professor
Colin Nuckolls

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Sep 2015

I'll make this concise. Knuckolls is thee best Organic Chem professor in this building. I wish that he taught Orgo I because Cornish and Doubleday's methods were way too convoluted. He said on day one that his exams were a direct reflection of his lectures and that was the truth. I appreciated his honesty, there were no surprises. One of the TA's posted his notes verbatim, and she made a valiant attempt to clear up dense material, and she wrote detailed mechanisms. In addition these TA's were approachable and available. No God complexes whatsoever. You need to hit the ground running because he covers the material quickly so don't miss class (even though the notes might be posted). I believe that the behavior of posting notes was a test run during my semester, and I had an awesome TA that was diligent but you should invest the time...you're paying for it! You're all but spoon fed the material. There was HW which wasn't collected but very useful. Make index cards...that will save your life as far as terminology, and mechanisms go. Do the practice exams. Do the practice exams. Do the practice exams. Got it?

May 2015

After taking Doubleday's orgo class first semester, I found Nuckolls's class to be refreshing (and much easier). The hardest part was actually attending the lectures at 8:40AM. It was a bit hard for me to follow along in his lectures, since he goes fast and covers a lot of material in each session. This year, he posted all his lecture notes online, so it was super convenient to just browse through his notes and fill in any gaps I may have missed during the lectures. Pros: Good lecturer, online notes available, fair grading/curve (exam averages this year hovered around mid-40s to 70's so if you think you bombed an exam, it's very likely everyone else did as well - which helps the curve!), no homework but optional problem sets that definitely help for the exams, tons of practice exams and office hours available, less post-baccs = less competition Cons: Fast lecture pace, notes can be a bit sloppy and unclear, keys to the practice exams were incomplete (went to office hours, but sometimes even the TAs didn't know the answer, so it's best to ask the prof directly), 8:40AM lectures Some advice: I originally studied for the exams by reading and rereading the textbook (and taking copious notes), which left me little time to do the practice exams when it came to exam time. I HIGHLY suggest going through a single practice exam FIRST (just browse through it to get a sense of what'll show up on the exam), going through the lecture notes and highlighting the stuff covered in the practice exam, and THEN reading the textbook if you need to. What Nucholls actually tests you on is only a small fraction of the textbook material, so you really only need the textbook to look up mechanistic details; otherwise, reading the textbook is a complete waste of time. Overall, compared to Doubleday, Nuckolls was a much better lecturer with fairer exams (in my opinion). I received an entire letter grade higher in Nuckolls's section, but I don't necessarily think I studied any harder in second semester orgo. Either way, orgo was by far one of the hardest classes I've ever taken, but shoot for Nucholls, work hard, and you may get a great grade with only half the stress that comes with the other orgo sections!

Jun 2014

I got a C+ -- read it, C+ -- in Colin's class, and I still think he is an AWESOME instructor. and I learned a ton. Oh, but how could such a contradiction be? It's not that I didn't have an understanding of the material. I was teaching it to other students, went to tutoring multiple times per week, and worked thoroughly through all the problem sets until I had the logic cold. And above all it was Colin -- both the clarity of his lectures, and his dedication to answering problems over email and his long office hours -- that permitted this understanding to happen. He is in complete command of the material, is able to break it down simply for people, cracks actually funny jokes, and always seems to have time to meet with undergrads, even though he runs a huge lab. But I bombed one midterm and the final because of other stuff going on in my life. As in, taking the final, I was in such bad mental condition that I mixed up left and right, and didn't even realize it when I double-checked it. I did well on the other exams. Far be it from me, Mr. C+, to give you advice on how to succeed in his class. But I am passing on wisdom that I learned from other students: 1) With Colin, it's not a matter of doing hundreds and hundreds of problems, which is the advice often given to orgo students. It's a matter of thoroughly understanding the specific material that HE presents. You can almost throw away the textbook, which in our case was McMurry, and is not particularly well-written. (It's even got grammar and spelling mistakes.) So: take as perfect notes as possible of what he writes in class. And do all the problems that HE writes. For, these are the types of concepts and problems that will appear on the exams. 2) Make yourself flash cards with prompts on one side that force you can explain back all his material in full detail. Every arrow, every little set of electrons moving around, every 3-D structure. Everything. 3) If there's anything, anything that's unclear to you, ASK him. Ask HIM, preferably, not a TA. The TAs are sometimes wrong. 4) Memorize these flash cards, so that you can write them out almost perfectly on paper. 5) Teach them to another student, to solidify your ability for recall. 6) Be Zen when you go into the tests. You'll see stuff that might be a bit more complex than what he's taught. But just repeat to yourself the following mantra: "Colin has given us all the tools to solve his problems." And he has. You'll find yourself recalling concepts from the flash cards that will apply to the specific problem at hand. It's a little bit of mixing and matching. You need a screwdriver here, a jackhammer there, but you've got everything you need. I promise. Lots of people got As in Colin's class. It's just that life does indeed contain sometimes sad vagaries, and my ship sailed into one of them, stranding me in C+ waters, and causing my pre-med committee to freak out.

Jun 2014

I thoroughly enjoyed Orgo II with Nuckolls. I agree with the previous reviewer in that it was definitely one of the more straightforward (and less stressful) of the pre-med classes I've taken. Lecture/Lecture Notes - At first I was annoyed that Nuckolls doesn't post his lecture notes on Courseworks, as I had been used to consistently skipping Campos' lectures, but I got over it pretty fast. Plus attendance was pretty impressive for an 8:40 AM class. It's true that Nuckolls moves pretty fast and skips steps here and there, but you'll be fine as long as you get down all the notes and review them later. The notes are very important - on the first exam, I think 2-3/6 problems were literally straight out of the notes. (After that first exam I knew I'd have a pleasant experience with Nuckolls - it's so very refreshing when a professor actually tests on what they taught.) In terms of his lecture style, Nuckolls was one of the more engaging lecturers I've had at Columbia, and I found his catchphrases and sarcasm to be endearing, even at 8:40 AM. Thanks to him, I've now adopted "and Bob's your uncle." Exams - Fair. A lot of questions were either straight out of the notes/practice exams or variations of these problems. What's important is that the concepts were the same. (He gave a TON of practice exams, which was great.) I was really stressed about the final because it was worth 40% of our grade, but I had a feeling Nuckolls would make it fair for that reason. Sure enough, more than half the exam was straight from the practice exams, and the rest was either straight from the notes or easy enough to figure out. I think I finished in 45 minutes (we had three hours.) Basically, if you thoroughly examine the notes and do all the homeworks/practice exams, you should do just fine. Homework - Weekly problem sets. Not collected, but good practice to make sure you have the basic concepts down before moving on to harder problems. Quizzes - Performance on quizzes determined whether borderline cases were moved up or down. I took the first three or four and then never went to recitation again, mostly because I really didn't like my TA. Overall - I highly recommend Nuckolls. I think he was great.

May 2014

I found this class to be one of the most straightforward of my premed classes. As long as you went to every lecture (probably the most difficult part of this 8:40 AM ordeal), you should expect to do reasonably well. Nuckolls chooses not to engage with the class during lecture and speeds through his material but his office hours are definitely more reflective of his teaching abilities; he's personable and doesn't want people to fail, unlike some premed req teachers who commandeer certain weed out classes. Basically, if you have the option to take Orgo w/ Nuckolls, take it. You'll save yourself a lot of BS.

May 2014

Professor Nuckolls' class is challenging, but if you put in the work and don't give up, you will see results. He doesn't post his lecture notes, so going to each lecture and taking good notes is a must--this may seem inconvenient at first, but it actually helps you focus and pushes you to learn in class. If you have to miss lecture, get the notes from a reliable friend. I would study his lecture notes thoroughly, and go to the professor's office hours to get clarification on any weak points. He is very kind, approachable, and available! Take advantage of this, because I had quite the opposite case in my first semester of orgo, and having this support makes a huge difference. Whenever I emailed him about issues on a practice problem, he always responded very quickly and thoroughly. I found the textbook helpful in grasping concepts and checking some of the mechanisms, but the exam level is beyond McMurry. For exam prep, after I'd grasped the mechanisms (flash card them and know them cold) and studied my notes, I'd go through all of his practice exams…he gives several, so there is a lot of ground to cover, but I found he sometimes repeats questions, or puts very similar ones on the tests, so mastering the practice tests is key. One part of the class I didn't appreciate as much is that a lot of the mechanisms are not covered in minute detail in class--so make sure to compare with a colleague/look it up from a reliable source online so you are not losing points on mechanistic details. There's quite a lot of time that needs to go into this class to produce good results, but I had a friend I'd consistently study for the class with, and talking through everything together definitely made things more enjoyable, while helping me see where I was weak and needed reinforcement. Overall, tough but enjoyable class!

Apr 2014

While I expect a good grade in this class, I have absolutely nothing good to say about it. Colin is rather sarcastic and dismissive towards his students, at least during lecture. He assumes that everyone in the class is Pre-med and will often drop comments like, "C'mon you pre-meds, shouldn't you know this?" It's rather annoying, especially when there are people who are actually interested in learning actual concepts in chemistry and want to do research in the future. Instead, this whole class is one giant memorization-fest. I literally binge orgo for 2 days before each exam and then forget about everything within two days of taking each exams. He offers you plenty of practice problems and exams, except the "keys" he gives you are largely either "See nearly identical homework problem" or just a list of reagents. It's extremely unhelpful, because most of the time these "identical" homework problems don't even exist in the first place and you end up wasting a bunch of time looking in your notes and whatnot for something that isn't there anyways. What's most infuriating about his practice exams is the fact that he NEVER fully writes out the details to the mechanism questions. Looking in your notes isn't going to do you any good either, because he loves to skip mechanistic steps during lecture as well. I'd say that about 30% of the mechanisms he expects you to know were actually never actually taught to you in lecture nor in the practice exam keys. It's fucking infuriating when you spend 30 minutes going through every homework problem trying to find the answer to a practice exam problem that isn't there in the first place. You're pretty much forced to go to office hours to get help on the practice exams, but your TA is already preoccupied with dozens of equally confused students! It's a gigantic waste of time. "Why don't you just skip every lecture and learn orgo online?", you ask. Well, Colin doesn't post his lecture notes online. Okay, then why don't I figure out what the chapters are over and learn the relevant material through the book? Nope. He goes in much greater detail that McMurry and loves to put challenge questions on the exams. He'll give you little hints in class about potentially hard questions he might drop on the exams, so you're forced to go to every single lecture, scavenging for whatever scraps of useful information he might toss at you. All in all, this class is terrible. It made me hate orgo after having such a fun first semester with Campos. I feel like Colin doesn't care about his students, because as long as someone aces the exam (and trust me, someone will), he can justify everything he does. This class is just one big inconvenience in my life. Shit.

Jan 2008

I thought Professor Nuckolls was a great teacher, but I know many people who didn't agree. I think the things that students should know going into his class are as follows: 1. his lectures are pretty fast-paced but very, very clear and logical; yes, it does help to have glanced over the chapter beforehand, but I never did and still was able to follow along. I think most people miss important points because they stop listening briefly and because it's hard to emphasize them when there are so many. The key is to not let yourself zone out, and if you actually listen to what he says, it's easy to get interested in the material because he presents it very well 2. his midterm exams are fair but quite long; i think that just like most people would be able to follow along if he went just a BIT slower in lecture, most people would do very well if he cut out about one and half questions from the exam. i would say that what makes the exams difficult is how quickly you have to think to get through the entire test without making mistakes, not how difficult each question is; i often found that if i needed to sit and work through one problem slowly, another problem would be sacrificed that being said, the TAs are pretty generous when it comes to grading 3. GO TO OFFICE HOURS! It can't be said too many times. Whatever some students may find hard to deal with in lecture, Prof Nuckolls MORE than makes up for during office hours if you take it upon yourself to go. He is generous with his time, really good at explaining things, and very patient; he is willing to go over the same thing multiple times with you if you need it. He is happy to teach anyone who wants to learn And just some general advice--I know it's really hard, but try not to let yourself fall behind. It's true of all classes but takes on a new meaning when it comes to organic chemistry. It is totally worth it to put time into really understanding the new material as it comes; the whole class is made MUCH easier--and even enjoyable--if you do. And this way, you don't have to be frazzled with index cards (like so many of us were) before exams.

Jul 2006

Dr. Nuckolls is a great teacher. Period. Now here are the things you need to do to succeed in his class. 1) Go to every lecture and take notes on EVERYTHING he puts on the board. Don't ever miss a lecture. He covers reactions that are not in the textbook then often puts these reactions on his tests. You should read the textbook and take notes for reinforcement, but study the lecture notes way more than the textbook. 2) Do the homework problems and make sure you get the answers to these problems. Keys are almost always posted by TAs. 3) Try to do the past exams at least a week ahead of time then make sure you go to Nuckolls' office hours and get the answers, since he does not post keys to past exams. Doing this is absolutely essential to succeeding in this class. Often his exams will repeat questions or themes from previous exams, sometimes verbatim. So know the solutions to all the problems from past exams cold. If you follow this advice, you will almost always beat the mean on his exam, because most people in the class don't bother to understand all or any of the past exam questions, then get hosed when they reappear on the actual test. 4) Write down on index cards every reaction he covers in class, every reaction in the practice exams you missed, and every reaction in the homework you missed, and drill them. Again, this is essential. You don't want to have to try to figure it all out on the fly during the test. You only have an hour. Know it cold. 5) Try not to be sloppy on your tests. Small mistakes can cost you big. If all this sounds labor intensive, it is. But it will get you results. Basically, succeeding in orgo means knowing your stuff. The crucial thing most people don't realize is that, for this class, that involves extra work i.e. doing the practice exams and understanding them fully, understanding all the homework, knowing inside out the extra reactions Nuckolls teaches you in lecture, in addition to the standard material covered in the textbook. Honestly it's not that hard. It just takes consistent effort. If you put in the work outlined above, you will surely succeed.

May 2006

Prof. Nuckolls was extremely rude, and behaved in an arrogant, dismissive manner. He did not return student emails. He did not release answer keys for exams ("talk to the TAs". However, they only knew solutions to 70% of questions and guessed at the last 30%). If he's going to have a guest lecturer, Nuckolls does not email the class to let them know how long he'll be out (or that he'll be out at all). Chalk on blackboard is his modus operandi. Good luck reading his handwriting. He writes on the board seeming as fast as he can and doesn't slow down to clarify. Often, he will say, midway through drawing a reaction, "and you can take it from here". About 40% of the time, I couldn't. Old exams are handed out largely without solutions. They are solved chalk on blackboard a couple of days before the exams in a hurried fashion and not all problems are covered. Exams test minutiae that is glossed over in class much more heavily than common sense would suggest. In that sense, Nuckolls likes to "hide the ball" regarding what will be tested. Exam scores are usually in the 40's, but the course grade is curved, of course.

Jun 2005

DON"T TAKE HIM!!! First, he was not in class for two weeks (and we were not giving any prior warning, because heaven forfend he write an e-mail); Dr. Katz showed up to teach the lectures. But the TA's weren't there, so if you had any questions about what Dr. Katz covered, you were out of luck. Although the means are ridiculously low, many of the students who score a 2 or 4 (yes, out of 100) drop out by the end of the semester, so the curve doesn't really help you out; don't kid yourself. Be smart and register (early!) for Leighton. With all the students in has class, you're almost guaranteed a better grade.

May 2005

His notes are pretty good, and they cover exactly everything you need to know on the test, so as long as you write down everything he says and you study it well, you well do fine on his tests. He also will put problems from the book on the test, so if you take the additional time to do all the problems from the book that he assigns you will be more than prepared for his exams. The only problem with his class is that it was at 9 am.

May 2005

I don't think I realized until the end of the course how well Colin organized the material in orgo II. Orgo II is challenging because there is a ton of mechanistic detail to learn/memorize, but Colin had a way of presenting the material so that you could organize and compartmentalize the material in your head. When I was studying for the final (which was comprehensive), I realized just how good his lectures were. Having succeeded in orgo II (I got an A), I would like to pass on some wisdom. Orgo is a weedout class. You will do best if you learn as you go along because the volume of material necessitates your having a command of the material as the semester progresses. Even though the homework is not required, I would highly recommend forcing yourself not only to do it, but to UNDERSTAND exactly what you're doing. It will reinforce your understanding of the material and make it easier to study for the exams. Second, because it is a weedout class, the exams will be about 1/3 stuff that basically everyone will know, another 1/3 that about half to a third of the class will know and about 1/3 material that about 5 to 10 percent of the class will know. How can you teach yourself the stuff that only 5-10 percent of the class will know? PAY ATTENTION TO THE SEEMINGLY UNIMPORTANT REACTIONS HE COVERS. For example, in the third unit, we studied the Claisen and the Dieckman condensation in great detail. He also covered about 4 other condensations that seemed very unimportant (he spent about 5 minutes on them during lecture) but showed up on the tests (both the midterm and the final) and meant about 1/6 of your exam grade if you couldn't do it. Bottom line: you actually have to learn everything if you want to get an A -- it's not one of those classes where having a grasp of the big picture will suffice. You have to know ALL the minor details. The reason that Colin is a good teacher is because his lectures give you an excellent framework to organize all of the details you have to know so that you can recall them quickly during the exam. If you can handle a 9 am MWF, he's well worth it, but be sure to attend every lecture.

Sep 2003

Prof Nuckolls is humorous, approachable, and most of all a very good lecturer. Although his lectures go very quickly as there is a lot of material to cover, he covers everything in a very logical way with even a few jokes thrown in. I feel very lucky to have had a coherent and enthusiastic prof for second semester Orgo. His exams were reasonable and exactly from the notes.

Apr 2003

Nuckolls is a great teacher! Before I took orgo2, everyone said that it is thousand times harder than orgo 1. Seriously, I did not find orgo 2 hard at all. He explains everything in detail and clearly (and somewhat fast), and it is sometimes possible to get lost in the lecture. But once you review the lecture notes by your own, they make sense. There are millions of reactions to learn in the class (as opposed to 4 or 5 reactions in orgo 1), but they are not hard. They all make perfect sense if the professor is able to present them in an organized way. That is what Nuckolls was able to do, and that is why the class was a piece of cake. One good thing is that I did not have to study from the textbook at all!! I just reviewed lecture notes before the exams, and did last year's exams for studying and I did great

Jun 2002

At first there weren't enough people who registered for his class because he was new to the school. But soon we found out that Professor Nuckolls knows his shit about organic chemistry! His lectures are intense, fast-paced, and loaded with information, so get there on time or else you'll spend the rest of the class catching up, no joke! Professor Nuckolls is dedicated to making sure that his students understand every single bit of the material; he would draw the mechanisms so many times to emphasize his point that you start to dream about them. He's really flexible when it comes to office hours, you can usually make appointments to meet with him individually if you can't make it to his office hours. He's really nice and patient to students, and sometimes he would even crack a few cheesy jokes.