professor
Brent Stockwell

Jan 2020

I want to start this off by saying that I learned next to nothing about biochemistry this past semester. Unlike any other STEM professor I've had at Columbia, Stockwell does NOT curve his class. If that scares you at first, let me assure you it's not necessary. Literally, every assignment in this class is open notes, so there is no real pressure for you to memorize everything--which is a huge relief considering the complexity of some pathways and molecules that you'll learn about in this class. That being said, because I knew that I'd be able to refer to my notes for every assignment, I felt absolutely no pressure to ever study at all--hence my retention of approximately 3% of all the information taught to me this semester. Stockwell is a nice guy and all, super approachable, and holds a lot of office hours and whatnot, but I really didn't love his teaching style. The audience response questions disrupted the lecture, and mechanisms shown on a PowerPoint are not nearly as easy to understand as ones written on the board. He throws around phrases like "aldol condensation" and "nucleophilic attack" as if anyone remembers orgo even though everyone in the room, Stockwell and TAs included, knows that students threw their knowledge of mechanisms and reactions out the window after their last exam. I also grew to hate the video lectures because I wasted so much time trying to take my own notes that every 10 seconds I'd have to rewind the video and listen to him repeat the same phrase in his weird sing-songy oscillating tone of voice. I really recommend just printing out the class and video slides and taking notes directly on them because you will save SO much time (why did no one tell me to do this earlier??? I only figured it out because I started studying 2 days before the final and was in a time crunch). The practice exams he provides are written by TAs from LAST year's course, so they are not usually representative of what you'll be tested on/style of questions to expect. The exams do have a lot of questions about the papers you read for homework assignments, so make sure you are familiar with their content and results. Just highlight the f*ck out of them and make sure to include any information about figures and conclusions that Stockwell mentions in the lecture. I've heard that the other professor for biochem is super tough and requires a lot of memorization, so I'd definitely recommend Stockwell over the other options. But if actually learning biochem is what you're after, you're kind of SOL in this class. TL;DR Take this class because it is the most painless biochem option. Talk to Stockwell because he's a nice guy and is hyper famous (which could benefit you in the future if you truly get to know him). Ace this class by printing out lecture slides and taking notes on them.

Nov 2019

This year we've had 2 take home midterms on Canvas that we can collaborate with others on as well as use notes and internet. Both were fine, though the second one was significantly more difficult than the first. Corrections are available on all assignments including homework quizzes, all exams except for the final, and you can get half credit back. so, if you get a 90/100 you can bump your grade up to 95, if you get an 80 you can bump it up to a 90, etc. This makes up for the fact that the grade boundaries are strict (93.99 is an A-, 94 is an A) and there's no curve. This is great because in a class full of premeds no one is trying to screw anyone else over because it literally doesn't matter how other people do. Also, Professor Stockwell is such a kind teacher. Whenever I review the lectures or video lectures I'm reminded of how genuinely he cares about his students - in one lecture someone was asked to draw a product on the board and she was like "I don't know if this is right or not," and he goes, "that's okay, right or wrong doesn't matter, this is an opportunity for all of us to learn together." Most recently, he ended the video lecture by saying "I look forward to seeing you in class." These are little things but are unique for a professor in a large science lecture. In my experience, professors like this, though they are very smart, can be arrogant and uncaring about teaching because they're here for research. Though he is brilliant, Stockwell is not like this at all and I genuinely look forward to coming to class and learning the material. Good class setup and excellent professor.

Jan 2019

This is the class for majors and graduate students. We are all taught the same, but the grad students have an additional assignment (mini review paper) to complete. I'm an undergrad, so I'm not sure how that experience was. Stockwell has made this full flipped classroom. What this means is that there is HW for every single class. However it's not traditional psets. Sometimes, it's a reading. Othertimes, it's a video of Stockwell explaining a topic (20-30 minutes long). There's usually a short multiple choice quiz associated with it that you can work on with other people. Some of these questions can be tricky, others are straightforwards. Be sure to read the wording carefully and clarify anything you need to clarify on Piazza. They're very responsive! I think the course benefitted greatly from flipped classroom. Some topics are just too rushed during the class period, e.g. glycolysis. It's better to come into class with a bg knowledge. You're also quizzed in class too via LearningCatalytics, which is a iClicker platform that you can use on your phone. Access to this platform is cheap, ~15 bucks. It keeps you on your toes. Attendance is mandatory and LearningCatalytics counts for 15% of your grade. There's also an end of the class quiz done with a team (you are either assigned or can choose if you know people). This is worth also a big chunk of your grade. There's 4 midterms all m/c, some take home. There's a cumulative final that was pretty detailed! Everyone felt that way. Average was significantly lower than the other assignments. Good part is that the final was only 18% of your grade. There is no curve and there are no drops in this class. Average grade was probably a B+. Some midterms, though takehome, were difficult becuase of wording and lack of proofreading by the teaching team. They said that they would work on this for the future. Points were given back if wording was deemed excessively confusing.

Dec 2014

The course has changed drastically since the last review as Prof Stockwell has implemented a "flipped classroom." Although this means more day to day work (hwk quizzes, in-class questions, team problems), I feel that it has drastically improved the course. I thought biochem was going to be an agonizingly detailed look at mechanisms, but was pleasantly surprised when the material was relatively conceptual and brain-teaserish at times. The only downside is that there is no curve, but the drop policy is fairly generous so an A range grade is very doable.

Dec 2014

I want to begin to say that I did not fail this class, nor did I do amazingly well. Now that the end of the semester is winding up, I will probably get at least a solid B in this class. Which isn't great for premed, but I honestly don't give a rat's ass anymore. Words cannot describe the amount of hatred I have towards this class. But let's start with the bright side: The Good: 1. Stockwell himself is a nice guy. He actually cares about his students, and he does have office hours for those foolish enough to want to spend even more time with him. He also remembers everyone's names. EVERY SINGLE PERSON. IN A 200+ LECTURE. Which is impressive, but terrifying. He can also be humorous (if you appreciate awkward jokes). 2. The class itself is really easy to do well in. Stockwell gives a lot of opportunities to accumulate points in the class that are not dependent on exams (haha. more on that later. just wait for this). 3. Exams are pretty straightforward if you like to do bitch work and just memorize his goddamn slides. 4. The class itself if rather organized, and this class was had one of the most elaborate Courseworks pages I have ever seen. The Bad: 1. The homework. Either a 30 minute long video of just Stockwell sitting there, reading off a goddamn slideshow, and trying to make the course more interesting by including raps about the TCA cycle during the video (but he fails to send you links to the beautiful musical numbers for reference in the future), OR a goddamn paper. And not just any type of paper (oh no, not the short, sweet, 4 page papers that most professors assign), I'm talking about 60 page reviews. REVIEWS. WHAT. IS. MY. LIFE. I DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT GLUTATHIONE, WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME READ A REVIEW BY A GUY WHO LOOKS LIKE SHABBY FROM SCOOBY DOO. 2. Daily quizzes. Every F***ING day. So basically, there are homework quizzes, worth 10% of your grade in total, that you take submit every day before class. The quizzes should be on the homework that was assigned, but oftentimes the questions don't really correspond with the material. The lowest 4 quizzes get dropped. 3. Learning Catalytics. Basically, even though lecture is completely useless and a waste of my time and my life and the universe, they are mandatory. Sit and listen to Stockwell drone on for an hour, reading off of his projector (which are just his slideshows that he posts on Courseworks), adding no additional material to what you would learn from the slideshow. AND they are worth 15% of your grade. 4. Group Quizzes. This part isn't bad, but it's stupid and tedious. You basically get assigned a group and after every class you do like, 4 questions with your group members. This is quite an easy way to boost your grade (worth 15% of your grade) and you get to drop 4 group quizzes. The UNBEARABLE: 1. As I mentioned, I will probably get a solid B in this class. BUT MY KNOWLEDGE OF BIOCHEMISTRY DOES NOT REFLECT THAT GRADE AT ALL. As in, I actually know SHIT about biochem, but I'm still able to get a pretty decent grade. This is the bullshit that is this class. 2. The awkward, dumb pace of this class. Because Stockwell tries to pull in as many papers as possible for students to read, he doesn't actually spend enough time teaching the material we actually need to learn in biochemistry. We spent 1 day on Glycolysis, 1 day on TCA, and maybe 2 days on ETC. Most other biochemistry classes in the world spend like, a good third of the semester doing all of that shit. HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO READ ADVANCED PAPERS ON THESE SUBJECTS IF I WASN'T EVEN PROPERLY TAUGHT THE BASICS? 3. The UNBELIEVABLE amount of bullshit work that you need to do. Work that does not help you actually learn the material in the long haul. Ask me anything about biochemistry and I can't tell you shit, but somehow, I'm still spending 3-4 hours a week doing his bullshit work. 4. Stockwell's face 5. Stockwell's voice TL;DR: I would rather lick the inside of the toilet than take this class again. I would rather get hit by a car repeatedly than take this class again. I would rather take Mowsh's class 16 more times than take this class again. I would rather remove my arm, and use my detached limb to throw as a frisbee just for kicks and giggles than take this class again. Do not take this class if you don't like busy, bullshit work. It can be a grade booster since the exams are so straight forward, but honestly, you won't be learning shit. Not worth it. Take it at Barnard, or the other class that meets once a week. Biochemistry should be hard, but it shouldn't be a joke. Thank Baby Jesus that I am forever done with this piece of shit class.

Dec 2012

Biochemistry is heavily encouraged and mandatory in some cases for different medical schools, so you'll be taking this class like it or not. The course is co-taught by Tong and Stockwell. Tong first: he made biochemistry an unpleasant experience--not because he is an awful person (he is kind of funny) but because he mumbles a lot during class time and expects us to memorize all of his slides (or this is the feeling I got as on his quizzes and midterm he literally changed one word and asked true or false). We had 800+ slides for the midterm, and there was only 1 "apply your knowledge" question--the rest was straight up memorization. He assigned a ton of textbook reading (the text was interesting) but I did not enjoy Tong's section at all. Stockwell's half of the course was much better--he was clear, concise, and interesting. Stockwell incorporated research papers into the course and I found Biochemistry to actually make sense. Stockwell's quizzes (and in turn, final, I'm sure) incorporate more orgo which I like and his questions are easier to follow. Stockwell made me enjoy the last 12 lectures, and made me love them as compared to the 1st. Overall, yeah, this course is nothing like Mowsh bio, but its definitely not a cake walk. Good luck.

Jan 2012

Stockwell's class was very dry and his lecturing style is boring, but he's very straightforward, clear, and concise. Also, although he provides his PPT slides online, he leaves many blank slides with just a title, and he actually fills it in during class. Stockwell uses a projector for his slides - he doesn't use a computer powerpoint in class, so he writes on the slides, projected onto the screen, so you just copy him on your printed out slides. This forces you to pay attention and gives some incentive for going to class (although you could always just copy a friend's slides). Besides that, you basically don't need to take notes on anything unless he writes it on the slides himself. So it's very straightforward. Plus, what he quizzes on is all found in the slides. I probably averaged a 9/10 for Stockwell's 4 quizzes and I never touched the book...and to give you an idea...the average for all 4 quizzes ranged from a high 6 to a 9...so I'd say I did pretty well by never reading the book. Plus, the things I missed it was just cause it was some tiny detail or cause I didn't explain something clearly...not because I was lacking info from the book. A HUGE word of advice: make sure you understand EVERYTHING on the slides. You'll end up with 11 lectures...30 slides each about...of information, so that seems like a lot, but remember that many slides are just pictures or sometimes random, fun stuff....The biosynthesis, krebs cycle, etc. that's intensive, but the later lectures (lectures 6-11) are pretty light and just require understanding and not too much memorization. Everything however can be understood from the slides except 1 or 2 things, so make sure you KNOW AND UNDERSTAND those 1 or 2 things and go ask Stockwell in office hours. For our final, he tested us on Cytochrome P450 Hydroxylation, and we only had 2 slides on it that were very uninformative and stockwell basically said 2 sentences about it in class...but that was one of the 3 mechanisms on the final. To be fair, it was on our practice test but there was stuff never mentioned in class (like IGF receptors in mice) on the practice final so everyone assumed that CP450 hydroxylation was talked about in detail the previous year but for our test, it wouldn't be on it since he basically skipped over it. big mistake. You'll get 1 or 2 things like that, and if you can't understand it from the slides, go to office hours! The mean grade is a B and that's basically a fair assessment of the difficulty of this 4 point class. I think if you put in enough effort, you can guarantee an A-. It's not like Lambert's Orgo class where even if you put in an insane amount of effort, for some people, unfortunately, it only guarantees a B.

Nov 2009

Painful. Although this professor tries to make things more straightforward and intelligible than his first-half counterpart, this part of the course is still pretty boring. To his credit, Stockwell does try to keep it more interesting by bringing in some outside topics, unrelated to memorizing organic mechanisms, but this doesn't change the fact that your at-home studying mostly includes a lot of boring mechanism memorization. Moreover, unlike orgo, this class doesn't necessarily focus on the general themes of reactivity (although some attempts are made to point out what aspects of the chemistry are repeated). Instead, you pretty much need to memorize how to get from one molecule to the next, what those molecules are called, and what the enzymes are that do the catalysis. Not exactly a stimulating experience.

May 2009

If you liked orgo and appreciated biology, but thought mowschowitz was unnecessarily tricky, this is your class. Tong is somewhat dry but makes it very clear what you need to know. Stockwell is the man, he loves to talk about the beauty of metabolism. His portion of the class is particularly straightforward and linear, as you go through the details of glycolysis, krebs cycle, etc. Great for premeds looking for a straightforward and enjoyable senior science class.

Jan 2007

Stockwell's half of the course was slightly better than Tong's, but not nearly good enough to make the class worthwhile. He's somewhat better at explaining the material than his first-half counterpart, but not much. He still inundates the students with new material in each lecture and expects them to figure out most of it on their own. Quizzes are tough and cover mostly the obscure points of the lectures; the final covers all the essential points of the course's second half and is also pretty tough. Some students in the class are also extremely passionate about it so don't plan on having a low mean to hold up your grade. The bottom line: only take this course if you're extremely passionate about biochemistry or a pre-med needing to fulfill a requirement. And be ready to teach yourself an entire semester worth of material.

Jan 2006

This course was divided into two halves. In the first half, Tong covers proteins in biology. He uses powerpoint presentations which are posted on courseworks before class. He goes at a reasonable pace and covers some material covered in the intro bio class. He always tries to include something to make students smile/laugh. In the second half, Stockwell covers small molecules in biology. This half had a heavy focus on the organic chemistry of small molecules. Students are required to understand reactions, mechanisms, names of "common" molecules. Stockwell uses overhead projections. If you are interested in Biochemistry, take the class. If you think you MIGHT be interested, think hard before taking the class. Lectures are not as entertaining as you might want them to be.

Jan 2006

Stockwell's lectures are comprised entirely of his extensive Powerpoint presentations, which he posts online. If you've taken orgo and understood it, there's really no reason to go to class apart from forcing yourself to keep up with the material to take the annoying weekly quizzes. Stockwell reads straight from the Powerpoint in a very poised and deliberate manner, occasionally redrawing the electron-pushing arrows that are already on the slides to begin with. Everything he expects you to know is on the powerpoints, and he expects you to know pretty much every single slide. If you're looking for a rousing lecturer, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for a thorough intro to biochemical processes, take this class and you'll be satisfied. Other than that, he's very good at answering questions both during and after lectures.

Dec 2005

Unlike Tong's section on structural biology which requires no knowledge of organic chemistry mechanisms, Stockwell inundates you them. Each lecture covers one or two major biochemical processes, which all have numerous structures and mechanisms to memorize. Though his explanations are pretty clear, his quick pace through the material and his monotone make it difficult to decide what is most important. So, to study for his final, I recommend reading through ALL of his powerpoints, drawing out the key mechanisms until you know them cold, and repeating the process for at least five days. (It sounds simple, but it helped get this weak organic student an A in the class.) It was his first semester teaching at Columbia, so the amount of material and its presentation could change next year. Bottom line: Biochemistry (the whole semester) is an exercise in self-learning. It's not nearly as draining as bio, but be prepared to work through some pretty difficult material.

Dec 2005

Stockwell teaches the orgo-focused half of C3501. The actual lectures weren't that great--if you weren't falling asleep ten minutes in, you certainly were by the end. He teaches by Powerpoint and the class is just a lot of arrow pushing of biological reactions. Everything starts looking the same after a while because it's all just small molecules and the same similar reactions happen over and over. I think this was his first semester teaching this class, and he covered a LOT of material--at the beginning, he started with 40/slides per lecture, and then realizing that was too much, got it down to around 20 by the end of the semester. He's big on having people learn for the material and not for testing. Having said that, the final (surprisingly) did not test nearly as much material as he had covered. The textbook is not that useful; most of the information is on the powerpoint slides anyway. TAs are generally helpful. Overall, I learned a lot from this class, and I think at the end it really gives you an intuition on how certain biochemical pathways proceed. Despite this, I wouldn't take another class with Stockwell. His teaching style is too boring and his voice is too monotonous. Throughout the lectures he didn't manage to give any brilliant insights or comments.