professor
William Zajc

Jan 2018

Out of all the classes I took this semester, the grading structure for this class was the harshest. Your grade depends largely on two exams, the midterm and final. There are other components to the grade as well, but since grades are curved and everyone receives high grades on the homework and participation, they won't boost your grade that much. If you are confident enough that you have a good enough physics background to outscore your classmates on the midterm and final, take this class. The lectures are not helpful, so if you don't already know the material (like a large majority of the class), only take him if you can teach yourself the material. On the positive side, Professor Zajc is a nice guy otherwise!

Sep 2009

Professor Zajc is a good professor, a great one compared to Physics instructors in general. He's better than usual at understanding a student's area of confusion, and is always patient and willing to explain things again and differently. His lectures are worthwhile: while they don't always demonstrate problem-solving techniques, they will explain the concepts you need to learn those techniques yourself. If you're not a Physics Person, you'll probably find this course a bit intense; if you are, then this is the course and professor for you.

Jun 2009

Fun story -- today is June 19th. School ended more than a month ago. My 1602 grade was posted this morning. Apparently one of the TAs just walked off with most of the even-numbered homework assignments; after more than a month of frantically trying to contact him (her?) Zajc finally gave up and calculated our grades based on the remaining assignments. Of course, the "drop two" rule remained in effect, meaning that one could conceivably have stopped doing homework halfway through the semester and still gotten a perfect homework score. After the first semester we got used to long delays in grading, but I believe this is a new record.

Jan 2009

Zajc is a legitimately nice guy and a brilliant physicist, but a sub-par lecturer at best. The lectures are entertaining for the wild and crazy rides he takes you on during them despite having little to do with course material ("You could just solve it by introspection, but we can prove it through a triple derivative! Let me show you exactly how!"). The lectures are otherwise fairly useless. If anything, go to Zajc's lectures to get a look at those ridiculous forearm muscles. A few homework problems can be legitimately challenging to nigh impossible; go to the recitation sessions to ask how to do them. They are a godsend. Test grading is based only off of the class mean and standard deviation, meaning if everyone does really well on one test (e.g. the first midterm), you won't do nearly as well on it as you would for a fairly mediocre score on a brutal test (e.g. the second midterm). You can drop one, but it's in your best interests to take both. In our case, a 100% on the first midterm was the equivalent of about a 50% on the second. The final is fair and comprehensive, be prepared for some substantial calculus usage though. Thankfully, the tests are open book (which doesn't help as much as it sounds) and the course grade is extremely generously curved (which definitely helps as much as it sounds). More than half of this class dropped to 1402 second semester, for what it's worth.

Dec 2008

Professor Zajc is an interesting person. His lectures are not particularly relevant to the problem sets that you have to complete since they are largely derivations of the concepts that you'll have to apply; however, they are quite amusing. Zajc' puns, peculiar vocabulary ("here we have the vectoriness of the velocity of this massy thingy"), and general behavior are really quite funny. Sometimes you do wonder, though, why he's derived the universal law of gravitation for a third time in two class periods. Otherwise, he's quite a nice guy. If you have any difficulty, go to recitation and get your questions answered - Ali Hanks does quite a good job as recitation instructor as well as "guest lecturer" when Zajc is traveling.

Dec 2008

His lectures are interesting but completely useless. He does ridiculously complex and irrelevant questions, but he can be quite funny at times. I basically go to class to write down quotes of him.

May 2008

Zajc is incapable of sticking to any sort of schedule. He mumbles to himself about material that is more advanced than anything necessary in an introductory physics sequence while writing on the chalkboard in illegibly small chicken scratch. While there is nothing wrong with introducing supplementary material, it is a problem when it is done at the expense of material that is supposed to be covered and that is necessary for future courses. For example, there were 4 chapters we were supposed to cover in 1602 that Zajc did not have time to teach at the end of the semester because he couldn't keep to a schedule throughout the semester. I suppose this wasn't that big of a deal since his lectures weren't any good anyway. Be prepared to teach yourself everything out of the regrettably inadequate Fishbane book. If you read the book and take careful notes, you should be reasonably prepared for the homeworks, which vary in difficulty. Recitations are helpful as well. When studying for exams, redo all of the homeworks and don't even think about wasting your time reviewing the chapters themselves. Just do practice problems. Rigorous theoretical knowledge is not tested on the exams, but complex problems are. 1601 was significantly easier than 1602. I honestly don't know why Zajc teaches the introductory sequence for physics majors. I came to Columbia thinking I would be a physics major, but Zajc's class certainly changed my mind.

Feb 2008

Zajc's is so nice its hard to chide him, but the lectures in the class are totally useless. He doesn't do any practice problems and only derives equations. The midterms and the final were all hard, but he drops one of the midterms so he only counts your highest one. The class has a generous curve as well. I would reccomend his class if you are intrested in pure physics and the derivations behind the formulas.

Jan 2008

Well, this review is kind of pointless as Prof Zajc was the only section for Physics 1601. I found this lectures very pointless and boring. (He tends to talk to himself, a bit, while he gives long proofs of stuff on the board...) Furthermore, pretty much none of the stuff he taught in class was helpful in doing the homework sets, which ranged from easy to hard. His exams are kind of unpredictable in terms of difficulty. The good thing is, he will only count your best midterm mark out of two. I scored well enough on the first one (which was easy) to skip the second one (which was apprently killer). The final was a fair and comprehensive.

Jan 2008

Being very straightforward, Professor Zajc is an amazing instructor, but not in the literal sense. He is amazing because he does try his best in class to answer everyone's questions. Please note that this course in particular is excellent for physics majors, hence its course name ('For Physical Science Majors'). Zajc's teaching style involves many, many derivations of equations and many explanations of how these equations were even thought of in the first place. What he teaches is mostly appropriate for physics majors only. Zajc is always welcoming students during his office hours and explains the answers to your questions fully. Recommended for physics majors only.

Jan 2008

Professor Zajc, rhymes with heights, may be a good teacher but the content of the class is so linear and boring that reading the book and going to recitation to work out practice problems is just as good if not better than going to lecture. In fact, you will probably end up reading the book instead of going to lecture. This class is approximately equal to AP Physics C.

Jan 2005

Zajc tries so hard that you feel badly if you don't reciprocate. You don't have to, as the class is easy enough, but you'll definitely feel like a bit of a heel when Zajc berates himself for not being a better teacher. His teaching style is organized conceptually if not physically on the blackboard. If you follow along, you'll notice that everything fits together very well in your notes. You'll learn the subject on a conceptual and computational level but you'll miss out on any deep theoretical issues. This is good or bad, depending on your perspective on physics. He's the nicest physics professor I've had here (and I've had 'em all...) and he's certainly not out to get you. Do the homework and come to his office hours a couple of times. He'll give you a good grade and he'll probably even remember your name afterwards.

May 2004

Face it. E&M is an unbearable subject. Fortunately, Zajc is a decent prof, who, if he doesn't succeed entirely in communicating the material to you in lecture, nevertheless makes sure you get it through homeworks and exams. Homework sets range from moderate to impossible. I honeslty remember handing in sets with more than half the questions undone or incomplete. Exams are usually well-written, based very closely on the practice exams he distributes before hand. Master every aspect of the practice exam and you will own the real exam. This also applies to the final.

May 2004

I never noticed the body building part...Zajc is more a nice family man. He definitely cares a lot about students and his teaching, and seems frustrated that he's not a better teacher, but I really had no complaints. He genuinely wants to help you learn, presents the information logically in well-organized lectures, and uses all different colors of chalk. (The colored chalk is so diagrams are less confusing). Kim substitued a couple of times, and Zajc told us that Kim is a better teacher...and I guess he kind of is. But overall, if you're taking this course with Zajc, you're going to be miserable because of the course content, not because of him.

Apr 2004

As with most physics classes, boring, boring, boring. However, Zajc is a great guy. He'll admitt that he is not the best prof. in the world, but is willing to help you in anyway to make up for his short comings. And, he'll definitely admitt that most of the stuff they ask in the text he can't even do himself. His curves are great!! Always centered around a B or a B+ and the standard deviations are insane: anwhere from 16 to 22 points. (Caution: watch out for the 1600 kids who drop down at the last minute and mess up the curve)

Jan 2000

The only body-builder in the physics department (and possibly all of the science departments), he's friendly and willing to help students with difficulties. In-class demonstrations are interesting, and often provide an entertaining showcase for his awesome strength. Homework sets and exams are difficult but he grades on a generous curve. He writes his own solution manuals, which is useful, and is even humble enough to admit when he had trouble doing the homework.