professor
Yilei Li

Apr 2012

So, the teacher Aaron Veicht was pretty okay. He clearly didn't give a crap about teaching this class which is fine because no one else did either. No qualms with him. I like physics. I like labs. I hate this class with a passion. First, some general statements about the course: Let me just comment on the insanely frustrating situation that are the physics requirements for engineering students with an AP Physics background.I took AP Physics in high school so I could GET OUT of doing this crap here. I worked hard to get a 5 in both Mechanics and E&M, and then I come to Columbia and they present me with two options: either I can retake both classes and the lab, or I can devote 20 hours a week to accelerated Physics 2800, compete with actual physics majors (which I am not), and generally spend my entire freshman year working on a class I'm not even interested in. So I started with the latter option but quickly reconsidered, like so many others. No matter, I simply didn't go to class ever for either Mechanics or E&M (1600 level) and easily got A's in both. But then this. This class. I spend 10 hours a week working on lab reports. I have learned LITERALLY NOTHING. I even learned more in my political science class freshman year. At least I learned I didn't like political science. I spend every Tuesday evening in a mind-numbingly boring lab doing experiments I'VE ALREADY DONE BEFORE with a lab assistant who is singularly the most unhelpful person I have ever met.To think of the time I could have devoted to a different class...I generally spend my Tuesday nights drinking in order to recover from the ordeal (see the Whiskey post below. Seriously, consider this method. Why did I only drink after lab when I could have been drinking before and during too? My only regret this semester.) And then to go through all this and to know that in the end, my final grade will be COMPLETELY ARBITRARY, has made me consider illegally throwing glass objects onto unsuspecting pedestrians out my 8th-story window many times. The physics department NEEDS to go over some kind of rubric with the TAs over what are reasonable and unreasonable things to take points off. It should be POLICY that TAs are REQUIRED to return graded lab reports within one week of turning them in. Waiting until the last (10th) week of lab to get back graded lab reports 4,5,7,8...No. It's utterly ridiculous to expect students to make improvements without any understanding of what they are doing wrong. Getting points taken off for the same formatting error four weeks in a row? Is this about learning or about creating an arbitrary grading curve? (Rhetorical question: It's the latter.) Dear Physics Department: I hope there is no confusion as to why I hate you. Yilei Li is the most irrational grader I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. I have made zero analysis, zero calculation, zero conceptual, and zero reasonable formatting errors, yet my scores have ranged from 4/10 to 9/10. No. It doesn't even matter what the median is. Yes, some of grading is relative, but some of it *is* absolute and if more Columbia instructors realized this maybe the depression rate wouldn't be so high around here. I spent so much time every week working on these lab reports and just because I didn't include captions on my figures when they were adequately discussed in the "Results" section does not equal taking off 10% of my grade. I guarantee you, adding a one sentence caption to my report would not have constituted 10% of the time and effort I spent working on the lab. The best part is WE NEVER EVER WENT OVER FORMATTING IN RECITATION OR LAB. Yes, I'm a competent enough individual to know what the main components of a physics lab report are. When I got a 4/10 due entirely to petty formatting errors (during the 5th week of lab, mind you, he could have corrected these things earlier), I DID NOT FAIL TO DO 60% OF THE ASSIGNMENT. My grade fluctuated drastically around the median so even though it's near the end of the semester I have absolutely NO idea what grade to expect. The entire grading curve is based on the TA's whimsical formatting preferences. Conclusion: This class is 100% bull. If I were younger taking this class without much experience but with an enthusiasm to learn more about the wonderful world of physics, I would run away screaming and never return. Wait, I'm just going to do that anyway.