professor
Laura Kaufman

May 2013

I came from Parkin's class which was a great experience compared to this class. Don't think you can get away with just going to the lectures. I made that mistake. Review review review the practice problems, the quizzes, and reach out to your TA's. I had Lea and she was honestly a life saver. I can't say I appreciate the professors' teaching style. Both are a lot of derivations and not a lot of showing how to actually solve the problems that would be asked on the exams and quizzes. Lea helped to summarize things and get concepts down. I disliked this class especially more since it was an early morning class. I found most lectures to be dry but I found Kaufman's slides to be especially more helpful. Gonzalez's tests were nasty hard. i suppose it could be worse but it also could be a lot better.

May 2013

This class is a drag, but possible to push through. Kaufman and Gonzalez are both excellent lecturers who have a great grasp of the material, which doesn't seem too hard at first when you are talking about the ideal gas law. Unfortunately, the exams are insane. Recitation can be helpful to understanding the material, but the quizzes always contain curveballs that require extensive preparation from questions in the book or assumptions that aren't spelled out for you. Many of the quizzes had an average of about 1.5/3. OWL questions are somewhat helpful in preparing for exams/quizzes. Be prepared for questions on exams that TAs even have some trouble solving. Gonzalez's tests in particular offer a particular brand of cruelty that makes you question taking the course itself. Several questions on Gonzalez's exams are trick questions that throw you off completely, and on other questions you have no idea which principles to apply or how to set up an equation. This is particularly true when studying acid base equilibria and titrations. Read the textbook or seek out other resources if you want to gain a better understanding of the material, (though Gonzalez takes his lectures from Zumdahl itself) but don't stress too much about this course because the exams and quizzes are difficult for everybody. Do all the practice problems on OWL and many problems in the book, and you'll do at least the average (or better) on exams and quizzes. The class is curved to a B/B-. TAs are hit or miss. I had Lea Benkoski, she was pretty good at explaining material but said we needed to study more when we only got 1/3 on her impossible quizzes. She expected us to have the background and experience of upper level chemistry students who studied in France, as she did. I think quizzes were the same in every recitation. Good luck.

May 2013

Coming from David Reichman's Gen Chem I class, this class was very organized and well-run. Professor Kaufman taught the first half of the semester, and her lectures were clear and presented along with comprehensive slides that were posted prior to each class. She handled questions well, she was nice, and she wanted to make sure we understood everything. Professor Gonzalez took over for the second half of the semester, and his slides were the exact same format as Professor Kaufman's, so the class did not feel disjointed even though the professor changed. Like Kaufman, Gonzalez presented clearly and was very open to questions. Overall, I'd say both professors gave me a positive in-class experience. Each of their lectures were interspersed with iClicker questions designed to keep us engaged and to make sure we were understanding the material. I found that they were helpful, and if my mind was drifting away from chem, the questions would help refocus me. They weren't too hard, and you could talk about them with your neighbors. Plus, if you get 50% or more correct and you happen to be one of the top 3 people in your grade range, you get bumped up to the higher grade. (i.e. if you had the second highest B+ in the class, that would become an A-) Honestly, coming to the lectures was not enough to do well in the class. That said, the trick to doing well was *not* reading the textbook. Instead, the key was to do as many practice problems as possible. Both professors posted problems on OWL, and I did nearly every problem that they posted. I would do the relevant problems before each recitation quiz, and then I would do any remaining and relevant OWL problems before each midterm. Many of the questions on the exam that people thought were difficult were actually very similar to an OWL problem or two, so I found that doing the homework (even though it was technically ungraded) really helped me do well in the class. Note that you really need to know your stuff for the midterms, but if you know how to do all the OWL problems, it will ensure that you know your stuff. Overall, I had a very positive experience in this class. Sure, there were a handful of deceptive problems on each exam, but they don't make or break you, and they separate the men from the boys (or, to be politically correct, the adults from the kids). Pay attention, do plenty of practice problems, and you should be fine.

May 2013

The reviews for this course are mostly accurate, but don't let them scare you. The key is persistence. The exams are very hard with averages in the 50 to 65 range, there's not much of an opportunity for extra credit, and they curve to a B-/B. You will think the exams are unreasonable, but it just takes a lot of practice to be able to think through the problems the right way. Read the questions carefully and understand what they're asking you to do. Think of it like learning a language: do a little bit of work every day and eventually it will start to come naturally. It's best to start consistent practice right off the bat, but even if you have a bad start and mess up the first couple of exams, you can still do it. I got scores very close to the mean for all three midterms, but I buckled down and committed to practicing and I did really well on the final and ended up with an A-. Success is possible. Don't get discouraged. Keep trying.

May 2013

This class, especially if you are coming from Gen Chem I with Parkin, is harsh. Be prepared for a splash of cold water! In Gen Chem I, I was able to pull of an A with barely any studying; however, Gen Chem II with Kaufman and Gonzalez is a completely different story. First of all, the recitation quizzes in this class (with TA Nevette Bailey Chandler) were HORRIBLE. The quizzes ranged from incredibly hard (averages of 1.0-1.5 out of 3) to deceptively easy. Secondly, the midterms are much harder. The first midterm covers material taught by Kaufman and is harder but pretty straightforward. The other 2 midterms (Acid Base / Thermo) are based mainly on Gonzalez lectures. The Acid Base midterm has an average of 50 and was very tricky. The thermo midterm is not as bad, but still pretty hard. Kaufman and Gonzalez are both decent lecturers (very based on the textbook); however, Gonzalez has a penchant for creating tricky, deceptive questions. He even says so directly. You definitely have to work your butt off in this class doing problems and reading from the textbook.

May 2013

Honestly, don't take this class. Just don't. See if you can get another professor. If you can't don't even bother going to lectures because you won't learn anything there. Read the book and you'll learn more. Sure, there's "extra credit" if you go to lectures and answer half the clicker questions right, but that only applies to a maximum 20 people in the class because it will only count if you are in the top three of your particular grade band. Then and only then can you get bumped up 1/3 of a grade. This policy only adds to the sense of competition the instructors seem to encourage between classmates. The tests are designed to trip you up. They are demoralizing and disheartening and make you hate chemistry. This has been by far my least favorite class at Columbia. I took a 4000 level class in the same semester, and felt that this 1000 level course was harder. This class is simply unreasonable.

May 2011

First off, Prof. Kaufman –To me, she seemed like a good professor at first; she’s quite eloquent in lecture and her PowerPoint slides are aesthetically pleasing. Well, that’s before you realize that Prof. Kaufman appears to be lecturing from some sort of script that eloquently regurgitates the Zumdahl textbook. I can understand why some people like her lecture style. She’s super clear and concise about everything that’s on her script. Try asking her a question about the class material that asks about the “WHY,” as opposed to simply the “WHAT.” She seemed dumbfounded by questions asked by students that threw her off the script. That’s not to suggest she doesn’t know the answer to the questions that students posed to her. She was just very, very insecure in her teaching abilities and had difficulty conveying chemical principles (outside her script) to her audience. I agree with the previous review that Prof. Kaufman seemed standoff-ish at times, and she was quite unhelpful and awkward at office hours, where she struggled to tackle Zumdahl textbook problems on the spot. On the bright side, Prof. Kaufman did many demonstrations (which were more interesting than her teaching), used iClickers to attempt to engage the class, baked fudge for the class, and had a dog in her office, which relieved the awkwardness of her office hours and her very weak teaching skills. Next up, Prof. Gonzalez – He seemed to be more confident in his teaching abilities and his ability to convey chemical concepts to the class, and I thought he was the better professor.. Unlike Prof. Kaufman, Prof. Gonzalez was able to answer students’ questions and address their concerns / confusion with the course material extremely well…that is, IF you choose to ask him a question. He’s quite helpful in office hours and he’s a very friendly guy who has a clear command of the subject matter. Now here’s the problem. This guy, despite being a rising research star and his vast knowledge of the topics that we covered, made little to no effort to engage the class. Like Prof. Kaufman, Prof. Gonzalez’s lectures regurgitated Zumdahl, went over the same exact examples from the Zumdahl textbook, and, as previous reviewers suggested, his slides were peppered with typos. He did few demonstrations, started teaching with iClickers but seemed to have forgotten about them by the end of the semester, and spoke in a very, slow deliberate way that made the class quite boring. I found it pathetic how little he seemed to care about the class. If he put some more effort into teaching, he could really make a very good chemistry professor. I got an A for the class. While this class is co-taught by Prof. Gonzalez and Prof. Kaufman, we should add a third professor (the best one of the three) to that list: Steven Zumdahl. My recommendation is to study from Zumdahl and do as many practice problems with the solutions manual as you can. Mastering the Zumdahl questions will help you prepare for the curveballs on Kaufman’s tests. Test averages were fairly low for the midterms (~70 M/T 1, ~50-60 M/T 2, ~60-70 M/T 3). Quiz averages were atrocious (~1-2 out of 3 points for each quiz). So do work hard, beat the curve, and best of luck. You have a lot of independent studying to do.

May 2011

Professor Kaufman is an O.K. professor. She teaches basically straight forward from the book. It is more than possible to never attend class and do just fine if you are a diligent reader of the textbook. She seems kind of stand-off-ish, and not willing to help, but I could be wrong; it was just the vibe I received. Her teaching is mediocre. She doesn't present the material in the clearest way and goes on awkward paces. I am not saying she is a bad teacher, but she isn't a good one. She doesn't give homework which is bad and good, depending on how you look at it. She also makes you do clicker questions for extra credit, but it isn't necessarily useful, just a trick to attend the useless classes. Her tests are completely retarded, but not in a good way. It is one way to expect you to be creative in solving problems, but the stuff is completely different from what we learned in class. The tools necessary are not given.

May 2010

Professor Kaufman is definitely improving as a teacher. He lectures were well planned and interesting, and she incorporated a lot of demonstrations to keep things interesting, as well as a bunch of clicker questions, some of which appeared on the finals. Two gripes: The first is that her lectures tried to encompass too much material, and so some important things she missed. The second is that her tests are HARD, with an average usually right below 70. She'll give you a chance by teaching you the stuff, but you have to meet her half way and study for the tests.

Jan 2010

Although she is very clear and well spoken in lectures, she spends an excessive amount of time deriving equations. The homework problems she picks out of the text seem to be the most time consuming of them all. She also requires you to be clickers that you don't really need in class as it is not really "required". She is still new and is confused on what is suppose to be done in a gen chem class here. She loves confusing, time consuming calculation problems, so expect to do a lot more work in this class than beer's class. Oh and her 10 quizzes are a bit excessive. Beer's class only has 6 quizzes and they get to drop 2 on top of that. Kaufman wants her TAs to give 10 quizzes (and you get to drop 2). Not sure what her logic is here, but again, Kaufman loves to put her students on busywork.

May 2009

I had this professor for General Chemistry II. First of all, this is her first time teaching general chemistry so I felt she didn't present the information in a concise, comprehensive way. The practice exams never mirrored the real midterms, in fact, they were on a whole different level of reasoning--deciphering the question was difficult to impossible. It seems that some professors are not ready to be teaching, and I knew that chemistry would be competitive and difficult, but she was no reassurance. I was unfortunate to have her but I believe if you work hard in the class, despite her inability to teach, you can do well in the class.

May 2009

Professor Kaufman "team taught" her section this year with Professor Ruben Gonzalez. However, by team teach, she basically meant (unfortunately) that she would teach the first half and he would teach the second half. There was no attempt to have them do specific parts that they were especially knowledgeable/interested in. They just switched after the second midterm, which I found frustrating their teaching styles were so different. As for Kaufman as a teacher rather than the logistics of the class, I generally liked her. I found her perky and interesting and able to deliver cohesive and logical lectures (at least as interesting as GChem II will ever be). She kept a good pace, and generally had her lectures timed about right. That being said, I think she should NOT have used Powerpoint in this class (I know most of the GChem professors do). Mathematical operations/problems do not lend themselves to Powerpoint, and I never felt she was teaching as much as presenting/spitting out information. Still, for any problems she had, she was still much, much better than Gonzalez. Different league entirely.

Feb 2006

Overall, excellent professor. Her lectures are organized, clear, and paced perfectly to hold your attention from the beginning to end. Very approachable both inside the class and out, and very fair exams (although I think there were always 1-2 questions too many for a 50 minute exam-- if you didn't know everything you needed to before, there was very little time to figure things out or correct calculations).

Dec 2005

COME TO CLASS!!! And copy everything down from the board and you'll be fine for the homework and tests. You're not tested on anything that she didn't write on the board, and you need to know what was covered in class in order to know what to ignore from the book. Sure, it meets three days a week, but Friday's just a 50 minute lecture which you could probably show up to hungover and be fine as long as you're capable of copying everything off the board. Class is supposed to be curved around a high B, with one standard deviation equaling a full grade difference (both above and below). Overall, she's a good professor- it's easy to stay awake in lectures, and she specifies everything that will be covered on each test. And all the notes are on the board. The absolute most important thing is to come to class and copy everything down.

Dec 2005

Kaufman is very organized. She lectures at a very reasonable pace and uses chalk on blackboard. Kaufman uses extensive notes during her lectures, which can be good because her notes tend to give you a better idea of what she wanted you to know (v. the textbook), but were also bad sometimes because she would just copy her notes directly and not really think about what she's writing. This led occasionally to situations where a student would ask a question with a fairly obvious answer, but she wouldn't be able to answer because she wasn't really paying attention to what she was writing. Having said that, most of the time she was pretty good with questions. Outside of class she is very approachable, very personable, and very willing to answer questions. Take advantage of this! The textbook by Levine is good but not great. I'm not sure why we didn't use the standard physical chemistry book by Atkins. Levine is very readable and comes with a solutions manual. Sometimes homework questions would be taken directly from the textbook.