation, and studied a lot for the exam, the structure of the exams somehow just confused me. For example, for the last exam, i knew the material cold but the question just confused me and i changed my right answer (wprth 18 points) to the wrong one because the right answer made sense to me but i'm so used to the exams being tricky, that i completely doubted myself and lost 18 points on the exam. i think we are given too many problems to do and i don't like that we only get the problems sometimes just a week before the exam. I think the lectures went too fast sometimes, with both Dr. Gibber and Mowshowitz. The slides went by at lighting speed and i wish she had put them online before class so that i could bring them to class with me and be able to better follow what was going on. But it definitely helped that they were online. I think it was completely unfair to tell us to buy Purves and Becker last semester because since they both cover the same material, both are not necessary. and i wish they had told us how much Gibber follows Sherwood because then i would have bought it in the beginning of the semester. For the last exam, i wanted to buy it, but the bookstore did not have it. this is an intro bio class and i have never really studied any bio before and i think this class expected way too much of me. it was unfair that people who had taken AP bio were in the same class as i was because they would study hours before the exam and get A's and i would study like crazy and not get A's. I have not even decided if i'm premed or not, and if i end up not being, i basically just spent this year torturing myself.

Nov 2001

Dr. Gibber is a great teacher. Her lectures are informative and interesting. She uses excellent Power Point slides (some animated!) to help explain the material in a clear and concise fashion. Be warned, though, she speaks rather quickly. She's a very friendly person, and will answer your emails within hours, up to and including 3 AM.