James Valentini

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Dec 2010

Valentini is definitely a nice guy who is passionate about this subject. He tries really hard to make the material and lectures interesting. The slow pace of the first half of the semester left the second half rushed and there were topics left uncovered. We spent an insane amount of time on aspects of particle-in-a-box (a section of a chapter) that I'm not sure were even looked at in other sections of Gen Chem 1 just to end up spending very little time on the entirety of chapter 14 (which was probably 50% of the second part of the final exam). "Element of the Day" is kind of a pain and just a way to get people to attend lecture because he doesn't post the element information anywhere. Like a previous reviewer mentioned, a diligent friend is good to have. A good TA is a must. My TA, Colin, was a nice guy but his inexperience managing a classroom showed and every 50-minute recitation was unstructured and inefficient - serving only to make me feel resentful of the fact that I had to pay for that half-credit. Exams - 20 questions, multiple choice, sometimes ambiguously worded. If you think combined answer choices (i.e. all of the above, none of the above, D) A and C, E) A, B, and C) are frustrating or annoying, then don't take this class. Every exam average (including the finals) was around 15 out of 20 -- with 1-5 ppl out of 180 scoring a 20/20. Although there was definitely a GPA-friendly curve, the class feels a bit like a waste because I did not leave with a good understanding of the coursework.

Dec 2010

I took Gen Chem because of my SEAS requirement, and have zero interest in chemistry. This class did not help. Although Valentini tried to make the class interesting and relevant for all, most of the lectures assumed a knowledge far beyond "general", and the class wound up degenerating into a free-for-all between the more motivated students and the GS kids. I didn't take AP chemistry in high school, but I had friends in the class who did, and even they struggled to keep up. Valentini, however, really has perfected his lecture-style teaching style, and is very willing to meet with students whenever. Had it not been for my TA during the required recitation period, I would not have passed this course. During recitation there's a 4-point quiz, and then the TA is supposed to review questions. My TA, Emma, went above and beyond, distilling all the knowledge presented in class into exactly what we needed to know to get through the course. The class covers a brief history of atomic theory, quantum mechanics, and atomic structure. I learned a lot, but really taught it to myself between doing extra textbook work and using the workbook (which you should absolutely get and use, the summaries are very helpful!). It's not really necessary to go to class; Valentini posts lectures & assignments online, and the mandatory recitations will cover anything else you need to know. There is this weird thing he did called "Element of the Day" but its not a frequent thing and if you have a diligent friend you should be fine.

Sep 2010

Valentini is a wonderful lecturer and knows his stuff. That being said, I did not do well in his class. His exams are very tough and the material he assigns as homework is hard to decipher because he assigns work which he doesn't touch upon in class and then mentions that we don't have to know it for the exam.. so why assign it in the first place?? Regardless, due to the fact that I wasn't doing well I seeked his help and although he didn't help me DO better, he certainly showed concern and tried to strategize with me. He is very available to talk and it ended up being that we met weekly to debrief about the studying I was doing. He continuously tried to help me develop better studying habits in order to improve on the exams. He is very kind and entertaining. He wants to get to know his students and I truly appreciate this because that's rare in Columbia.

Jan 2010

Valentini is a great, caring lecturer who always comes prepared and enthusiastic to talk about and answer any questions about chemistry. In the beginning of the semester, I dreaded the 9:10 start to the class, but it actually turned out quite well, given the interesting applications that he presents (e.g. Sony’s PS3 and spherical harmonics) and the stories he occasionally told us about his son, among other things. He gives an excellent overview of the general concepts that should be grasped and constantly (and successfully) relates back to the “four things you need to know to become a chemist” of the microscopic world. I thought he did a good job in filling the holes in my knowledge of chem by introducing, in an understandable fashion, difficult topics like quantum mechanics and Schrondinger’s equation, which really help explain molecular orbital theory and clarify why elements in the periodic table behave as they do. The discussions about semi-conductor were also extremely entertaining. If you are genuinely interested in chemistry, take any class with Prof. V, as he will fill your brain with incredible amounts of information and make you stronger than ever in this subject if you can digest the material.

Dec 2009

Professor Valentini is a very nice guy and seems as though enjoys teaching but he isn't very good at it. Yes he'll answer all of your questions but what he covers in class doesn't really help you at all. He uses a slide show for all of his lectures which don't tell you very much. He also goes very slow so he'll skip important points or stay on one topic to the point where what he says isn't useful at all. We once spent 2 lectures doing one problem when the actual problems in the book and on the test were much easier than this one. This made class in general very boring and on top of the fact that the class was at 9:10 nearly half of the class didn't show up at all after about the 3rd lecture. The recitation sections are where you'll learn what you need to know so pay good attention to them. Also do the readings and the homework assignments he assigns. Even though they aren't collected you'll learn a lot more from these than the lectures. Make sure you go through the practice exams he posts as well since a lot of it(not all) will be very similar to the actual tests

Apr 2009

Valentini is an okay kind of lecturer. He's pretty clear if you're paying attention, but in all likelihood you aren't. His humor can be very dry, and he will make Monty Python jokes with such a straight face that you may not catch them. He spends a perhaps excessive amount of time on particle-in-a-box/infinite square well. Homework is not collected, but rather assessed in the form of a short (TA-written) quiz in weekly discussion sections. I could personally never figure out exactly what was going to be on the quiz, since it didn't always coincide with the homework material. There are three midterm-ish exams and a two-part final. Both are based entirely off material from the quizzes (all quizzes and their solutions are posted prior to exams) and he drops the lowest grade out of those five.

Jan 2009

Professor Valentini is absolutely approachable and responsive to student needs. He loves to teach. Will always make time for you and answer e-mails. Super nice guy. Quizzes are about 20% of your grade and a bit tricky. Pay attention to what your TAs say in recitation as TAs contribute to quiz questions. I realize now that many test (midterm/final) questions were based on the class slides so study them well. Class slides, Professor Valentini's comments and homeworks (especially additional problems) are more important than reading the book. Test questions can also be a bit tricky with nuances that sometimes are demoralizing. But as long as you stay consistently above the curve -- and Professor Valentini is super-organized about administration so you always know where you stand -- you can do well. Plus, he's very fair about the way point system works in grading. If you don't do well in something it's not end of the world (you can drop 2 of 8 quizzes, you can drop 1 of 5 25-point exams (you have three 25-point midterms and two 25-point parts to final exam, you can add 9 points to your total semester score count by writing good, sample test question with explanations before each of three midterm exams). Overall, I highly recommend Professor Valentini and his class.

Dec 2008

I felt like this class was a joke. At first it seemed okay, with Valentini going for a more conceptual understanding of chemistry. And I did the first homework with the intent of handing it in. But then I found out homework wasn't collected, and I never did homework after that. After the quiz, I also found that class was not really helpful either, as all that conceptual stuff didn't help with calculations and stuff. Maybe the homework would have compensated for that, but I didn't have the drive. Class should have been helping me, and it didn't. The thing is the class was easy enough so that I could survive the quizzes and midterms with just studying the night before. I ended up getting a B+ with not even really trying that much, so take that for what it's worth. Valentini is not a bad choice I guess if you don't want to do that much work. Grading is fair, one grade equivalent to a midterm or one of the finals is dropped. The midterms were tricky for no reason, with multiple choice questions with all and none of the above, or A and C or B and D as another choice. Maybe you're better off with Parkin; I think he is more straightforward.

Dec 2008

Valentini is a wonderful chemistry teacher! His tests, although reasonably hard the first time you take them, get easier once you realize the format and how to study. But one strong advice, STUDY!!!!! Chemistry is going to be hard if you don't put in the effort, and that just goes across the board for chem teachers. Valentini is incredibly nice. He responds to emails quickly and is always willing to help. His lectures are straightforward, in the sense that everything posted is fair game for the tests and you do learn from them.

Dec 2008

He goes off on tangents ALL THE TIME. You really don't need to go to class... just read the book, so you'll do well on the weekly quizzes. The tests are hard whether you go to class because he loves to make the questions tricky.

Dec 2008

Good lecturer - not great, but he gets the job done, and appears to be the best option. Tries to make lectures engaging by providing real world applications of material in the text. However, the enriching material is neglected on the test, making lectures, quite frequently, feel pointless.

Dec 2008

I went to lecture every week and found them to be interesting and easy to follow. He does an excellent job with the lecture slides and is very diligent about staying in touch with his students through email and the discussion board on courseworks. His demonstrations in class are very amusing as well. While he doesn't lecture directly towards his midterms and final, he provides enough study material.

Dec 2008

Before I took Valentini, I saw some good and some bad comments on him and I thought it would be great having the head of the chem department writing a rec letter for med school. Having taking him, I think that was a mistake. Valentini was a real nice professor and cared alot about his students. But the homework and quizzes were easy compared to the exams. Take him if you want to learn alot extra than what you are supposed to learn in gen chem I, not if you have to get an "A" to get into med school. Study hard, read his slides alot, and you will be fine.

Dec 2008

Professor Valentini is one of the nicest professors I've ever met. He would do anything to help you learn the concepts taught in class. He is very approachable during office hours and if you want to meet with him outside his office hours, he will bend over backward to fit you in. A quick story about Valentini going the extra mile: There are weekly recitations for the class that are taught by graduate TAs. Usually, quizzes are taken during recitation but one week there was no quiz and my TA wasn't able to make it to recitation. The recitation was going to be devoted to reviewing for an upcoming midterm. Instead of just canceling the recitation, Valentini himself came in to teach for the 10 or so people in my recitation section. Lectures can be boring at times, but Valentini logically orders the material so that it makes sense. All lecture slides are posted online. He really does try to make the material as interesting as possible, which he is able to do because he really enjoys Chemistry.

Dec 2008

Valentini was the worst professor I've ever had. His lectures have no coherency and he's insanely boring. I barely learned anything in that class and I don't recommend him to anybody.

Sep 2005

Although Valentini was a friendly guy, he was an awful lecturer and a terrible professor. The ten or so positive reviews of him must have been from the ten people who bothered to show up for his class each week. Out of an enrollment of 120 to 130 people, only 30 or 40 people would regularly show up to his lecutures. Counting the number of people in class, in fact, was the only way I could stay awake. In the last couple of weeks I also stopped going, since all of his lectures were posted online. Although I received an A in the course, it was unnecessarily difficult and Valentini delivered painfully boring lectures. Unless you're entertained by stories of someone's pool and plumbing problems, you'll never need to or want to go to his class.

May 2005

Valentini is as reasonable as it gets for premed professor. His lectures are pretty straightforward, with the exception of one or two that digress into fields he's interested in. He follows the book pretty closely. Homeworks are not collected and can be done at your leisure. And contrary to what others are saying about his tests, they are pretty easy. Everyone took Brus this semester because they heard he was easier and got screwed because the means were pretty much the same in both classes, but Valentini actually teaches the material.

Dec 2004

Valentini is probably the best damn professor at this school.

Jul 2004

Prof. Valentini is such a nice guy. He genuinely cares about his students. He incredibly approachable and always willing to help you during his office hours. In addition, he holds a weekly review session, which is essentially a Q&A session for those who can't make office hours. He makes an effort to make himself available to his students. Since he makes himself readily available to his students, he expects that you master EVERYTHING for his midterms. His exams are mostly calculation based and make sure you know how to do the problems that are presented on his slides...they tend to show up on the midterms. His exams are a bit tricky, but his first midterm is a great indication of the types of questions he likes to ask. Yes it is true that he posts all of his lecture slides online and that most people did not show up to class, it is mainly because the class was at 9am. All in all, Prof. Valentini is a great guy and he is a wonderful teacher. You will definitely learn a lot in his class.

Jun 2004

Valentini is a nice guy. He is quite knowledgable and he can give clear lectures with interesting demos. He puts all the lecture slides online, which is actually a bad thing - it causes a LOT of students to miss class. Unlike Chem I, this class is very mathematically oriented. This is a good news for us engineers (we actually learn how to solve problems instead of simple memorization) but this is bad news if you are a premed. But don't worry too much. Valentini curves very nicely. Tip for success: read the textbook carefully, and do the hw. You don't actually have to go to the lectures except when he teaches thermodynamics and entropy.

May 2004

I don't know who has written some of these reviews, but Valentini is a terrible teacher. By the end of the semester, maybe 30 out of over 100 people would show up to lecture. I went in the beginning, but gradually went less often as I realized the lectures were boring and a complete waste of time. He teaches little chemistry and rambles a lot about plumbing, pools, etc. He lectures straight off Powerpoint slides and he puts them online, so as long as you read over the slides before the exam, class is unnecessary. His exams are definitely hard. You really have to understand ALL of the material and even if you do, he'll still trick you on a few questions. I got an A - in the class, but this was only because I did problems from the textbooks on my own. Basically, try to avoid Valentini, but if you can't, just plan on spending a lot of time teaching yourself chemistry.

May 2004

Professor Valentini really cares about his students. He spends several hours per lecture preparing for class. He makes time to meet with students, and grades fairly. The trick to doing well in his class is to dominating your TA section. Don't be afraid to switch sections to get a TA whose quizzes are predictable and which you can clobber. I never went to class and did very well.

May 2004

Valantini is a great professor, teaches very well, BUT its as if he feels that everyone in his class is at columbia to do chem 24/7! ENGINEERS BEWARE!! You do not have time for this guy unless you already know chem down cold and actually want a challange. But if you dont know chem that well you ceratinly dont have time to do all the studying required to get a good grade in this class. His exams are unnecissarily difficult, he makes you memorize formulas and tries to trick you on half the questions. Bottom line, Valentini is a great guy, very nice, great professor, great teaching style, realates chem to everyday life, does interresting demos and gives entertaining lectures BUT he expects you to know EVERYTHING down cold, some of his exams questions are just rediculous, he tries to trick you in the exam alot, doesnt curve, and gives out a very large workload that he actually expects you to do and requires that you go to every reciation and take every quiz. You can get a much better grade with much less work in another section, though u might learn a bit less chem and alot less about plumbing.

May 2004

Professor Valentini is by far one of the best professors at Columbia. He tries to make every lecture interesting even though the material is boring sometimes. He does really cool demos during almost every lecture. He is very receptive to questions, even if they don't refer to his class. He is friendly and he really cares about the students. His exams are not easy but it you go to class and his office hours, you will do well. All in all, one of the best classes that I have taken thus far at Columbia.

Apr 2004

Awesome Professor. He's dynamic. His lectures are interesting. He's always available for extra help. His 25 question multiple choice tests are kind of challenging, but challenges are always good.

Apr 2004

In my honest opinion, I found Professor Valentini to be alright, wasn't the best professor I ever had and he wasn't the worst. After having Len Fine my first semester of G.Chem, I was relieved that Valentini's powerpoint presentations were clear, organized and informative and that he generally gets them up on the website with a day or two after lecture. The lecture generally consisted of Valentini opening the floor to some "stupid" (his words) questions about the material, he would crack a couple of jokes about his unpopularity with the undergrads that didn't come to lecture, would do a couple of demonstations and then he would lecture for the remaining period of time. The material is very boring and that was reflected in Valentini's lectures. Again, not the worst professor in the world, but at the same time, he would lecture on a topic for one or two lectures and would rush through the "real chemistry" and then he would spend what seemed like hours on irrelevant material such as testing the pH of dodge's pool. I would have preferred if the "practical applications" of chemistry were done away with and that we had more in class practice with questions and that more of the textbook material done were presented lecture. Our exams consisted of 25 multiple choice questions and I felt our first exam was very unreasonable. It was long, difficult and did not reflect the material we learned or were responsible to know for the exam. He doesn't curve the class and his grading ranges are too rigid. Overall, a much better professor than Professor Fine, but can bore you to death in lecture and seems a little unsympathetic regarding the difficulty of his exams. (Most people did not finish our first exam in 75 minutes (including myself) and when told that the exam was a little too long for the time alotted, all he could say was "well you should be able to do that exam in 35 minutes"). Most people said he was personable and approachable, I felt he was a little indifferent at times.

Aug 2003

Definately the best g-chem professor out there! He is prompt at answering questions, knows his stuff, and is VERY approachable. As mentioned by others, just plain awesome.

May 2003

He is so nice and passonate about teaching, very funny too; his speaking frequency is about 2.5 times as Fine's, if you know what I am saying. Material is boring though, well no complains coz it is G chem you gotta go through the boring stuffs all the is at least the most fun one among all premed requirements.

May 2003

"Will you be my neighbor?" That is the best way to describe Valentini. He would be perfect for teaching a class of 1st graders. He goes very slow and is very clear, and holds your hand through EVERYTHING. But that is a plus and a minus. You will sit there bored as hell if you already know chemistry, but if you don't know any you'll be thanking god Fine isn't up there teaching. To get a good grade you have to just use you "tool box" as he calls it. Basically, just don't go to class. Night before the test look through all his slides and memorize whatever is in gold and you're set for the exam.

May 2003

Prof. Valentini is a great lecturer, and makes Chemistry easy to understand. He is also very responsive and always happy to answer "stupid" questions.

Mar 2003

Nice guy, clear speaker, fast but comprehensive lecture. You've got his class teaching fitness and food science more than chemi theories, HA, fun, i love this man!

Dec 2002

Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I will say it again: awesome. Professor Valentini (Jim) is great. He's enthusiastic about the material he teaches, interested in hearing what you have to say, encourages us to critically evaluate the articles we read, and in general, leads a great discussion. The class is Friday afternoons, which I thought would be quite a pain, but the time really flew. All in all, a great class.