professor
Karen Phillips

Mar 2021

Professor Phillips is a great professor and frankly unfairly demonized, mostly by students who didn't expect organic chemistry to be so hard. She's an excellent mentor and gives good feedback on assignments. I think what throws people off is that she is very blunt and honest when talking to you; for example, after my first presentation to the class I asked her for her opinion and she just said "your presentation was not as interesting as the other presenters today." Was I expecting it? No, but she then took the time to walk me through what made my work subpar and how I could improve it. She's a fine professor and doesn't have to be your worst enemy if you don't approach the class with a negative attitude. Go to her office hours every once in a while and talk to her, she's very pleasant and obviously knows a great deal about chemistry. Senior seminar is a good class, it's really valuable if you care at all about grad school/ academia and learning to present your work. Karen was great about making the class really interact with one another and learn from each other, and I definitely got a ton out of it even as a Zoom class. There are also several invited speakers throughout the semester, and it's great to be able to ask them career/mentorship questions or just hear how they're doing. It's also a good kick in the ass to prepare for life after college since you're required to make a presentation about your grad school/career interests. And if you've done research in undergrad, it's a great place to talk about your research with people who will actually care, especially since there's a good chance at least one other person is doing research in a related area. You really learn how to conduct yourself in academia, mostly. Two of our assignments were journal club presentations, which is also nice if your research group already does journal clubs. I will say that this class is not for you if you've never done research as an undergrad unless you intend on starting research really soon.

Dec 2020

Senior Seminar could easily be renamed as 'can you present 101.' Meets once a week for two hours on Fridays, and required for the chem major so not sure how much this review will help you. Basically have different prompts for presentations and give between 5 and 20 min presentations. If you like to present, this is a class you're gonna love. A few guest speakers sprinkled in. I think a class like this is great but could potentially be replaced by a senior thesis type thing, which could be more interesting since the best part was hearing about what specific students are interested in. Prof Phillips is very nice although not timely, so don't have anything scheduled right after class.

Sep 2020

Dr. Phillips traffics in blatant favoritism. If you want an A in this course, here's a tip: go to her "optional" office hours and review sessions. I've never seen such blatant disregard for fairness in my life. If she deems you unworthy of the desired grade (or of medical school) - your grade will go down. No matter how hard you work. All the good reviews talk about how much she "wants to help her students". Tip: you don't get that help unless you become BFFs with her in office hours. This is a crazy two-tier system that I cannot understate - and which all the other good reviews are a product of. I had a terrible experience in this course, and I really urge you to take Doubleday or another professor. Orgo isn't easy, but save your mental health and avoid Dr. Phillips like the plague.

Mar 2020

Dr. Phillips is the absolutely one of the best professors I have ever had. I could not recommend her class more. While orgo seemed very intimidating at first, I expressed my concerns to Dr. Phillips and she truly went out of her way to help me learn. Would definitely recommend going to her office hours and taking advantage of workshop. I studied for her class by knowing the workshop problems inside out and ended doing up very well. Her lectures are also essential and extremely helpful as she explains concepts perfectly. I did not even have to study for the organic chemistry section of the MCAT because I was so prepared after her class. She is the best!!!

Dec 2019

She is a terrible professor. Favoritism in her class is rampant. Do not expect to be treated impartially. I was personally bullied by her and was forced to withdraw from the course. I am not a bad student and have an A average otherwise.

May 2019

Dr. Phillips is EASILY the best professor I have ever had. She actually makes you learn. Her students do not need to study for thenelganic chemistey portion of the MCAT because she’s taught us so well. TAKE PHILLIPS!!!

Apr 2019

I almost never write a review, but felt compelled to in this case as the course has been retooled significantly since most of these reviews were written. Personally, I've had an amazing experience in Phillips's class. She's an excellent lecturer and clearly loves teaching... she brings a sense of fun to the material, even in what could be a very dry subject. She also clearly cares a great deal about her students and genuinely wants us to do well. She makes herself very available and compiles advice from former students on how to succeed in the class. It speaks to her dedication, in fact, that she's restructured the class in response to criticism. Yes, the workshop is now mandatory. The extra two hours may seem like a drag, but you'll never have to crack open a text book. The key to doing well in her class is attending every lecture, taking excellent notes, and really mastering the workshops. It's worth taking pictures of the workshop solutions on the board and studying them until you really get them...if you understand the workshop questions, you can expect to do very well on the tests. She also posts pasts exams and answer keys. Honestly, orgo is just a hard subject. It takes a lot of hours. But I don't think there are many teachers who are more passionate about the material or invested in their students than Phillips. She's a gem.

Apr 2019

I absolutely could not recommend a class more! There simply isn't a better way to study Orgo. Dr. Phillips is so thorough in her lectures and workshops, which are designed to keep you engaged and immersed in the material. These workshops work wonders! Not only do they expose you to different strategies and ways of thinking, but also they help you synthesize information so much better than psets do. Reactions that you learned say months ago only need a brush up before the exam if you do it right, because by the end of it you know (or could logically reason out) what happens and how it happens. And so, you can actually spend most of your energy making connections and practicing syntheses before exams (as opposed to memorizing a list of reaction schemes)! A lot of professors believe in simplifying difficult material and limiting what is expected of you; while I'm sure there's more to organic chemistry, Dr. Phillips generally does not believe in sacrificing nuance, and I really appreciate this. Does this leave you feeling overwhelmed at the end of class sometimes? Yes. But does it evolve the way you think about chemistry? Absolutely! I am taking orgo lab alongside (which is really fast paced and supposed to take a much deeper dive into certain reactions), and there is very little I need to do in terms of the actual chemistry, since Dr. Phillips' class is so thorough. What strikes me the most is how genuinely she cares about her students. Dr. Phillips knows everybody in class by name and takes the pains to check in on her students. She will really explain a concept over and over and in different ways during office hours (which are like three times a week!) when you don't get something. I always leave her office hours feeling more in control of the material. This class requires more effort than the other organic chemistry classes at Columbia, so if you are one who feels you can skip class, read the book and wing the exams, consider taking orgo with a different professor. if you are ready to put in the effort, I guaranty you will leave with a much more profound understanding of how molecules work, and that you will find Dr. Phillips refreshing and deeply inspiring.

Feb 2019

Professor Phillips is by far the best professor I had at Columbia. TAKE HER CLASS. This lady is passionate for teaching, she cares about her students, she knows YOUR NAME, she loves seeing you succeed, she cares about mental health, and she is as good at teaching as she is at listening. This class is tough - but organic chemistry is just not an easy subject. General chemistry at Columbia was actually more difficult for me than this class, and it is because I WANTED to learn. How can you make it easy? ORGANIZE YOURSELF. From day 1, you have to read what she posts on the class page - she explicitly tells you that the subject is not easy and that you will have to put the time and effort into it to obtain the grade you want. Professor Phillip's responsibility is to make her lectures as clear and as organized as she can, and she is successful in doing this. She interacts with her students throughout class, uses minimal PowerPoint, thoroughly explains what she is writing on the board, etc. What you need to do is RECORD THE LECTURES. LISTEN TO THE LECTURES. SIMPLY COPYING DOWN WHAT IS ON THE BOARD IS NOT ENOUGH. You have to get her WORDS down in your notes -- what she says is what she cares about. She literally tells you what you need to pay attention to in specific reactions/reagents/phenomena. In Gen Chem, yes - I needed the curve, and I appreciated that. And in Physics, I needed the curve too! But if you put EFFORT into this class, you will get the grade you deserve without ever needing the curve. ((I got B's in Gen Chem and Physics, yet I got A's and A+s in organic chem!)) Read the textbook if you have to (I sometimes did), get the Organic Chemistry as a Second Language book (this was amazing), make flashcards for reagents (but make sure you understand each and every one), read your notes over and over and over again AFTER you have gone over the recording and filled in the gaps in your notes, DO THE MULTIPLE PRACTICE EXAMS SHE GIVES YOU -- multiple times! -- and most importantly, GO TO WORKSHOP. Seriously, I don't know what this class would have been for me without the workshops. Phillips cares about these workshops because she has YEARS OF TEACHING EXPERIENCE that have shown her how necessary it is to develop problem solving skills in this class. The workshop questions make you think beyond what she teaches in lecture, and are way beyond what you'll get from textbook practice questions. Know these workshop questions, learn how to solve the problems head to toe and toe to head. Do them again on your own. Don't memorize the questions - LEARN the concepts. Pay attention to the CONCEPTS behind each questions -- THIS is what she cares about and THIS is what will be tested. If you cannot go to workshop because you have other commitments that week, be SURE you go to her office hours or discuss with other students. Orgo is PROBLEM SOLVING, not simple memorization. Professor Phillips will be available for you on an academic and personal level. She can be your professor as much as she can be your moral support when you need her to be. If you want to be MIA, that's fine too. She won't take it out on you because guess what...? Science is objective, not subjective. So even if you think you're not one of her favorites, that will not affect your grade. YOUR EFFORT will determine your grade. 1. attend every single lecture. 2. take THOROUGH notes - color code, highlight, RECORD the lecture and revisit your notes. 3. read the textbook if it helps. read your notes every single day. do practice problems on your own. 4. attend every single workshop session and be READY to work hands on - don't just fake your way through. that doesn't help you! 5. review workshop questions when you go back home. Redo them a week later. On exam week - do them again. 6. go to office hours - she will help you! 7. get involved - form study groups, make friends. 8. get the molecular structure set thingy! it helps at the beginning. 9. do ALL THE PRACTICE EXAMS! Multiple times. Time yourself if you have to. 10. TALK TO YOUR PROFESSOR. She sincerely wants to help! 11. with your wonderful notes - make 2 pages of CHEAT SHEETS that you will bring to the final exam. How good is that? But see... you have to have good notes in the first place :) 12. Get free tutoring through advising center if you have to! There are people who can help. 13. Your performance depends on YOURSELF! She gives you ALL the tools - you just have to use them. After taking her for Orgo I and II, I am a spoiled student. No other professor could compare to this woman. Pre-med? I know you care a lot about your grades. We all do. Trust me - she cares about pre-meds like they are her children. And if you put all the effort this class requires, you won't even need to open your MCAT Orgo book. I promise.

Dec 2018

Let me start by saying that I previously took orgo 1 at Barnard and failed, then didn't get off the waitlist for Doubleday's class and ended up here. And thank GOD I did!! My grade isn't superb -- actually quite far from it -- but this has everything to do with me and not Professor Phillips. She is an amazing lecturer, provides clear and articulate explanations, is so willing to answer questions, and DEEPLY cares about her students. She even makes an effort to learn each student's name and get to know their learning style/personality. There is a LOT you can do to succeed in her class: *ATTEND LECTURE* and her personal office hours, take thorough notes, go to ALL the workshops, do ALL the practice tests she has on Canvas, ask questions during lecture, and just keeeeeep doing practice problems. Forget about the textbook, unless you need to reference a specific mechanism or need clarification on something already mentioned in lecture. Her workshops are amazing, and while they seem like a lot being 2 hours on a Thursday or Friday, they actually significantly reduce the amount of independent studying you need to do for the class. She is personally present for all of them, and there are previous students of hers/grad students there as "workshop helpers". They are surprisingly fun and give you an opportunity to make friends in the class/form study groups. GO TO THEM even if there is not a quiz, as the dates of workshop quizzes are explicit in the syllabus. The only way to get the answers from workshop is by going or getting them from a friend who went. Again, this is coming from someone who is not even doing well in the course. I missed lectures and workshops consistently for a period of time, and used the textbook to make up for it (which DOES NOT WORK!!). I truly believe that I could have succeeded if I had made more of a genuine effort to be more engaged with Professor Phillips and the ample resources she provides. If you are still really struggling, ask her for tutoring resources and she will recommend people that know her approach to orgo well. After having an awful experience with the Barnard orgo professor, I know how lucky Columbia is to have Professor Phillips in their department. I will be continuing with Professor Phillips for orgo 2 next semester, and will certainly be thanking myself when it comes time for the MCAT.

Nov 2018

Dr. Phillips is by far the best professor I have had at Columbia (and I've been here for 2.5 yrs now). She is caring, supportive, approachable and the best at translating complex concepts of organic chemistry into simple terms, that allows for understanding of the material to the degree that sticks and will be with you for a long time. She tells you everything about how to succeed in her class and if you just listen to her and follow her advice you will not only end up getting a good grade (if that's what you care about), but also obtaining the knowledge of organic chemistry in much more profound level than if you were to just read the textbook, or solve some generic problems. Her dedication to the material, class and students is very refreshing. She actually cares about you as an individual, rather than treating you as another blurred face in the audience. I hope if you are reading this, you can sort through the reviews of bitter, upset, entitled people who for some reason thought that they "deserved" a certain grade, even if they did not necessarily earned it with their performance on the exams (we all know who they are and we don't want to be them!). Give her a chance to make you fall in love with organic chemistry. I did, and I strongly believe that was the best decision I have ever made about choosing a professor at Columbia!

Aug 2018

This review is for post-baccs debating between Doubleday and Phillips (for Orgo I and II)... Long story short, if you have the time and don't get offended easily, take Phillips. If you want the same type of class setting like your first year (physics and gen chem, assuming you're on the traditional track), then take Doubleday. I took Phillips both semesters and I'm glad I did. She can be mean, but don't take it personally and you'll be fine. I know a lot of people didn't like her, but I left her class feeling like I really understood orgo and I appreciate the effort she put into teaching the class. If you're someone who likes to read the textbook and do end-of-chapter problems (aka doesn't go to class, reads from the textbook, likes to learn on their own), then I wouldn't recommend taking her class. Things to know off the bat: 1. She doesn't curve - plenty of other reviewers have mentioned that already and that still held as of last year (2017-2018) 2. She notices if you put in the effort like going to office hours, attending workshops (she takes attendance), or asking/answering questions on the Discussion section on Courseworks 3. If you want to save money, DON'T BUY THE TEXTBOOK - I did buy the "Orgo as a Second Language" book, but I only used it the first two weeks of class and then stopped. Phillips is a great lecturer, but has a VERY specific way of teaching and wants you to mimic her style. People complained a lot about this, but once you figure out how she words things and wants you to present them, you'll do fine. THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE TO GO TO WORKSHOPS. I cannot emphasize this enough. Yes, I would highly recommend going to lectures, but if you can't, go to the workshops and get lecture notes/recordings from a classmate. More on this below. Here's a list of things I did/recommend doing in order to do well - hope it helps: 1. Go to lectures and record them!! As in put your recording device on the front lecture table and hit Record. If you're in Havemeyer 309, the sound quality sucks if you record from your seat. If it's your first day, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you asking her first before you record because she has ripped people's heads off before for not asking. Also, she doesn't let you video record unless you have a legitimate reason. - This may seem excessive, but seriously, she says so much stuff in class that you'll miss because you're too busy scrambling to draw what she has on the board. You will be amazed at how much you missed. Luckily, one of our classmates uploaded the recordings and shared it with people who asked (with Phillips' permission, of course!!). There were classes where she whipped through the material and I got SO lost I just ended up focusing on drawing what she drew and then would relisten to the recordings after to fill in the gaps. - Word of (more) advice: If classmates do share recordings, it's pretty pointless if you don't have the mechanisms/drawings from lecture so make sure to either 1.) go to lecture and draw everything, or 2.) get lecture notes from someone. 2. Go to workshops and take notes - The first couple of workshops will be a HOT. MESS. Especially once you get to the reactions. She'll get annoyed and people will get flustered - do not let this get to you! Try to go up and do problems. Even if she makes you feel like an idiot, YOU ARE STILL LEARNING. I've been roasted after trying to explain a problem before, but then I never made the same mistake again. This is what I mean by not getting offended easily / taking things personally. Better to feel stupid during workshops than during an exam. - I repeat, TAKE NOTES. I have zoned out during workshops before and I regretted it each time. The problems she gives are not just chosen willy-nilly. They each have a specific role in teaching a concept / connect to something we learned in lecture. If you're doing it right, workshop problems end up being enough. Ask yourself WHY she chose to give that particular problem, what the problem is teaching you, and you'll get the hang of it. If you still don't get the problem, go to her office hours, email her, or use the Courseworks Discussion board. - Side note: some students asked for more problems and she gave some textbook problems for us to do on our own time. I can't say for sure that the textbook problems are useless since I never did them, but I heard from some classmates that the problems didn't really help because she has such a specific way of teaching that it got confusing. If I were you, I would just stick with the workshop problems. 3. For the love of God and all that is holy, REDO THE WORKSHOPS! - I would take pictures of the blackboards at the end of each workshop, rewrite the problems with the answers/notes and then try to do the problems again without looking at the answers. Try not to memorize the answers - think through why you're using certain reagents and/or reactions. This helped so much because it showed me where I was still confused and which mistakes/tricks I had to look out for. That being said, take the answers on the blackboards with a grain of salt - sometimes they are wrong, which is why you have to pay attention during workshops!!! There's nothing more frustrating than wasting time trying to do a problem by yourself and getting the "wrong" answer based on what was drawn on the board. 4. Before midterms, make sure to go over the practice exams - READ the explanations, especially for the "essay" questions - they seem scary and long, but you'll see what people mean by her being particular about the way you answer the questions. You will soon be speaking orgo like her, which will help you a lot going forward. - Before exams, I would go over my lecture notes (don't forget about the powerpoints!), then do the workshops all over again, then take the Hunter exams untimed, and finally time myself taking the Columbia practice midterm. If I did all that, I found that there were more than enough problems. 5. This is really #extra, but will help you in the long run: Some people used notecards for reactions and reagents. If I had more time, I would do this, but I found that keeping a "glossary" of all the reactions/reagents from lecture helped me the best. Literally, take a piece of paper, draw out each of the reactions/mechanisms (reactants, reagent, product), then write down limitations and general rules for each type of reaction. I've seen people organize it in different ways, so do what works best with your line of thinking. It may seem super tedious and time-consuming, but trust me, as the semester continues, this glossary will save you. Even if I felt prepared going into an exam, there were plenty of exams where I was incredibly frustrated and discouraged when I got them back, but keep practicing!! Go to TA office hours, Phillips' office hours, or ask on the Discussion board if you can't make either. If you take her both semesters, you'll find that you start to think like her so you know what to expect and it's not so bad in the end. It's still really hard and you HAVE to put in the time, but you'll know what you need to do in order to do well. Also, if you decide you want a tutor, make sure to get one who took her class. Congrats on finishing reading this ridiculously long review and good luck!!!!!

Jul 2018

It's like she wants to make her class as meandering and difficult as possible. Focusing on edge cases like "shunting" while delivering her lectures in almost yelling at you voice does not a pleasant classroom experience make. Like why not just teach the basics of orgo like every other prof in the department? She seems like she has something to prove.

Jun 2018

Professor Phillips cares deeply about her students and teaching. She is the only professor I know who actually writes her own exam and practice problems. She specifically designs Workshop to have you begin thinking conceptually and critically about the material to help set you up for success on the exams. You have to actively participate in Workshop to receive the benefits--do not just passively copy the information you will not learn the skills she is trying to teach you. Professor Phillips also wants you to build a positive community and interact with your classmates to improve your learning (no other teacher at Columbia does this!). You will make new friends in Workshop, you will successfully get through Orgo in Workshop, and you will experience a better learning style than the usual methods we are used to. No doubt this class has helped prepare me for medical school and the MCAT. You cannot expect to do minimal amount of work and do well. Remember that you are premed and her course will help you understand the amount of effort you need to put in to your studying. Yes, you do need to dedicate a significant amount of time to this course, but there are so many long-term rewards that it is absolutely worth it. Professor Phillips' course will teach you organic chemistry on the deepest level--it will help you do well in the lab, understand general chemistry (finally), and feel relief on the MCAT when you see Orgo questions. I have seen Aldol reactions on the MCAT and didn't even need to think twice about the problem. I did not have study Orgo at all for the MCAT because I knew it so well from Professor Phillips' class. This is so important not only for your study schedule but also for you confidence on the test. Professor Phillips has her students' best interest at heart and genuinely wants to see you do well. She knows it's a difficult subject, but she is also there to support you through it! Use the resources she gives you, actively participate in Workshop to get the whole benefit. She gives you ALL past exams so there are no surprises and she is never trying to trick you. GO to her office hours. If you aren't doing well, reach out and have a meeting with her--she wants to help you! Professor Phillips helped me finally overcome test anxiety and my performance sky rocketed, I could not have done it without her. This also carried over to my other classes and the MCAT. She loves teaching and her students, and you can feel that with the amount of time she dedicates to this class and willingness to help you. Professor Phillips' class has been such a meaningful experience and she has become an incredible mentor to me. All students have the opportunity to have this experience in her class, I suggest you take it because you will not find it anywhere else!

May 2018

First of all, Dr. Phillips is Jamaican, a DJ, a chief, and an artist, in addition to being a superb educator. She was by far MY FAVORITE PROFESSOR at Columbia. I went through a very tough time personally while taking her class, and Dr. Phillips was incredibly kind and supportive. It meant a lot to me to have a professor that cared so much. I witnessed this same level of compassion with another student in my class, when hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. One of our workshop leaders family was affected, and Dr. Phillips embraced this student and consoled her while she was crying. One thing Professor Phillips makes clear from day one is that she cares for all of her students. She knows everyone in her class by name, and knows most of our interests. I would wager it hard to find another professor at Columbia that spends as much time getting to know their students. As for her class.... Yes it is hard, but not unfair. While she doesn't grade on a bell curve like the rest on the Orgo Professors, she did give the highest percentage of A's the semester I took Orgo I. Dr. Phillips has done extensive research chemical pedagogy, and has perfected the "Phillips Method". She is even in the process of authoring a text book. She knows what she is doing! Tips for Success in her class: 1. Always go to class, because there is no text book. 2. Workshops are MANDATORY and extremely helpful. 3. Take pictures of the solutions and notes she puts on the board cause that is the only place they are going to be! 4. Go to office hours AT LEAST once a week. 5. Ask Questions!!!!! 6. Study with your fellow students 7. Do the workshops and practice exams multiple times and you can't possibly make a bad grade 8. when in doubt the answer is resonance If you are up for the challenge you will not regret the decision to take her class. You will find Dr. Phillips to be funny, wise, vibrant and approachable. She is a wealth of knowledge, not only on the subject of chemistry. She gave me invaluable advice about applying to med schools, studying for the MCAT, and nutrition. She's also the only professor at Columbia with and eyebrow ring. Give LADY K PhD.J. a try!! OH AND TO THE PERSON ON HERE THAT CALLED DR. PHILLIPS AN ABOMINATION SHOVE YOUR REVIEW UP YOUR ASS AND ROTATE!!!!

May 2018

First of all, Dr. Phillips is Jamaican, a DJ, a chief, and an artist, in addition to being a superb educator. She was by far MY FAVORITE PROFESSOR at Columbia. I went through a very tough time personally while taking her class, and Dr. Phillips was incredibly kind and supportive. It meant a lot to me to have a professor that cared so much. I witnessed this same level of compassion with another student in my class, when hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. One of our workshop leaders family was affected, and Dr. Phillips embraced this student and consoled her while she was crying. One thing Professor Phillips makes clear from day one is that she cares for all of her students. She knows everyone in her class by name, and knows most of our interests. I would wager it hard to find another professor at Columbia that spends as much time getting to know their students. As for her class.... Yes it is hard, but not unfair. While she doesn't grade on a bell curve like the rest on the Orgo Professors, she did give the highest percentage of A's the semester I took Orgo I. Dr. Phillips has done extensive research chemical pedagogy, and has perfected the "Phillips Method". She is even in the process of authoring a text book. She knows what she is doing! Tips for Success in her class: 1. Always go to class, because there is no text book. 2. Workshops are MANDATORY and extremely helpful. 3. Take pictures of the solutions and notes she puts on the board cause that is the only place they are going to be! 4. Go to office hours AT LEAST once a week. 5. Ask Questions!!!!! 6. Study with your fellow students 7. Do the workshops and practice exams multiple times and you can't possibly make a bad grade 8. when in doubt the answer is resonance If you are up for the challenge you will not regret the decision to take her class. You will find Dr. Phillips to be funny, wise, vibrant and approachable. She is a wealth of knowledge, not only on the subject of chemistry. She gave me invaluable advice about applying to med schools, studying for the MCAT, and nutrition. She's also the only professor at Columbia with and eyebrow ring. Give LADY K PhD.J. a try!! OH AND TO THE PERSON ON HERE THAT CALLED DR. PHILLIPS AN ABOMINATION SHOVE YOUR REVIEW UP YOUR ASS AND ROTATE!!!!

May 2018

Don't take her. Just don't. Do yourself the favor of your undergraduate career. Must unfair class I've taken at Columbia. If you can't take another section, just wait until next year. Trust me it'll be worth it.

Nov 2017

Phillips is an abomination Columbia needs to fire. She is sickly pretentious and unfair with grading: an exam average may be in the 60s, and an A will be an 85. Any curve? No way for Phillips. She simply doesn't care about you or your grade: she has no problem giving everyone C's. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

Nov 2017

Karen Phillips is an incredible professor. Her love for teaching and her passion for her students and organic chemistry truly radiate through the classroom. I have such a strong knowledge in organic chemistry after taking her class both semesters and am so appreciative to have had her as a teacher. I am not saying her class is easy by any means- you need to be invested by putting in both the time and the effort in order to see good results. While this may seem like more work than other orgo profs from the outset, you end up coming out of her class with a strong background in orgo- enough that I haven't even opened up my orgo MCAT book once. While her workshops may seem like extra time out of your day, you would end up spending this time plus more working through the problems on your own anyway. Dr. Phillips also attends these workshop sessions and I also found that having her explain the problems in her own words was really helpful in the learning process. Keep in mind, Dr. Phillips is not required to have these sessions- she is taking time out of her own personal work day to be there. This is just one of many examples of how Dr. Phillips goes above and beyond for her students. Yes, there is no curve, BUT I am telling you that if you have strong work ethic and you are invested in the material, you can succeed. Her exams fairly reflect what she has taught in class and the problems she has given you in workshop. There is no surprises, so with the right amount of effort you should see yourself improving substantially from exam to exam. There will be moments of despair, but at the end of the day you will come out of the class an expert of orgo!

Jul 2017

Phillips' style of lecturing mostly involves drawing molecules and functional groups on the blackboard and listing ways to convert them to other molecules/functional groups. You won't need a textbook at all, but it is absolutely necessary to come to all the lectures (getting lecture notes from a friend + going to that week's workshop is a close substitute, though). In her first year teaching at Columbia, she had weekly two hour "optional" workshops in addition to the weekly 1 hour recitations. She basically comes up with the workshop questions as she goes along, the inspiration being whatever she thinks is important for you to know/practice. This means each workshop question doesn't really have a well-defined answer from the get-go, but you get to see how Phillips goes about solving her own problems and the factors she takes into account when coming up with an answer. You'll spend most of the workshop racing to finish all the questions before the answers are presented, which is honestly pretty decent practice for the time-limited exams. Knowing how to solve every single workshop problem, and listening to her explain why some plausible-sounding solutions are wrong/not ideal, is key to doing well in the class. The things she tests for on the exams are all things she had you practice with on the workshops (even if they only appeared in a single question in the first workshop). Once you have that figured out, getting above the average on the exams isn't too daunting a task.

Jun 2017

I usually don't write evaluations for a course unless it's really inspiring or really disappointing. Unfortunately, Organic Chemistry with Professor Phillips was the latter. To start off, I'd just like to say that Professor Phillips is a great lecturer, and I left every lecture feeling like I learned whatever she was trying to teach that day. The problem I had with the class came from its structure, which from what I understand by talking with other students was a pretty common experience both semesters in her class. This ultimately made me hate my organic chemistry experience. Professor Phillips offers no practice problems other than her workshop questions. She does not release the answers to these questions and only goes over the questions on Fridays in a cramped corner in the Chandler help room, which is usually filled with 30+ other students. Other than by attending the two workshops she offers on Fridays or by getting the answers from a friend who attended, there is no way to get the answers. She does not release them and usually won't cover more than 2 questions in the workshops during her office hours (likely because 1/3 of the class attends the workshops and those students are a majority of the students who attend her office hours, and so they won't ask questions on the workshops which they already know). Furthermore, the few times I went to her office hours to ask questions about different reactions and workshop questions, she was quite condescending and made me feel dumb for not knowing a concept that we learned about just the week before. I didn’t go back to her office hours after this happened to me a couple of times. If you were like me and could not attend most of the workshops because you had an internship all day on Fridays, and you did not know many people in the class to get answers from, you were basically out of luck in terms of practice problems. Additionally, she went over techniques for answering questions and other information we needed to know for practice problems during these workshops that she never mentioned in lecture. This information, I understood, was crucial to understanding exam questions, and it really put those who couldn't attend at a severe disadvantage. She says these workshops are "optional". This is not true in my experience. To do decently well (or even mediocre) in her class, you needed to attend the workshops. She tells us in class that "students who don't attend the workshops still get high grades". This is not a justification to call the workshops optional. This is not how grading statistics works. I'm sure if she took the averages of exams of students who consistently attend workshops and those students who do not, she would see a very clear and large disparity between the two. She also mentioned a handful of times that students approached her to ask that she restructure the class to make it easier for those who cannot attend the workshops - she essentially said that she didn't care. I remember one time during her office hours she told us a story of her meeting with her supervisor to discuss course evaluations from last semester. The major complaint in the evaluations was the workshops, and she told us during her office hours that she didn't care to accommodate the "whiners” who asked her to give the answers to the workshops. This was very disheartening to hear, considering that a few students that I knew did not attend the workshops because they worked on Fridays because they were so busy during the week and needed that income to stay afloat. I wouldn't dare call those students whiners. They are some of the most hard working people I know, and I was very disappointed to hear Professor Phillips make such an assumption about them. She took the concept of workshops from her teaching at Hunter College. I can understand if this is how classes at Hunter are structured, and I can understand her desire for making students work together on these questions. In theory, it sounds very beneficial for students to work together on these problems and come to conclusions on their own. But this is not how classes are structured here at Columbia. We have 50 minute recitations for 4 credit courses, with the only exception being Biology, which had recitations that were scheduled on different days, which meant students could avoid conflicts with work/internships/other classes. Furthermore, recitations are scheduled (on SSOL), not a free floating "optional" recitation, which isn't actually optional if you want to succeed in the class. If she wanted to implement this style of teaching, she could’ve easily instructed the TAs to do this during the 50 min recitations. She said this semester that next year, the workshops will be a necessary part of the class. This is further evidence that these workshops shouldn't have been considered optional this year, and while this is a good step going forward, it shows that students this semester were at a disadvantage in terms of what is expected of them from the start of the semester. She stated they were "optional" during the first few weeks, and by the time I learned they were not so optional, it was too late to switch sections. I also cannot understand how they expect students to register for her class in the future where the recitation is 2 hours and only available once a week when they could register for another orgo section (Doubleday, Lambert) which has a 50 min recitation offered many times a week. I’m sure this will severely drive down the number of students in her section. My classmates also told me that oftentimes, the recitations went over 2 hours to 3 hours, so I would be weary if you plan to get out within 2 hours (e.g. if you have an internship or another class to go to after the workshop). One may think that they could just get practice questions and solutions from online resources or from other orgo sections, but Professor Phillips’ exams are created in such a way that only someone who is familiar with her workshop questions can do well. The skills and knowledge needed to answer these questions come primarily from the workshops. In fact, many of the same string of reactions needed to answer her short response “guess the reactants” questions came straight from the workshops. Again, I'd like to reiterate that Professor Phillips is a great lecturer. She made me somewhat enjoy the topic of organic chemistry. But unfortunately, because of the workshops and exams, my experience with this class was ultimately very poor. My recommendation is that if you’re a postbac, and you have enough time to dedicate to this class, go ahead and take it. Just know that you will be doing much more work than your classmates in other sections. If you’re an undergrad, avoid this class at all costs. I cannot stress this enough. It will suck up so much of your time and energy, and you will still come out of the class with a lackluster grade. The postbacs on average put in so much more effort and really drove down the curve for undergrads. Believe me, even if you cannot get into Lambert’s class, at least take Doubleday. I didn't because it was a night class (and regret it), but trust me even if you don’t go to his lectures, you will still have an easier time in orgo if you take Doubleday's class and just read the textbook.

May 2017

I don't know who you are, but you deserve better than Phillips as an orgo professor. I don't even know where to begin. Lecture: she's ok, but the problem is that you have to rely on her notes, and if you just copy everything she writes, all you have is a mechanism. She mentions important caveats and conceptual details casually, and if you blink you'll miss it. Some students record her lecture, and I guess that could help provided you have the free time to go over it at home. This could just be me, but I find her lecture leaves you without the intuition for organic chemistry that a lot of other professors provide. When I compare what I've learned to other classes like orgo lab, or to mcat style problems, it's like I learned orgo on another planet. Workshop: it's a circus. As other reviewers have mentioned, you get the workshop the day before, and then work them out on a Friday. I could see this maybe working with a very small group of students, guided by knowledgeable TA's and the professor, but there's no guidance for the first hour or so, and then she just wanders in and kinda expects that you've figured it all out. How she treats you in workshop depends on who you are and what kind of day she's having. She has her favorites who can completely screw up a problem and she'll act like it's the cutest thing ever, and then there's the rest of you, who will get furrowed brows, short answers, eye rolls, and face palms. I guess the workshop is a good idea in theory, but it's poorly executed. It's less Socratic seminar and more Lord of the Flies. Despite all this, the workshops were the most efficient and perhaps the only way to get the solutions. Grading: She didn't bother to tell us until halfway through the first semester that she doesn't curve. Not sure why. Maybe she doesn't know how to calculate z-scores. So don't feel good about yourself if you're scoring ten points or whatever above the average, it won't matter. Why she thinks an 80% is the same whether the average was a 70% or a 50% is beyond me. Oh, and she made her third exam ridiculously hard and when asked about it basically said she was tired and didn't mean to make it that hard. Tired? Really? I don't know how her distribution ends up looking or if it's any harder or easier to get an A than it would be with another professor, but those who switched to doubleday second semester didn't seem to regret it.

May 2017

I would like to preface this review by saying, I love Organic Chemistry, I think it's an awesome subject and that I did very well in all of my orgo lecture and lab classes. That is to say this review is not biased due to a bad grade. So...I personally thought Phillip's Orgo I class was a absolute disaster. I get that it was her first semester here and that she was likely adjusting but still, come on, it was terrible. First off, she refused to adjust to the McMurry textbook even though it was assigned so the readings never correlated to her lectures. She was always giving us mechanisms and reactions that weren't in the text book and that I could never find online. If you aren't a 100% awesome note taker, you're screwed...no where else to get the info. Second, her practice exams were not only unhelpful, they were a tremendous waste of time b/c they were from Hunter College (where different material was taught and in a different order, not to mention the exam format didn't match because our class length is shorter). I honestly spent more time trying to figure out which practice problems were relevant than I spent actually doing the problems. Third, her "work sessions" (2-3 hours long on Friday mornings, F** me) which she calls optional, ARE NOT OPTIONAL...there is no where else to get HW solutions. Although, even if you do go, you'll probably end up with a lot of wrong answers anyways because she didn't correct the answers when we went over then on the board...it's ridiculous. Like how are we supposed to learn??? WTF. Third, her exams are dumb, they seem easy when you're taking them but you will loose massive points for the most trivial things/the questions are straight up not clear. For example, I lost 12 points on her first exam because it said "use resonance structures to explain your answer"...I did that...I showed all correct resonance forms...BUT APPARENTLY it was an essay question that required multiple paragraphs of written explanation...how were we supposed to know? Why not just write "this is an essay question"? I can't tell you the number of times I lost points due to lack of clarity in the wording. And another time, one of her multiple choices had an answer option that was given in "Chemistry as a Second Language" (which I'm pretty sure was recommended as supplemental reading) so naturally I picked that answer...and had good reasoning for it as well (my TA agreed). It was marked wrong. When I asked her about it...guess what she said? She said "You can't believe everything you read." Are you kidding me, I can't believe what I read in a text book?????? She refused to give points back. Basically this class is set up in a way that you have to do everything/learn everything the way she wants you to do it, there's no room to learn in your own way. You have to go to lecture/take notes, you must go to her work sessions (which adds an additional 2-3 hours of sitting in a classroom on top of recitation and lecture), you probably should go to her office hours (which I couldn't do and made things harder). Reading the textbook is useless. If you're a busy person and like studying on your own schedule/in your own way...DO NOT TAKE PHILLIPS. If you're the kind of person who gains a lot from lecture and likes office hours...she might be a good option for you. I know some people like her. I personally think a great professor is one that supports you learning the material in whatever way is best/easiest for you, Phillips is not that. I took Doubleday second semester and loved it! He gives you so many resources to learn and basically lets you do it however works best for you...I learnt so much more from him. In response to the previous review, I don't think Phillips class is harder, it's just more frustrating. Averages are actually much lower for Doubleday. With Doubleday, when I did badly on an exam I knew it was my fault whereas with Phillips, I felt that it was due to a lack of resources/clarity and that my exam scores never accurately reflected my understanding of the material. Doing well with Phillips equals emulating her wording...spend time understanding her desires...not Orgo.

May 2017

Professor Phillips is a very polarizing figure. Most students agree she is a fantastic educator with a real passion for teaching, however, she also maintains very high standards for grade ranges. Unlike other orgo professors in the department, the average grade for her course is around a B-. That being said, it is not impossible to do well and she provides ample resources to prepare for exams. Her lectures are extremely clear and well organized making note taking easy. The exams themselves are very fair without questions completely out of left field. She is the type of professor that knows every student's name in a large lecture, and she seems to be invested in the success of each student while recognizing organic chemistry is a difficult subject. A semester with Professor Phillips made me love organic chemistry, and I recommend taking her section if you are interested in learning the subject material well.

May 2017

I feel like Dr. Phillips deserved a more fair and honest review here. She was a tough professor and Orgo was no easy subject, but she tried her best to make her objective clear and organized. She used PowerPoint at a minimal level, which I enjoyed because you truly engaged with the material while writing notes. She didn't curve but she gave us all the tools to be successful. She made herself available on every Friday to work with us on workshop problems. When you whined about you have plan on Fridays, have you thought about the professor who spent HER TIME out of class time to help you? If you did all her workshop problems (once, twice or as many times as needed) AND her Hunter past exams, you would be golden. They were very similar to her actual exams. You would quickly learn her testing style after one or two exams. The average for the first two midterms was at the 70s. You might not do well in a midterm, but you could drop one. Also, she allowed us to bring a 2-page (back and forth) CHEAT SHEETS for the final exam! You couldn't get better than that. I took her both for Orgo I and Orgo II. If you put the work in, you would get the grade you deserve. The idea of not curving is so that your performance is YOURS, not depending on others. I think she made Workshop mandatory (like in recitation?) starting next semester. Go to those and trust me, you would learn a ton in 12 weeks.

Mar 2017

I took Phillip's Organic Chemistry I class in Fall 2016, and I am currently in her Organic Chemistry II class for Spring 2017. To be transparent, I did very well in her class first semester and am expecting to do well again this coming semester. While I'll admit that I do come from a strong chemistry background, I thought that Professor Phillips was very fair. If you take good notes in class, and you make sure you fully understand the workshops that she hands out in class, you can do well. You don't need to read the textbook. She has optional workshop sessions on Fridays, where everyone does the workshop problems in groups and then the groups present the answers. They can be helpful if you go, but if you can't go, it's also perfectly fine to get the answers from a classmate or ask your TA about questions during recitation. Her tests are straightforward, and her questions always come straight from things that she discussed in class or things on the workshop. I think a lot of the bitterness around her class has come from a grading scale that she posted during our first semester. While the class is not curved, the difficult grading scale is not specific to her class. The chemistry department has a very strict grading policy so that only a specific percentage of the class get A's, B's, and C's. The average for her exams consistently falls around a 70%, which according to the cutoffs she published, is a C+/B-. And that does not take into account the fact that you can drop an entire exam so her overall final grades should have an even higher average. Overall, I thought that her grading scale was fair for an organic chemistry class. After all, organic chemistry is a difficult subject, so it should not be expected that Professor Phillips just hand out A's just because her class is filled with pre-med students. All in all, a fair class. You will do well if you put in the effort.

Jan 2017

I feel like I should warn students about this professor. She seemed really cool on the first day of class and she advertised herself as being this incredible professor who made students fall in love with organic, but in reality, she is none of those things. She picks favorites, she does not curve her exams even though the average for all three of our exams was a C or C-, she did not tell us about her grading scale until after the second exam, basically after it was too late to drop her course, and if you don't go to her workshops, it's basically impossible to do well in her class. Some students thought her lecture was interesting, but I thought her drawings on the board were very disorganized and found it difficult to read my notes later. She doesn't use the textbook at all really so everything is from class notes, but again, if those are bad, you cannot do well.

Dec 2016

First of all, there is no doubt that this course is taught more rigorously than other Orgo classes (i.e. doubleday and cornish). But Phillips is ok. She's a good teacher, she explains the material well, although she spent an about 2-3 weeks just talking about hybridization -_- and then powered through enantiomers and stereoisomers like they're common knowledge. I never once opened McMurry so when I switch to d-day, I'll have a weird new relationship with McMurry. Even though she doesn't teach straight outta McMurry, it's ok because you actually learn more of the important mechanisms that she thinks are relevant to synthesis (orgo2). never did learn how to make a cyclopropane from an alkene so that's kinda disappointing, cause she taught that at Hunter. Second, I learned how to answer 11 difficult orgo problems in 75 minutes (5 of which are mechanism questions)... wait scratch that, I really didn't. I usually get one whole-page wrong cause guess what 75min IS NOT ENOUGH!!! It's not like her multiple choice don't take time... so if she ever says "well, they're MC questions, you should be able to answer them quickly..." welp, she gives the same length exam to her Hunter kids but they had 1h and 50min, so... Structure of the course: WOW, where to begin... wow. SHE HANDS THESE WORKSHOP QUESTIONS, RIGHT? THEN EXPECTS US TO ATTEND HER WORKSHOP ON THE FRIDAY WHEN SHE GAVE OUT THE WORKSHOP ON THE THURSDAY. WOW. WOW. THAT'S NOT THE WORST PART. THERE ARE NO ANSWERS!!!!!! WOW WOW WOW. NOPE, NO ANSWERS. AND THEN DURING WORKSHOP SESSIONS, SHE WOULD KEEP AGREEING TO A STUDENT, AND UNTIL SOMEONE SAYS, "hey that's wrong..." ONLY THEN WILL SHE SAY, "yay, i'm glad you brought that up..." UGH WOW COOL I <3 ORGO 2016 WOW. THEN, THESE WORKSHOPS ARE NOT ONLINE, YOU GOTTA GET YOUR ASS TO HAVEMEYER wow. She's a good teacher, but her teaching style, damn. bye phillips, hello doubleday... Also, the fact that D-day has a waitlist for Orgo II, should be a good indicator that something terrible must be happening. Final Exam material: So she goes on with the mechanism materials at 60mph. Then all of a sudden, she decided to go Tokyo drift on us and teach visualization stuff for one class each!! WOW. NMR -1 CLASS. Even Anna G (from Orgo Lab) decided a BOOTCAMP is necessary to understand NMR!! IR - 1 CLASS. She even thought that UV-VIS is not so important to teach she decided to teach Diels-Alder + Radical Halogenation on the last TWO CLASSES!! DIELS-ALDER IN ONE SITTING. My brain felt so inferior. Improvements: WELL HAHAHAHAHA. I DON'T THINK PHILLIPS WOULD APPRECIATE THIS PART BECAUSE GUESS WHAT? WE ALREADY ASKED HER TO DO SOME OF THESE IMPROVEMENTS! WE ASKED HER HALFWAY THROUGH THE SEMESTER IF SHE WOULD PUT UP THE ANSWERS FOR THE WORKSHOPS--JUST THE ANSWERS --- NO EXPLANATIONS, we were basically beggars for answer (y'all got any more of those orgo workshop answers?). her response? ME: I think it could help if answers were posted. HER: NO (hard, cold stern, demeaningly). I'VE MADE UP MY MIND AND THAT IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, if you're an undergrad thinking you can do well in Orgo because you like the material or you're excited to learn new stuff, Orgo won't fail you. BUT SHE WILL. BC SHE DOESN'T CURVE. (I wish I had taken Cornish or D-Day :c) The average is 68, 69, 63 (respectively for the three midterms) and she said she won't curve. This is so low, but the highest grade is always 93-100. Why? Because she caters only to those who have so much time on their hands, and her class structure assumes that Orgo is your whole life. If you are enrolled in any other class aside from Orgo or Orgo lab, Phillips' Orgo is not for you. You have to attend an extra 2h of recitation (workshop) bc you will not get answers for any of them. But if you're a postbac and you're only taking this or bio, then, my friend, godspeed.