course
Intensive General Chemistry

Dec 2020

The lectures are fairly clear but Prof. McDermott sometimes goes a bit fast or onto tangents that are more contextual or about her research rather than the material itself (not that it's a bad thing). The TAs and recitation sections are helpful, and there's plenty of resources (help sessions, practice tests) to prepare for the tests. Overall, the amount of extra credit and grading options with a lenient curve make this an easier class, though the optional projects and unchecked homework allow for more depth if you want that.

Feb 2019

I love this woman. She is a mess, but in the most incredible way. Homework is not graded, the curve is generous, and she will spend half of the class talking about her own research on Lead, meaning the amount of content you are actually tested on is very little. I wish I could take more of her classes; she's genuinely brilliant, kind, and understanding of the workload of other classes.

Dec 2018

Professor McDermott reads a lot off the slides and I never felt like she actually taught much. Professor Gonzalez was much better as a lecturer as he added useful information that couldn't be found on the slides. Sometimes, the content was quite confusing and hard to follow with his slides, and maybe sometimes more than we need to know, but overall I enjoyed him more. The course overall was a little boring and unorganized. Communication about deadlines and homework assignments were not clear at all and the TAs were confused too. Ellie was great and often gave hints about what we need to know about weekly quizzes and midterms. There is a weird lead paper that needs to be done, due at the end of the semester. Directions and deadlines weren't clear at all. However, grading is somewhat loose on it. It just seems kind of BS to me. Overall, though, would recommend to take if you want to get chemistry done in one semester instead of two. It's not that hard of a course.

Jul 2018

I did not enjoy this class at all. The professor would skip a lot of slides, and I felt very lost in the material. The tests were often tricky, with questions that varied a lot based on which TA wrote them. I ended up alright with the curve, but as someone who always loved chemistry, I was deeply disappointed by the class. There were times I felt very overwhelmed with the material and other times where it was smooth sailing. Office hours were a life saver. Honestly, the TAs did a lot to try and make up for the class, and I thank them for it. They hosted some additional review sessions which were incredibly useful. There were times that I did not know what was going on at all until the TA explained it. Honestly, if you only need one semester of chemistry, definitely take regular. It will give you a GPA boost. Even if you need more than one semester, consider trading the GPA boost for this class.

Dec 2017

Wei Min is a very intelligent guy. He's done a lot of work in the field of Physical Chemistry, and through his lectures, you can tell he is extremely passionate about Chemistry. He's super witty and seemed like he wanted us to understand the material. However, at times, this fell short because he has the tendency to go off on tangents and complicate concepts that could've been communicated much simpler. I guess that because he is so distinguished in the field, his explanations, at times, flew over our heads and seemed esoteric. He lectures using Powerpoint but he uses the slides more as a guideline rather than reading straight from the slides. I found it easier to just print out the slides before hand and write notes on that, which many students did as well. His exams are HARD. Mainly because he doesn't assign any practice problems/ specific areas to concentrate on. He literally just says, "Do all the chapter problems." I found it helpful to read the chapters that corresponded to the lecture and do the most challenging problems in the textbook. But sometimes, the exams covered topics that were not deeply covered in the textbook. I recommend going online and finding alternate practice problems that are different/ more in depth than the ones in the textbook, just so you avoid any curveballs in the exam. His tests aren't something you can prepare for a few days before. Start studying the chapters immediately after he lectures on them. (I know you guys will probably still try to study the night before, so you will have to learn the hard way) If you take this course, make sure you pay attention to those small topics he just barely brushes over in lecture, because chances are, 1 or 2 obscure questions related to those topics will be on the test.

Jan 2015

Professor Brus is just a bad teacher. By the end of the class, less than 50% of the students went to lecture. His notes are available online, and the homework and book assignments will definitely help you learn the material if you are motivated and diligent. But going to his class is nearly pointless, as it's impossible to understand what he is saying as he teaches. I could not hear him, he mumbled a lot, he was completely unaware when his microphone was not working, etc. The only benefit from going to lecture is the consistency/focus on the class you might get because of the schedule; also, he occasionally diagrams something on the board that you will need to know for a test (something that can't be found online). Overall, if you just want to get skip a semester of chem, you have a strong chem background, and you like learning on your own--go ahead and take intensive. He's often the only professor teaching it. But if you can avoid it, don't take his gen chem.

Nov 2013

She knows her stuff and she will do a quick review of the concepts before the quiz during recitations (though it is only useful sometimes). However, she only sends an email saying what the material included on the quiz will be the night before the day of the quiz, which means you study for it completely blind. Additionally, the email is not always clear on what will be included on the quiz. Very stressfull, is all I can say.

Apr 2010

If you are enticed to take Intensive General Chemistry to get out of a semester of General Chemistry, be warned that you will be miserable in this class. I absolutely hated being in this class. Louis Brus has chicken-scratch handwriting, talks to the board, fails to answer questions fully, and goes off on tangents about the Chemistry department, particularly his own research. As a pre-med, I feel like I would have been better off taking General Chemistry for two semesters and learning something rather than attempting to perfect the art of mind reading in order to figure out what exactly his disorganized lectures were aiming to teach. He does not follow the text book in a coherent pattern and will often delve into somewhat complex mathematical aspects of chemistry.

Apr 2010

So, I took this class last semester with Brus. To be honest, I'm still a bit uncertain if Brus was ever actually a good teacher, like some people say he is. There were a few pretty good lectures, and Brus has a very interesting brand of dry humour... In that it's hard to tell if he's making a joke or if he's naturally that depressed. I went to his office hours around three times, which is three times more than a huge amount of the class, I think I failed to ever make an impression on him. Plus it was rather awkward, every time... Essentially, this is second semester General Chemistry, and it covers some of the most interesting units in GChem, imo. In that respect I was very glad I took this instead of GChem, because it was short and to the point, whereas some of the teachers of first semester seemed to focus on somewhat trivial stuff (like crystal lattices...). At the beginning of the year he said he would do a unit on electrochem, which we ended up skipping, and we never covered titration problems, but both of those things are *huge* pains in the ass, so I'm glad. That said, having this class at 9:00 am was almost painful. Prof. Brus, while a fairly decent lecturer who likes to use the blackboard, has an almost monotonic voice... Combined with the uncomfortable chairs and somewhat dry material, it can be all too easy to fall asleep. I think I slept through about seven lectures at least; the only reason I didn't sleep through more was because I started drinking obscene amounts of caffeine and got obsessed about sleep to the point where I started not doing homework (I had a class Mon-Thurs that ended at 7:00pm, fyi). He focused a lot on theory during lectures and didn't really bother to solve problems from the textbook, so you had to rely on your TA and the textbook being able to help you through them. Some of them were just impossible, but it's important to know how to do them. It was essential to do the homework problems and go over the textbook, because the tests were really heavily based on them, and if you didn't do it during the year you ended up being kind of screwed over. Warning: most of the class ended up being screwed over by acid-base equilibria. My TA was pretty cool and really, really awesome about answering questions and helping us learn the material both during recitations and during office hours, but the quizzes he gave were long and challenging (or painful >>;). (Tim Berkelbach, fyi) I heard from some other sources that he's pretty condescending to people, but as a TA he was good and really understood our plight. I had a huge advantage in having taken AP Chemistry in high school. My school really prepared me well for that test; we did a month of going over decades of exam questions, and I ended up getting a 5. A lot of the material, therefore, wasn't entirely unknown to me (though kinetics and thermodynamics was, and it's insanely conceptual and messed up), and it helped in doing the problems and understanding stuff. And yet, you can't just cruise by in this class without putting in some effort. There is enough new material that I didn't get bored, and the textbook included a lot of derivations that, if you go through them, really enlighten your understanding of the unit. Definitely recommend snagging a blackboard and just writing down, line by line, what they do--it will help you remember how the different equations are used. They're provided during the test (thank god), but they'll be absolutely useless if you can't figure out in time how to use them. This class is probably really good prep for physical chemistry, especially if you take the time to absorb the material and try to go a little beyond it, like looking up books and things like that. While I can't say that Prof Brus is the most stimulating of teachers, he's certainly like chemistry royalty (even if I didn't realize it at the time of taking the class).

Jan 2010

Brus is a good professor, and this is a good class for students with a fairly strong background in chemistry. When he started the semester, the material was all from Chemistry AP. However, after the first midterm, he realized that most students in this class knew that stuff well and moved on to more interesting material. He covered a lot of the same subjects as Chem AP, but took them more in depth to give his students a better understanding of what is actually happening and how it applies, giving examples from topics such as global warming. His lectures were not the most engaging, and I found it at times difficult to stay awake, as this was a morning class, but it is worth taking if you enjoy chemistry.

Dec 2009

Interesting class. If you chemistry is your favorite subject he is an ideal professor because his courses are not identical to the book but often touch on the same material in a different way. On the first day of class I felt like I understood reactions and collisions in a new way. If you miss class its not a big deal because the notes are online but studying the lecture notes is painful, its easier to just pay attention in class. He doesn't check homework so doing it is not stressful and theres only about 1-3 hours every 3-4 classes. Maybe 10 problems per chapter. The exams are not ridiculous and the quizzes are very easy. Very nice and friendly, also tries to skip material which everyone knows from high school or that is archaic and taught because of tradition (like indicators and incorrect atomic models). I recommend this class and this professor for anyone serious about learning chemistry. If you are just taking it because you have to I might no recommend him.

Nov 2009

As previous reviews have implied, Professor Flynn is a hit or miss. If you learn best from lectures, this is probably not the place for you, as you will probably learn most of the material on your own. In any case, I strongly recommend not attending his lectures. He uses powerpoint slides that go by much faster than you can really comprehend. To add to that, the lights are dimmed and his voice is quite droning, so you can imagine what happens next. I did not find the recitations particularly useful, but the weekly recitation quiz forced me keep up with the material. His practice exams were really similar to the actual exams, so make sure you know how to do all those problems, and you should do well. Personally, I felt that the class simply taught how and when to use the equations on his equation sheet without revealing any real underlying knowledge of chemistry. Also, since the exams are all scantron (multiple-choice), you don't get partial credit. The curve was not bad, though. I do not regret taking this class, since it was not a large time commitment and a better option than two semester of gen chem.

Jan 2009

I read on CULPA that this class was an "emotional roller coaster," and I think that was fairly accurate. At first, I thought it didn't sound too bad and that I had a pretty good grasp on the material, however I walked out of the first midterm with my dreams of a chemistry major absolutely crushed. His "creative questions" on the exams threw me off, and I hardly had enough time to finish the test. Thankfully he drops your lowest grade, so in the end this midterm didn't hurt me. I managed to break the class average on the subsequent midterms and the final, but not without obsessively studying the homework, retaking the practice tests a few times, and a horrible sensation of hopelessness accompanying each test. This is a difficult and intimidating class, but it is possible to keep up if you are motivated. The recitations were incredibly helpful in going over the material (although I heard that the TA for the other section was much worse), and if you're interested in physics and/or chemistry, you'll find the material somewhat engaging. Flynn's lectures were kind of boring (and at 9:10, so they were not well-attended), but he is a really smart guy and knows what he is doing. I did wind up with a lower grade than I had expected (I was told he curves to a B+, although I scored at least average on everything except the test I dropped and got a B), so I'm not really sure what happened. Overall, this class is tough, but as long as you keep up with the work and don't save all your studying for the night before, you won't totally fail.

Jan 2009

Going to the lecture is not completely useless no matter how bleak it looks. You will see your class size drop from 100 students to 20 maybe 35 tops though. His powerpoint lectures are useful only as an outline and sometimes a bit confusing...he does explain the material a tad better in class albeit in a droning manner which makes you fall asleep for this 9 AM class (bring coffee). During lecture, he sometimes throws in some "cultural enrichments" or "not posted slides" for which it is good to be present because some do show up on the midterm...but if you absolutely can't handle his teaching style it's not worth it and is better to just skip the class in general. Things do get better after you get used to his teaching style. It is helpful to either look at the powerpoints before class and/or read the book, which though not amazing is much more clarifying and will teach you more chemistry. He's a fair grader, however his grading is done mostly using statistics thus even though you have really good grades, if everyone else did well your grade is merely average. Therefore take all the exams (don't skip one b/c u got good grades on the others) and perhaps you may be lucky enough to do extremely well on a difficult exam. To do very well, I recommend spend maybe 6 hrs per week on the material. Spend 2-3 hrs learning the material covered in the lectures or book and make sure you can do all the homework problems for the recitation quizzes. Then when it's time to study for the midterms, you can spend maybe that same amount of time reviewing and redoing all the problems. Make sure to pay attention to his practice exams especially because many of the exam problems are very similar but harder.

Dec 2008

Flynn seemed like a really sweet old man, but his lectures were incredibly dry and ultimately not effective. Even with a really strong cup of coffee I would doubtless find myself falling asleep in class. It was far easier to simply skip lecture and learn the material from the slides/book, although the book was not a great deal better. He would sometimes tell sweet little stories about his granddaughter, though. Chemistry 1604 was quite easy, if you've taken AP chem. It is a nice way to get a chemistry requirement out of the way. Flynn is reasonable with grades, and the tests are a fairly good indication of how well you understand the material. Essentially, if you go to class occasionally to hear cute stories, study the notes, and do the problems, you'll be fine in the course.

Dec 2008

Without a doubt, the worst teacher I have this semester. I never thought it would be possible for a lecturer to make the material more confusing, but Flynn manages it. I learned a lot more chemistry just reading the lecture slides in my dorm and reviewing what the textbook had to say about the topic. The more Flynn explained the concepts, the less sense they made. I stopped attending lecture about a month in. You're better off just going to recitation. My TA explained everything much more clearly.

Sep 2008

Overall I liked the class, though it was definitely hardcore and I doubt some of the topics covered will ever come up again. Berne and the lecture itself can be very boring and too in-depth/technical sometimes for how much brain you'd think freshmen would have. I had failed attempts to take notes, mostly consisting of humongously long formulas, which must be memorized for the exams(though to be fair he doesn't usually test you on the most horrific ones). My work ethic for this class was basically nonexistent until a midterm or final, when I skimmed all the chapters and did all the problems during an all nighter. Like I said, you have to memorize the formulas so doing things last minute worked well for me. Even if you understand the theory, the formulas don't always come easily. The curve is really good though, since Berne usually aims to have a class average of 50-60%. One standard deviation above the average is usually an A.

Jun 2008

I was terrified of this class after reading other CULPA reviews, but it really turned out quite well. Avila isn't around most of the time, but when he is, he usually takes interest in what the students are doing. He likes asking questions that go beyond what's immediately required for the particular lab, and he doesn't mind if you don't know the answers. His explanations tend to be a bit long, but he's definitely enthusiastic about the material. He's picky about lab safety, though. The labs are long, and it's not easy to leave early, but the write-ups really aren't bad at all. I got the feeling that the TAs stressed conciseness and format over quality. The class has a very generous curve. The only annoying thing was that the lab manual was full of typos, grammar mistakes, and broken links that made the procedures hard to understand. This class is worth your time.

Feb 2008

This is pretty much a physical chemistry class. Be prepared for some pretty deep derivations and equations. His lectures are based off of his powerpoints so some choose not to attend lectures. Midterms and final were rough. Means on the exams ran anywhere from low 40's to low 60's. However, there was a VERY generous curve at the end. You won't know your grade though as you go through the class since you don't really know how he's going to curve. Overall, you do learn quite a bit in this class and it's definitely a class to take if you have a love for Chemistry or just want to get Gen. Chem out of the way in 1 semester.

Dec 2007

Berne is a really nice guy, and he's pretty enthusiastic about the material, but the problem is being enthusiastic about the material yourself. Many of the lectures are derivation-based, which can be intimidating, but you don't have to understand the derivations to do well on tests. It's much more important knowing what the formula is and how to use it. The exam content was pretty fair. They were all problem-based with very few conceptual questions. Sometimes the problems were simply plug-and-chug if you knew the right formulas. He always stops lecture to answer questions, but he often misunderstands or answers them by repeating what he said three second earlier during lecture. Occasionally digresses about famous chemists who've done work at Columbia. Starts class 5-10 minutes and usually ends 5 minutes late. No office hours but approachable after lecture. I found the recitations useless. If TAs were clearing up material covered in lecture, they always chose to explain stuff you already knew. Then there were times when they had to cover chapters not taught in lecture, but if you took AP Chem in high school, then you pretty much knew everything already. Some people can probably pull off just cramming for this class the night before, but I found it really helpful to keep up with the lectures by reading the chapters beforehand (he posts assignments before he starts lecturing on the assigned chapters in class).

Dec 2007

If you want to put your love of chemistry to the test, this is the class for you. Prepare to fall asleep every class, become boggled by incredible equations, and leave tests wondering if you even answered parts of a majority of the questions correctly. Despite a relatively generous curve, Bruce Berne succeeds in making you thoroughly despise the work you're doing; even though you may understand the concepts backwards and forwards, if you can't memorize the vast number of equations for the exams you'll end up with an unappealling grade. The lecture material does not correspond with anything the TAs teach, and even they were often confused about the subjects presented in lecture. And however enthusiastic or friendly Professor Berne may be, he only succeeds in complicating easy topics with slides upon fast-moving slides of equations you may or may not need to know. This class was a decidedly unpleasant experience, no matter the final grade.

Dec 2007

I get the impression that Professor Berne is one of those professors who is at the university for research rather than for teaching. All of his lectures are done by powerpoint presentation, most of which he says that he hasn't updated in a few years. The lectures are posted online, and it can be useful to look over some of them when studying. Some students print them off and take their notes directly onto the lecture notes--that's probably a good idea. Don't make the mistake of thinking that because the lectures are online you can skip class--there is a lot that he will talk about that isn't written directly into the presentations. On the other hand, he also tends to go off on tangents about different people who have done different things for the field of chemistry (particularly when they've got some connection to Columbia). He doesn't seem to be very good at answering students' questions, and sometimes I got the impression he didn't even understand what they were asking. Reading the book is definitely helpful in this class. Only take this class if you're prepared to take an intensive class, because that's what it is (you get through all of gen chem in 1 semester instead of 2). On the exams, he aims for the mean to be about 60%, and at the end of the semester he will curve it so that the number grades correspond to a letter grade--grades aren't calculated before you take the final. The homework isn't collected, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. However, it seems like the homework problems aren't always consistent with the exam problems. The day before a midterm definitely go to class, because he will tell you what to study for the midterm.

Apr 2007

What no one has told you so far is that this class is basically a very advanced (for first-years) physical chemistry course. If you have not taken physics, I would not recommend this course. Prof Berne derived one of the gas laws on the first day with a proof that involved partial integrals. We also learned how to solve - not just the theory behind - the Schrodinger wave equation. There is a lot of theory in this course, but what can you expect - he's a theoretical chemist. It's a very fast-paced, difficult course if you don't have the proper foundation, so make sure you know your calculus (at LEAST up to Calc. 2), physics and at least something about physical chemistry before taking this. You need to know your stuff forwards and backwards for the exams. However, the prof is VERY nice and extremely approachable - you just have to take initiative to ask him.

Jan 2007

My impression of Professor Berne is an amalgam of the other reviews thus far. He is extremely smart and knows what he is teaching, no doubts there. Furthermore, he is also interested in what he teachers, and tries very hard to add spice to his lectures and keep students interested. I noticed many had a difficult time paying attention, even to the point of falling asleep. This may be due to the fact that the class was in the morning and he often dims the lights for his power point presentations. Although he moves fast, you can get by without bringing the slides to class, which he posts online. However, there is no denying this class is challenging. I coasted through AP Chem no problem, but had to work to maintain a good grade in this class. Your homework is not collected; the only grades are the midterms and finals. Test averages were often in the 50-65% range, but with a fair curve. My only other complaint was that the class could have been better in sync with the recitations, which are set up to teach completely different material, and sometimes the TA's said something different than Berne. All in all, a good class if you are really interested in chemistry or are intent on getting a head start, but be prepared to study.

Dec 2006

Bruce Berne knows his stuff. He always comes to class with his briefcase and a Powerpoint slide ready to go. His lectures are always a little too indepth--covering in much more detail the topics you only need to know on a casual basis. For example, he spent maybe two whole weeks on Schrodinger's equation, which wasn't even a question on the final exam. All in all, if you know the material from AP Chem, you should do fine. I skimmed by this class without even really attending lecture. Whenever I did, I was probably asleep or playing online poker in the back. Oh yeah, lecture slides are all posted online too.

Apr 2006

I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that I loved this class. It was engaging and by far the most challenging thing I've ever done, and I LEARNED chemistry by the time I was through with it. Professor Berne reminds me of Sean Connery, and clearly loves what he does, which makes the class interesting. Lectures were a bit fast-paced in the beginning but gradually became more understandable. A bit of advice: if the lecture slides are posted online, do NOT use that as an excuse to skip class, but print them out and take notes on them; the slides go by too fast to write everything down in a notebook. Professor Berne requires a thorough understanding of the material for his tests - don't expect to get by simply by memorizing formulas in this class. That said, the problem sets are helpful in learning to apply the concepts, although test problems are always harder. Think long and hard about whether or not you want to take this class - it will not be easy, and if you don't love chemistry then you will be miserable, but if you're willing to work and want to learn from a ridiculously smart and extremely approachable professor, this may be your favorite class of the semester.

Jan 2006

A nice guy who is definitely one of the smartest in the world at what he does. However, he oftern forgets he is teaching undergraduates and doesn't take enough time to explain difficult concepts or calculations. The exams don't accurately reflect what is given in the homework and the lectures don't accurately reflect what is on the homework.

Feb 2005

This class was a nightmare. Pechukas knows his stuff alright, and can teach it relatively coherently during lecture, but the problem set/test system was whack. It seems like he was too lazy to write two sets of problems, so our homework was the test, which might sound nice, but really means that you don't get homework answers and never know if you are doing things right. This makes working on problem sets EXTREMELY time consuming. You must collaborate with other people, but whenever people come up with different answers, it is a big pain to figure out who was right. And as other reviewers have said, recitations are really more lecture, on a completely different subject. However, it is possible to completely ignore the recitation material and still do alright in the class if you REALLY nail everything else, because the tests are made to be too long and curved around 50%. Take this class only if you really have to and love chemistry.

May 2004

Flynn is a very approachable and amiable old man, but this class certainly isn't the most freshman friendly. You can tell he has a lot to juggle on his plate, being a big name and all, and this class is sort of a side job that has been conditioned to banality over the years. Go to his office hours frequently, and he may remember your name. Go to him a few weeks after the class ends to ask for a recommendation letter, and he's forgotten about you completely. He's willing to write them, but they must be cookie cutter, fill in student's name here recommendation letters...he's the guy who looks you straight in the eye, offers good advice, but couldn't care less about who you are and where you are going. His class is good though, and you learn a lot. It is actually an introduction to physical chemistry, so it uses a lot of physics concepts and requries some math. For the pre-meds out there, if you have a solid foundation in general chemistry, this is a very fun class. The powerpoint lectures are boring, but the material definitely isn't, and neither is the book. It covers very little general chemistry, so don't take it expecting a good MCAT gchem review.

Jan 2004

Flynn is a really nice man, and really cares about his students. The first test was a HUGE shock, and pretty much everyone did badly, which meant that with the curve everyone was fine. When you get used to his tests, you can really learn a lot. The recitations are pretty painful...try to get a good TA and friends in earlier recitations that can tell you what to do. I don't think he's teaching this class anymore, but if he does the best way to do well is find someone from the previous year and get their sample midterms...the problems on the midterm you have will probably be very similar (if not identical) to the ones on the sample midterm from the year before.

Nov 2003

He's bad. Very boring lectures. I have a hard time staying focused. But the class isn't difficult to pass if you read the textbook and/or the powerpoint lectures and do the hw.

Jan 2003

Flynn is a great professor. Granted, all the lectures powerpoint and online, but I actually do think it's worth it to go to class, even though sometimes his lectures are tediously boring. This class is a MUCH better alternative to the regular general chem sequence.

Dec 2002

Flynn is a nice guy...very approachable and friendly and willing to help you understand what's going on in class. He's generous with the class materials: posts powerpoint lectures on the web, holds a LOT of review sessions before tests (with very smart and helpful TA's, and he even leads one himself), gives detailed solutions to homework problems, AND hands out practice tests with detailed solutions (real tests from the year before). He's willing to stop class to answer questions. I have to say, though, that his lectures go pretty quickly and are hard to follow unless you're really good at math and whatnot. If you read the textbook, go to review sessions, and do the homework and the practice tests, you shouldn't have a problem.