Janna Levin

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Nov 2019

Hard to get a hold of outside of class (won't meet with students 1 on 1, in my experience), so don't expect to talk to her if you can't go to her office hours(worth trying if you need to, but she tends to take a while to respond to emails and has students come up to discuss with her at the beginning of class instead of 1 on 1). I experienced her be both rude to me, and other students if we didn't already understand something. I wouldn't do work in front of her unless you are confident in your abilities she loves for students to work on the board, but isn't very supportive and I've seen her actively tear down students in front of the rest of those at the office hours (telling someone that if they didn't understand something they should've gone to help room months ago, isn't a great thing to say to someone before finals week, which happened multiple times). She can sort of teach, uses the board and examples, but doesn't explain what she's doing that well, and sometimes makes mistakes that can make looking back at your notes confusing. I'd advise reading the book before class for sure, and doing problems on your own (lots of her exam problem questions come from tipler electricity and magnetism for scientists and engineers, which is on the shelves in altschul 514). Rely more on going to the help room and asking questions, or email the ta. In general very unaccommodating to any emergencies, she's your standard cold professor in regards to that. If you're a premed, let her know, and ideally, suck up to her -she takes it well. If not, well, unless you want to say you love her books, maybe don't talk to her.

Dec 2018

course was very disorganized and exams were unlike questions we had seen before, so although I feel as if I grasp the course material I don't feel my grades reflect that which is frustrating. That being said, professor Levin is very nice and wants us all to succeed which is a great feeling in college where that usually isn't the case. She is a very busy person so that can be challenging at times. Overall, have mixed feelings about this course so do not know if I would recommend. Professor Levin is good at changing the course based on student feedback. most improvements that have been suggested to her have been implemented, as she is very good at adapting based on class needs.

Oct 2018

This likely is not the fault of Dr. Levin directly, but way too much background in physics is assumed for the Intro Mechanics class. I took physics in high school, so I was able to keep up with the concepts, but I feel for the girls who thought they'd take a physics class to widen their horizons or challenge themselves, but just ended up feeling stupid. And it's not as if these girls aren't "cut out" for physics; it's that the material is taught in a way that does not sufficiently link each concept to others. If we, as a women's college, want more women in subjects like physics, it cannot be taught in this way. No one wants to study something that makes them feel stupid. This is where the part about Dr. Levin comes in. She is funny, commanding, and obviously very intelligent, but she is not a very inviting teacher. Sometimes she makes condescending comments or answers questions in a way that implies the question was stupid or unnecessary. Granted, there are always those few people in every class that have to let everyone know how much they understand the material, and so do make unnecessary comments, but Dr. Levin's contempt is not always contained to these people who arguably deserve it. All in all, don't depend solely on the instruction of Dr. Levin, take advantage of TAs, lab instructors, tutors, help rooms, GOOGLE, etc etc as much as you can.

May 2017

Least favorite prof I had all four years. She's pretentious, arrogant, mean spirited, rude, talks down to her students...has a total stick up her butt/thinks she's the most brilliant person to ever bless this planet. Acts like she's the sun, everything revolves around her (ha, get it? solar system joke). She constantly (I mean constantly) talks about herself, it's actually unreal. She absolutely picks favorited and if you aren't willing to suck up hella hard then she will actively dislike you. Real bummer of a semester to be honest.

Mar 2017

Janna Levin is narcissistic, self-obsessed, and arrogant. She constantly talks about herself...literally constantly. I don't need to hear 10 billion times that she gave a TED talk, ect. And you know she loves hearing herself talk. She repeatedly attempts to reaffirm that she's the smartest person in the room...I swear sometimes she would intentionally use big words in an attempt to sound smart/belittle you, but honestly it was just annoying. She expects everyone to be obsessed with her and she picks obvious favorites. She holds it against you if you don't constantly tell her how awesome, smart, inspiring she is. It's ironic that she's an astrophysicist because she believes the world (and probably the sun for that matter) revolves around her and only her. If you're up for sucking up then you'll probably get along great. If you're like me and just want to learn the material without the need to be a fangirl, then good luck. I did fine in her class so don't worry about how hard she is too much, I just think her personality is a distraction to learning/enjoying the material.

Aug 2014

Woah. This professor is what college is all about. She absolutely dominates lectures -- by far the best lecturer I've ever had. If you want a taste of her lecture style, you can check out her various Ted talks or interviews with NPR or Radiolab because she's ~*famous*~. If you watch these, however, be warned that there is a very large possibility of exhibiting fan girl syndrome. Not only is she a powerful presence, but she also puts things in context, uses examples, starts from scratch, answers questions, interacts, makes jokes... One way to convey her teaching style is her disdain for memorization -- if you're work is grounded in reason, there is no need to memorize equations. You will be able to derive them all from scratch. You will fall in love with Physics just as quickly as you fall in love with her. It doesn't stop at her lectures -- she goes above and beyond to make Physics not only an area of study, but an ardent passion of her students. For the first ten minutes of every class, she lets students ask any question about the universe... ANYTHING AT ALL!! AND SHE ANSWERS IT!!! Her specialty is theoretical physics, and these conversations get so mind-blowing and philosophical, you will want to march straight to the registrar and change your major to this beautiful subject. These little sessions are what taught me that Physics is the language of the entire universe, which is sometimes hard to see when you're poring over tedious problem sets... they served as quick introductions to topics such as quantum physics, black holes (her specialty), space time, inflation theory and the multiverse... the list goes on. Despite all the wonderful things I have said, this is what I appreciated most about Professor Levin: after each class, she held office hours which you could go to and stumble through homework problems with her watching and guiding and explaining your mistakes away. Despite the fact that I didn't have any problems with the class, I went to these office hours religiously because of her thorough explanations, and interesting tangents. I'm not sure if there was a curve, but I certainly didn't need one because of how well I understood the material by the end of the semester. This class is a pinnacle example of how awesome Barnard is. Here is this famous and successful physicist that knows your name and takes time out of her day to help you GET THINGS. At the risk of sounding like a self-help book... getting an A is not the goal, learning is. Here's a little about me, so you can see how your experience might relate to mine. Barnard was my first exposure to Physics -- somehow I missed out on that in high school. Despite my newfound love for the subject, I am not a Physics major. I am, however, quite fond of quantitative subjects, and have an excellent Calculus background (took calc 1, 2, and 3), which was extremely relevant to the class... especially Calc 3. I got an A in this class, but I by no means thought this class was easy; I invested a lot of time into problem sets. That being said, largely due to Professor Levin's inspiring lectures, I ended up loving the material and (dare I say?) enjoying doing the problem sets. Something I should also mention is that not everyone I talked to felt as enchanted by this class as I do (and admittedly, I set a high enchantment threshold), but I think complaints mostly had to do with workload.

May 2011

This semester was so much harder than the first semester (Mechanics). It also involves a lot more calculus (last semester was mostly easy derivatives, this semester we had to do legit integrations). I know a lot of people have written that Janna Levin seems arrogant, but I didn't feel like that was the case. I felt that she was just a person who enjoyed talked about her work and experiences (and happened to do a lot of really cool things). While she isn't the best at explaining things in lecture, she's more than happy to go over anything during office hours over and over until you understand.

Dec 2009

Good class and great professor. If you want an in depth perspective of General Relativity and all its implications this is the course for you. That being said, if you are looking for an easy going class that takes a very general and qualitative approach to GR and black holes, this class may be a bit more than you would bargain for. The class is deceptively difficult. The course is very math intensive and relies heavily linear algebra, differential geometry and topology. If you are like me and don't have a strong background in any of these subjects, you might find the course to be a bit overwhelming at first... in fact, about a third of my the class didn't return after the second week. Still, if you are really interested in learning general relativity, I would encourage you stick with it because after a while you will realize that the course gets very repetitive and once you look back, everything will start to make sense. Despite the dense and often times inaccessible course work Janna Levin manages to make her class an enjoyable experience. She is very approachable and shows genuine interest in ensuring that her students learn the material. She does have the tendency to speed through the material but she was always more than happy to review obscure topics.

Dec 2008

I took General Relativity, Black Holes, and Cosmology with her.. She is absolutely fantastic. While she may not always be able to help you with specific examples during class unless time is specifically set out for that (and it sometimes is), she will always help in office hours. and she is so nice! and has been on the Colbert report!! Overall, an incredible fantastic, inspiring, wonderful physics professor. Take a class with her if you do get a chance. it is soo worth it.

Sep 2007

i really, strongly dislike janna levin. yes, she's brilliant, and yes, many people think she deserves to be as arrogant as she is, but honestly, i think her personality is absolutely intolerable. in my opinion, she's only okay as a professor, so it's not like her exceptional powers of explaining physics make up for how annoying she is. overall, the class is not actually as hard as everyone makes it out to be... the problem sets are definitely obnoxious, but she basically does them for you in office hours, and she makes it pretty clear what you can expect from her on tests.

Jun 2006

I liked the course and the professor. The professor makes lectures interesting (although sometimes she does tend to spend too much time on one topic) and always encourages student participation. Her office hours are usually helpful, if you can get a chance to ask your question (she sometimes spends half the time on one pretty easy hw problem, leaving little room for other questions). In terms of material, it is not as difficult as the previous reviewer makes it out to be -- there are few scary proofs, if any. The problems on the exams and quizes are usually basic and ones that we've seen before (especially on the quizes). I don't mean to say that the class is a breeze -- I definitely spent a lot of time studying and doing hw for this class, but not as much as for others that I've taken.

Nov 2004

While Janna Levin is funny, interesting, and cool, she is also a very difficult teacher. There are long homeworks with seven questions (usually each question has four to six parts) that a merciless TA grades. There are long involved proofs in class and slightly shorter proofs that she expects you to know for tests. Her tests are also difficult (expect long involved problems with 4-8 parts) and she doesn't budget time very well. Basically she expects students to be dedicated physics lovers and always seems suprised that we can't immediately see the solution to a proof. If you are looking for a easy A do not take this class because there are a handful of physics majors that mess up the curve (there are only thirty-five or less in a class). If you are looking for a challenging proof driven course, then take this class.