professor
Sharmila Kamat

Dec 2008

worst teacher of my life let alone my college career! never taught anything right, never knew any of the materials, and wasn't fair on the grading! terrible terrible teacher. run far far away even if it means a 6PM section for frontiers discussion.

Jan 2008

I had enough bad luck to have her as a instructor during fall 2007, but was astonished to see that she's been teaching for at least two years - i thought mine was the first class she'd ever taught. she's Incredibly unprepared, in terms of knowledge of the material - she knew even less than the students who actually did the reading. First semester would have been a perfect experience, had I not taken this agonizingly boring, permanently awkward seminar. While the ridiculous FoS lectures could become bearable and perhaps even interesting from time to time, the obligatory seminar with Sharmila has make it hard for me to forgive the inventors of FoS

Jan 2007

A very nice woman who is very available after class and for extra help. She knows astronomy very well and makes an effort to answer all lecture questions, if she doesn't know the answer she asks another expert. She is very responsive over email.

Dec 2006

Well-intentioned, hard-working professor. Knows a lot about astrophysics and the astronomy unit. Discussion section is generally powerpoints and worksheets. Weekly homeworks (relatively easy) accompanied by tedious readings (unnecessary). You can get by without reading Habits of Mind if you know some statistics stuff, standard error, probability etc.

Dec 2006

Sharmila's pedagogical incompetence warrants a court injunction against her appearing in front of a classroom ever again. A typical seminar goes as follows: she, a short, quiet Indian woman with a thick and obfuscatory accent, lectures for a few minutes. When she sees the class getting discouraged, she berates herself for her inability to energize the class (either internally, or once externally), causing a downward spiral of depression for everyone in the room, as there are still roughly 100 minutes left in seminar. Worksheets, asking questions more fit for a fifth-grader in special ed (or an athlete), are disseminated and disposed of in a few minutes, except for in groups comprised of athletes or perfectionist pedants, where they are drawn out over absurd spans of time. Sharmila makes the rounds of the cramped, windowless room, upbraiding students for their idleness, not realizing that they have finished her infuriatingly simplistic worksheets ten minutes ago. Another worksheet is given and finished in short order, and the process is repeated ad nauseam, or at least until the short break. More excruciating lecturing and pedantic self-indulgence follows, and the clock crawls to salvation, what seems like five hours after it all started. Not all of the blame should be placed upon Sharmila's shoulders for my horrific experience, though. Frontiers is the kind of pseudo-intellectual bullshit that one expects to see at a third-tier, underfunded community college, and everyone knows it. Enduring it at Columbia is the equivalent of paying $5000 to read popular science magazines, and it's a travesty that Helfand and his minions have become too entrenched and delusional to realize the blindingly obvious fact that applying the principles of the Core to modern science instruction is utterly fallacious. Nevertheless, I don't think I would be so unabashedly embittered had my seminar not been so miserable, and - even in light of the preponderance of profoundly moronic athletes, apathetic mediocrities, and enthusiastic sycophants in my section - it was ultimately Sharmila's fault. What does this mean for you, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshmen? If - God forbid - you're preregistered for her section like I was, first verify that it's her whom you have. Switching seminars is ridiculously hard, but for your sake TRY TO GET OUT. If you can't concoct an elaborate enough excuse to fool the Core office, then you're stuck, which isn't necessarily too awful of a thing after the fact, because you'll realize without a tinge of opacity how absurd Frontiers is, and you'll probably also be able to come away with a grade of A or A+. It's a painful road to travel, though, so bring a good book, a TI-83 with games, and a bottle of screwdriver or vodka-cran to every seminar. You're going to need them.

Dec 2006

I took her class Fall 2006. After reading some of the reviews on here, I think that she has been working to improve her technique. After all, it's not as if she teaches anything besides this class. I thought she did a good job explaining the lecture material. The only times that I had problems was because of the lectures themselves or my own laziness. Seminars often involved doing handouts in class in small groups. I wasn't a big fan of these, but they helped because they were somewhat similar to practice questions for the midterm/final. Sometimes we were able to decide what to do in class. This was very helpful because some lectures needed an extra review and some didn't. I think that she makes the material easy to understand, but I also have a propensity towards science.

Nov 2006

Kamat is a nice person, I think, but she lacks anything that even resembles a teaching method. She paces around the class talking non-stop about some abstract scientific concept that will never surface on any assignments or tests, occasionally chiding us for not speaking more. Sometimes, people do make an effort to get in a word edgewise, but they're always met with Kamat's confusion. She was completely blown away by some of the simplest, most basic questions (Is the final cumulative?) and, like other reviewers said, would then proceed to challenge us to answer the questions ourselves. I don't think she took attendance, but I was so terrified at the prospect of having to retake Frontiers that I didn't risk skipping the pointless seminars.

Feb 2006

Good God. What can be said about Sharmila Kamat, other than "AHHHH!" She is a nice, kind person. However, you will learn absolutely nothing in her section. She could RARELY answer any of the questions put forth by our class, and frankly seemed rather intimidated while trying to come up with a response. Whenever she could not answer a question herself (which was about 90 percent of the time) she simply turned it on the class, and we stared back in wide wonder. Here is a scenario taken directly from my fourth discussion section with Sharmila: The entire class was really confused about sunspot magnetism. We kept asking questions about the concept, which she was utterly incapable of clarifying. Finally, after much commotion, she said, direct quote: "I can tell we are all really confused about this. I think we should just move on." (Stunned silence in the room, angst and tears on students' faces.) This is not a joke.

Jan 2006

Sharmila was the worst part of my first semester. Not only does she know absolutely NOTHING about the coursework, she is clearly very uncomfortable in front of a class and would rather be anywhere else. She made everyone feel awkward all the time and she was rude. I could not WAIT to get out of her class. Class time consisted of reading rediculously unrelated scienctific journal articles (which she liked to make about four copies of, total, for the whole class) and worksheets that were basically the same as the homework, which was a rediculous waste of time in itself. In general, Frontiers of Science is the most atrocious class I've sat through in my life, and was terribly run. If you get Sharmila, though, TRY and get out.

Dec 2005

Frontiers was an awful class... but it's not the fault of Professor Kamat. She definitely will try to help you if you seek her out. She was always willing to answer my questions when I went to her office hours, even though I often felt dumb because I struggle with math concepts. Sometimes she was difficult to understand and sometimes she didn't always understand what the students would say in class, but she is clearly intelligent and she would go over the problems at her office hours with me until I understood them. She also responds quickly to questions via email. The curriculum for the class is not especially interesting to non-science majors and the homework assignments were usually difficult (in my opinion) and didn't pertain to what was taught in the lecture. But none of this can be blamed on Kamat since she has no control over the curriculum. She's friendly and approachable--make an effort and show you care by asking for help when you need it and ye shall receive it.

Sep 2005

Really, spring '05 Sharmila was sooo much better than the earlier reviewers mentioned--she probably changed her ways because of negative feedback from the course evals from that semester! anyways, sharmila really made sure that everyone, EVERYONE in the class understood what was going on, PARTICULARLY what was going to be covered on problem sets and the final. she really is a sweet woman and wants to make sure everyone gets the most out of the class. she is also very available outside class and answers emails really quickly--during study days she left my graded problem set for me with the guard at butler for me to pick it up to use to study! she really was pleasant, and i recommend keeping her if you get her! she deffinitely made sure the class was interactive, and went out of her way to get feedback and model the class after the students' needs!

Jul 2005

I won't be so hard on her as most other people commenting on her are. She know the stuff, but need a better understanding that most kids in the class are non-science muggles not science wizards. Also, a better class plan and course plan would help her as well rather than posting a lot of materials online, actually discussing. Still, I will say she is quite a capable teacher, and the materials she provide in class as well as the extra problems we solve in class are really helpful to do the problem sets and for the finals equally. She is very helpful, so if you are in trouble understanding person you should expect help witn a warm smile. I little better organizing skills and she will be perfect.

Jan 2005

I will corroborate the other reviews here and assure you that a Kamat section is a waste of time. It is not hard, but it is unpleasant. She really is a kind person but she has no idea what she is doing and doesn't seem to know the Frontiers material well either (she doesn't pretend to know much outside her own field, the study of Dark Matter- her discussion of this topic in the first lecture was about as interesting as her discussion sections got, too bad it had nothing to do with the course). If you are looking to learn in your discussion section, follow this clever alliterative slogan: Keep away from Kamat, khildren.

Jan 2005

She is a very nice person and tries her best to explain what was unclear to us from the lectures. Sometimes the class can be a complete bore, so just a warning.

Jan 2005

Although I came into this class as a student with a relatively strong science background, and definitely interested in learning about recent scientific phenomenons and new scientific trends, Professor Kamat did me not justice! Although frontiers lectures were interesting, her seminars were BOO-RING! She spent the first 5 minutes of class reviewing some of the basic ideas in our readings for the week, which was sometimes helpful, and then after that makingsure we had understood the material by asking us questions about it. I guess this could be seen as stimulating class discussion, but us students couldn't even understand what she was asking us. In the over an hour remaining of class Kamat would blankly stare at us, letting us talk amongst ourselves, waiting for us to answer her question that we still didn't understand. At some point someone would ask her a question, but she wouldn't understand that question, so the rest of the class would be spent with all the students trying to explain to her what that student was wondering. Basically, the class was a huge let-down. Frontiers of Science is a good idea, and the topics and readings are interesting, but the seminar leader can either make it or break it for you. If you are looking for stimulating, thought-provoking, exciting, and you want to understand the importance of the broad scientific ideas that dominate our world today, I urge you to swich out of Kamat's class- immediately!

Jan 2005

I just thought I should balance the other review since I am a non-science major. Sharmila Kamat is a horrible teacher. She can't explain anything, and literally relied on students to explain what was going on. She NEVER understood a question, a topic, anything. Frontiers of Science is a lame class anyway...having Dr. Kamat made discussion sections the most horrible part of my week. In my opinion, she is rude to her students, constantly impatient with people that don't understand, and clearly incompetent at teaching. I have no doubt that she is really smart, but she is NOT a teacher. Switch if you get her....she's that bad.

Dec 2004

Sharmila is a very nice woman, but she does not know how to teach at all. She looked like a deer in front of headlights trying to get a room of freshmen to answer her questions. She knows science, of course, but her area of expertise is limited (to astrophysics, which is cool but fairly unhelpful). For the units not related to the stars, she knew as much or less than her students on the topic. She could not get the class to participate. When silence greeted a question, she assumed that no one understood the topic, when in fact no one cared enough to answer her. I actually liked the lectures in Frontiers, and I would recommend going to lectures, but I hated this seminar section. As someone who has extensive science experience and will be a science major, I found this seminar section almost unbearably simple and condescending. Unfortunately, as a small Core class, I couldn't skip. If you don't care at all and aren't going to bother participating, you'll be fine. If you want to get anything at all out of the class, switch. There are good seminar leaders, and she is not one of them.