This course is real fun. You get a pretty comprehensive treatment of a very fascinating subject, that starts right from first principles of statistical mechanics and slowly works its way up to the thermodynamics of ideal gases, and so on that is probably familiar to you. Studying the theory is fun, and the book (Charles Kittel and Herbert Kroemer, Thermal Physics) is extremely good - study it very systematically, and you'll really understand the subject. Prof. Bailey - well, he's a little clueless in class. He knows his stuff, but that sometimes doesn't translate into knowing how to teach basic thermodynamics. I didn't really look forward to going to classes, although I loved the subject. He's definitely a nice guy, and will answer questions very patiently; but while it is definitely possible to make the class interesting, he tends to spend a lot of time going slowly through each derivation, which detracts from the focus he gives to the essential points of the theory, that make it interesting and useful. But while he is not the liveliest of professors, he is certainly not intolerable - some of the classes are pretty good. On the whole, definitely look forward to the class - especially the subject matter of thermodynamics. If you like physics at all, you'll love this class.
This class turned out way more useful than I initially anticipated. If you're not a quantum physics guru, a lot of the material will go over your head as it did mine. However, if you work on the homework in groups, and truly study as much of the material as you can... you will do fine. I had no material science background, barely remembered physics, and I did surprisingly well. You should go to class all the time though because he doesn't post lectures and moves pretty fast! We also learned python in the class which wasn't mentioned anywhere. The course had a simultaneous python group project which will turn out fine if the work is distributed.
Not the best professor you will ever have. Billinge is very disorganized and his interest in the class is questionable. He is usually unprepared for lectures and seems to wing every class. Whenever he finds himself in a rut, which happens fairly often, he picks on a few students in hopes of fishing a good explanation... oddly enough, this is probably the best aspect of the class. The inadvertent class participation actually helps in bringing across points. However, there have been a couple occasions where the entire class came to a standstill because he forgot an key element in a derivation. Billinge assigns 4-5 problems every week or so. He usually gets them from the textbook. On the syllabus he said he would assign each problem set on a Friday to be due the following Friday but almost assigns the problem set a few days late and almost always expects us to turn them in the original date. The problem sets are not usually hard so it's never a big deal. Ever so often he assigns a problem that is beyond where the class is at that point and, after you spend a few hours on it, he emails you the night before the hw is due saying that the question is dropped. After we turn them in though, the TA takes like a month to grade them. The TA for the class was ok and usuall helpful but there always seemed to be huge communication gap between the professor and the TA. The structure of the class is as the title suggests: thermo then kinetic theory then stat mech. I found the topics themselves to be interesting enough and they have proven useful in some of my other courses.
Not a very good professor. He shows little interest in the class, he is always unprepared and very disorganized. On the syllabus, he stated that he would assign problems every friday to be due the following friday. However, he almost always posts the problem set three days late but still expects us to turn them in at the original due date. Worse, he often assigns problems that are on topics the class hasn't covered yet. After you spend hours bashing your head against it, he sends out an email the night before its due saying that the problem shouldn't have been there and that it won't be graded. His lectures are torture. There have several occasions where he goes up on the board to do a derivation and gets stuck half way through. He brings his notes to class but he often deviates away from them, getting himself and the class lost in the process. Apparently, there is also very little communication between the professor and the TA. There have been times when the TA has no clue about what is going in the lecture. The TA also took more than two months to return some of our problem sets. The thermo class itself is actually pretty good. You get a very broad exposure to thermodynamics both from the classical and statistical perspective.
This class demonstrates the risk of grading on a curve. Basically no one taking it took it seriously, so--gradewise--no one had to. I felt bad for Prof Duby, because the whole class had clearly given up on the course by the second lecture. As an example of the grading, on the second midterm, everyone must have bombed, because we were reassigned it as a pset to boost the grade. It doesn't help that the book is a piece of crap and that the questions tend to be ill posed