Michal Lipson

Oct 2020

Picture this: You’re a freshman sitting in PHYS UN1402, with a professor blabbering away about electricity. You’re like “holy heck this is boring. So you go on your computer and check the professor's h-Index on Google Scholar and you find out they’re super well-cited! So you go: “Surely if this professor could talk about a more advanced subject that is closer to their research and literally has their research topic in the name of the course, the lectures and the course would be much better, right? This class is proof that this claim above is completely false. Before we start let's get the biases out of the way. I got a B in the class and we were allegedly curved to a B+/A-, so I was slightly below average. I’m also an undergrad. It seems like most undergrads were below average. Too bad I didn’t know I was below average until after the final because I never got any other grade back until around that time. Now that we have that settled… I love electromagnetics, waves, and all that physics new cool stuff, but Lipson made my life so sad. Every Tuesday evening, I spend 2.5 hours in Hamilton in a room of 20 other people scratching my head wondering when Lipson would start teaching - spoiler alert! She never started teaching. In fact, if you didn’t tell me the name of the course, I wouldn’t have known what the class was about. I guess there were some positives. I got exercise walking up three flights of Hamilton once a week. Lipson is also super nice when you get to talk to her! …when you get to talk to her. In the glorious weeks where she hosted office hour (notice no (s)), she would generally be late, leading to office minutes. When office minutes did start on time, the TA was there instead. (Shoutout to our TA who legit carried many of us through the course. The TA deserves a raise or a Get a Ph.D. Express Pass after this class.) You might be saying: “I’ve had a bad class before! I’ll just study off the textbook! And I would say…textbook? Textbook implies a collection of pages with endless correct knowledge. Her textbook had more errors than an econ major’s code when they try to take 1002. This was especially painful because the errors she made in the lecture were often inconsistent with the errors in the book, so you couldn’t even cross-check mistakes. The homework were okay…ish. But they became exponentially more difficult because of the lack of correct material. The homework often had problems that were derivative from the problems in class, but I was often scratching my head because there were usually mistakes in the in-class example. I actually made a lot of friends from this class out of necessity. I could always count on my classmate to be just as confused as I was! We also had quizzes. These were usually three questions, and you had three tries. Oh, and there were only three. I forget how much they made up, but this means 9 questions dictated a large portion of your grade. The best part: we were pretty sure one of the quizzes had a mistake, but she never fixed it. So did I get a 66.6% or a 100%? I’ll never know! Now, if for whatever reason you absolutely need to take this class, here is my advice. Go to the TA’s office hours! If they are anything like our TA, even when he is confused, he will be less confused than you. Also, read Saleh and Tiech. It’s actually a textbook. Thirdly, make friends (this will probably happen automatically), and don’t be afraid to ask Lipson why things in the lecture are true, because often, they will be false. But to be honest, the only two good takeaways from the class was making new friends and getting exercise every Tuesday.