professor
Rachel T Austin

Jan 2021

This was a great class. Rachel Austin was a great teacher who loved answering questions and had plenty of office hours. This year, the semester was way different the professors were use to and I think her lecture class adjusted well. The content was not too challenging for people who took AP or IB chem, but TA's and Professor Austin were very understanding to people coming from different backgrounds of chemistry. The work load was a lot for this class. We had one test take home problem graded on work and accuracy, sapling homework graded on accuracy(you had a couple tries and can work with other students), weekly check in. There were no midterms/finals for this semester. We had to take a lab for this class that was disorganized and hard to follow. In the beginning of the year, we used modeling software which was a cool way to learn chemistry and then the second half of the year, it was just videos. The directions for the lab was often unclear and some lab professors had completely different expectations than others. So when you went to a lab office hour without your professor, you might get a different answer. To solve these problems, The class just added more office hours. Sometimes I would be in office hours 3 times a week, which should not be allowed. BEWARE of the lab. Keep in mind, this review is only for the year 2020 but I think it was still important to review the class.

Nov 2020

Rachel Austin deserves professor of the year. She has gone above and beyond what I would expect from a professor and I never thought I would say this, but made me actually enjoy chemistry. She took away exams during COVID-19/virtual learning and has placed most of the emphasis in this class on actual problem solving/learning and not just performing on exams. She genuinely wants every student to succeed, learn, and do well. She wanted us to make friends in breakout rooms which is just adorable! The best professor!

Oct 2020

Rachel Austin is hands down one of the best professors I have ever had, and definitely the best for an online course. She has made every effort to adapt the class in a way that is both enjoyable for students and engaging for the online class. I honestly never get annoyed at the work or lectures because it's so engaging and adapted to online learning. She completely stopped timed exams and we are instead evaluated through what are essentially weekly problem sets. She is also genuinely so enthusiastic about the content. If you can take a class with her, do it! The best Gen Chem experience.

Oct 2020

Rachel Austin is an angel. Chem lecture is my favorite class because she just makes everyone feel so comfortable and loved. She has this fascination and awe of chemistry that the students end up feeling because she's so passionate. During corona specifically she's taken away all exams and we only have 2ish assignments per week. She's put so much effort into engaging us in different ways during virtual class, like sending us to breakout rooms long enough to make friends, using padlet, and making super professional looking instruction videos. She teaches concepts well and answers questions well and is just so pure.

Dec 2019

I heard bad things about Professor Austin before taking this class, but because she is the only one teaching it I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. HUGE MISTAKE. To be fair, she is incredibly nice. But, like other reviews have said, I learned NEGATIVE information. How is that possible? Let me explain. Professor Austin has the tendency to write incorrect information on the board. As a result, my notes have many errors. One day, as an experiment, I counted how many times she wrote something different than she said. This is a 50 minute class--EIGHT errors. Not only does she write things incorrectly, she doesn't teach us what is asked on the exam. The only content I learned from this class came from the homework and the lab section. Overall, if you can avoid having Rachel Austin as your professor please do so. I am wildly underprepared for next semester and the rest of my chemistry career. Also, unrelated to Professor Austin, this classroom is incredibly hot. Like, to the point that I had to leave class on one occasion.

Dec 2019

Coming from a person this finals season, do not (I repeat: do not) if you value your nerves and sanity, take this class. The workload is not reasonable for an "intro" class of its worth. It eats up your time so 1) you can't spend time on classes you actually enjoy and 2) you don't even understand it despite all the time you spend on it I tried learning this whole semester and my mind is honestly drawing a blank right now. If anything, my knowledge is negative. This is actually a weed-out class disguised in the form of "we want to help you all learn regardless of your level! !!! *smiley face*") Bare minimum on topic is taught in lecture. Oftentimes precious time is wasted. (Basically I agree with the previous reviewer that the course organization could use some improvement)

Nov 2019

Prof. Austin is my absolute favorite professor this semester! While the course is really accelerated, and chemistry is somewhat difficult she is wonderful at teaching! The lectures are helpful, but you will be able to make the most of it by watching the videos she posts beforehand and then attending class! The class is 5 credits, 3 credits of lecture and two of lab. The lab itself is rather annoying, but if you go to office hours with the lab profs. you should do fine! She has so much energy and love! As long as you try hard, you will be able to succeed!

Sep 2019

AMAZING, AMAZING PROFESSOR! It's a hard class/challenging material at times, but she makes it so so worth it and made me consider a chemistry major. She learns everyone's names and really wants all her students to succeed. And to make it even better, she demonstrates chemistry concepts by jumping up stairs IN HEELS and so much more. Do yourself a favor, and take Gen Chem with Rachel Austin.

Dec 2018

I really enjoyed this class! Professor Austin is a cool chemistry elf who clearly knows her stuff and genuinely wants everyone to do well. That being said, this was definitely my hardest class, and this is coming from someone who took a lot of chem before Barnard gen chem. At one point, I was freaking out about my grade but she made the time to meet with me (and this woman is busy!) and reassured me that I was not going to fail the class, while also setting me up with a tutor, which was fantastic. Each day is preceded in Canvas with a module that basically goes over the topic of the day, along with videos and resources like practice problems. I found these very helpful and would highly recommend going over them more than once, especially when studying for exams. I was pleasantly surprised with how the class ended up for me and it reaffirmed how much I like the subject! Take this class if you are prepared to work hard and ask for help(!!), and you will be rewarded. Overall, positive experience and would definitely recommend her as a teacher!

Dec 2018

I love this gal! She is an amazing lecturer and honestly it is a pretty doable class, as long as you put in the work. Professor Austin is super nice and honestly just wants everyone to succeed. I feel like the people who review her poorly just are mad they didn't get an A, but like what do they expect? It's general chemistry, it's gonna be hard to do no matter who you have. If you're a Barnard student taking chemistry do it with her at Barnard, don't take it at Columbia. They really try to help you do your best with extensive office hours, and Professor Austin even knew everyone's names!

Jan 2018

I have never taken a class so poorly taught, or rather, not taught at all. The flipped classroom learning style may be an excellent tool in the hands of certain professors, but not Professor Austin. While I understand the appeal of doing problems in class and watching lectures at home, it just didn’t work. We barely ever had time to finish the problems we did in class and when we did, Professor Austin’s answers were barely ever right (the basic algebra was wrong), or she didn’t explain how she got the solution at all. The videos we watched for homework were from last year and in a different order so there was constantly information referred to that we hadn’t learned yet. On that note, Professor Austin assumed that we had a basic knowledge of chemistry coming into the semester, which a lot of other students and I did not. I wasn’t the only one struggling and the only people who weren’t struggling were the students with a strong chemistry background. There were problems on exams that only people who took AP knew the answers to, and this occurred throughout the course. She expects you to go to office hours every day, which realistically is just not possible. The exams were really long so no one could finish or have time to think at all. This course just ruined any love for chemistry I ever had. All of my friends and other students in the class started questioning being pre-med. Professor Austin’s teaching methods didn’t work for anyone without a strong chemistry background and just ended up killing any passion we may have had for the subject. If you're not a science major, take this course at Columbia!

Dec 2017

There are four exams total (three midterms and one cumulative final exam). Each is worth 25% of your grade. The required lab course is worth 25% as well. The online Sapling homework (required, and you have to purchase it yourself) is also worth 25%. This adds up to 150% - so two of those 6 grades will drop. Usually, students count two exams, the lab, and the homework. The lab grade must factor into your overall course grade. There is one lab report per week, and takes average 2-5 hours each, depending on the lab. There are "modules" posted on courseworks for every day of class. The module usually contains one or two videos that you are encouraged to watch before class. Each video is about 10 minutes long, give or take. The videos are usually helpful, but sometimes the writing is blurry which can get cumbersome. The online homework assignments on Sapling are due 1x per week, and are about 25 questions each. I spent an average of 3-5 hours on them. They did help reinforce the conceptual material with detailed quantitative problems. Your lowest two (out of 14 total for the whole semester) will drop in calculating your overall homework grade. On the syllabus, it states "exam and semester grades are not curved." From what I've seen, this is simply not true. The individual exams are definitely not curved (although on one midterm they did add +5 points to everyone's score). However, I received a final course grade of an A-, when by the syllabus' guidelines, I got a B- or low B. Rachel Austin does curve the semester grades, which does benefit students at the end of the semester, but goes completely against her syllabus (and what she has said repeatedly during the semester). In fact, Professor Austin failed to follow the syllabus for the majority of the semester. Assigned textbook readings for each class were listed on the syllabus, and often did not correspond to lecture material at all. The lecture schedule on the syllabus was completely different from what actually happened over the semester. Instead of modifying/updating the syllabus, she continued on lecturing whichever topic she thought should be next - leaving us students unable to prepare for class by doing the readings and studying beforehand. In any course, and especially in STEM, being able to prepare for class is considered to be vitally important to succeeding in the course. By refusing to modify the syllabus, Professor Austin showed complete disrespect towards her students. Moreover, Professor Austin regularly wasted at least 5 minutes of class time at the beginning of each lecture. There were several occasions where the actual lecture did not start until 10-15 (and a few times, 20+ minutes) after the actual start time. Her lectures are generally helpful, and focus on the conceptual basis for the material with some easy problems. Whenever we were given a problem to work on in small groups, she wasted about 10 minutes per problem walking around the huge lecture hall answering questions, instead of simply putting the explanation on the board. She would often not finish a problem in class, say she would put the solution on courseworks, and never would. She would also repeat problems discussed in the videos (or similar problems with different numbers), which was a waste of everyone's time. Please do consider taking the chemistry sequence at Columbia. Yes, there are more office hours for Barnard's chemistry course. However, the syllabus is not followed, the course is not structured well, and there is an obvious lack of transparency that results from Professor Austin's policies.

Dec 2017

She is an amazing professor. In class, she always takes the extra time to answer questions and make sure that all confusions are cleared up. She also has office hours every day of the week. In office hours, she promotes a judgement free environment which ensures that nobody is ever afraid to ask questions. While sometimes her explanations in lecture can be a little bit confusing, she also posts videos online that we can watch multiple time to make sure that we understand what is happening. Her grading is also very fair, and we are able to drop two out of four exams. Additionally, in lecture, she makes the information approachable by utilizing analogies that relate to us. Her enthusiasm for chemistry is infectious. After taking this class, I have discovered a passion for chemistry.

Dec 2017

Professor Austin is amazing! She is so knowledgeable and good at explaining the material. She also posts videos for almost every topic that we cover so that you can review things on your own time and at your own pace. She is available during almost all office hours and is great about giving one on one attention even in a huge class. She seemed to know everyone's names by the end of the semester.

Dec 2016

Prof. Austin is an amazing professor! She puts in a lot of effort to make the material manageable for all students. She has plenty of office hours, and is very responsive to the needs of her students. She fosters a collaborative learning environment, and her lectures are very easy to follow. Highly recommend this course!

Dec 2016

I love Prof. Austin. She is so sweet and understanding. She drops your two lowest test grades (including the final). She really wants her students to succeed and love chemistry. She organizes the class by having video lectures for homework and then doing problems in class. I like this because I was able to ask her questions in class with her and the problems are always the hardest part of the tests. She is great. I love her. Take class with her

Nov 2016

Rachel Austin is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever had in my school career thus far. Gen Chem is not easy at all, but I am sure anyone who is reading this already knows that. I spend many, many hours studying and doing homework for this class every week. However, if you put in the work to study and do your homework, Rachel will make sure you succeed in the class. You must attend her office hours if you are not already great at chemistry and are still hoping for a high grade. Not every lecture is specifically helpful, but during her office hours she will explain anything to you and I promise you will understand even the most difficult concepts if you attend office hours and come with questions or with a mind ready to learn chemistry! She is patient and kind, no matter how basic and sometimes dumb the question is. She also answers questions online in the class discussion form all of the time, so basically her office hours are always happening online. I mean, the woman takes the time to memorize most of the class's names and there are 170+ students in the class! Her classroom style is flipped. She uploads videos (which you can get through quickly if you watch them at double speed) before class and then instead of lecturing she puts up problems for you to work through with your peers during class. This doesn't work for everyone but I guarantee it will work better if you actually watch and digest the videos before showing up. Again, if this isn't helpful for you just make sure you watch the videos, don't go to class, and attend office hours instead to clarify any point from the videos. The tests can be a little tricky, but her "automatic curve" that results from her lowered grading scale (an 88 is an A- just for example) and the fact that she drops two of your four test scores (you don't even have to take the final if you are happy with two of your other test scores!!!) basically even it out. If you know the basics very well and can apply your knowledge you will do well on the tests. This is super long winded, but the main point is that this class can be fun if you decide to have a growth mindset. As someone with no chemistry experience in the past I can honestly say I have learned so much and I have thoroughly enjoyed being in Rachel's class. I would take the harder class here at Barnard with Rachel and really understand chemistry, then have an easier time in huge gen chem class at Columbia where I don't comprehend as well and don't get the same personal attention.