professor
Meenakshi Rao

Dec 2020

Sadly, this class was a horrible disaster. The content itself should not be difficult, but Dr Rao is so incredibly unorganized that the class becomes impossible. She changed the syllabus/her expectations multiple times throughout the semester, and many assignments felt less like you were being assessed on your knowledge of chemistry and more on how well you can try to figure out what they are expecting of you. Dr Rao is nice and is receptive to feedback, so I appreciated that but it was frustrating to have to manage the class and always be keeping an eye out for more busy work, more edits, redoing assignments, and trying to constantly check if the syllabus matches up to what she says in class. Super frustrating and just exhausting at times. Her lectures and the topics we learned about had no continuity throughout the semester. Most things felt completely pointless.

Dec 2020

I thought this class was going to be easy, but it was a mess. Unless you can read minds.... Do not take this class!!!! I made this mistake so you do not have to. Every assignment is like a guessing game. You think they want one thing, but nope not good enough. We've had to redo multiple assignments over again because they are not clear about their standards.

Jul 2020

I will say this: Dr. Rao is a fucking badass. You'll be forced to put in a lot of effort in the lab, and she WILL call you out if you're doing something wrong. She is definitely one of the tougher educators in my life, but not the first, which is why I think I could endure it. For some people, I can truly say she is probably the hardest professor/ teacher they've ever had, which is why orgo lab can be such a nightmare. And I'm not gonna lie, it was definitely stress-inducing for me too. But because I had Dr. Rao in person and online (due to covid), I think we all got to see a softer side in her that many don't get to see. She truly can be understanding and accommodating when people put a lot of effort into the class. So give her a chance and don't get on her bad side. And as a tip, try to set aside time soon after lab to really flesh out the lab reports. Procrastinating just makes it more grueling and stressful. And also, write down the corrections they give you on the reports. I agree that sometimes the professors change their mind on what should or shouldn't be included in the abstract or whatever, so having what they said written down can make things more clear for you and the professors lol.

Apr 2020

Looking over the reviews for Dr. Rao's Organic 1 lab, I was absolutely terrified to take her class as I have subpar chemistry skills. Dr. Rao is a fair prof. and she listens to her students. As long as you put in effort you will do fine in the class. She for sure has her favorites, but is overall better than the other instructors who teach this course

Mar 2020

This is by far the worst class I have yet to take at Barnard. The last review from 2018 says it all. Rao and the other lab instructions have an attitude problem and a superiority complex that makes this class insufferable. Just about every lab student I have talked to feels that this class is extremely unfair (as outlined in the previous review). I love chemistry and the majority of the chemistry department at Barnard but this class quite honestly made me question transferring. This lab is a HOT MESS and is completely unfair.

May 2018

This class is absolutely horrendous. Compared to Gen Chem Lab the instructors may seem "nicer" upfront but in reality, they are much much worse than Dr.Jay. There is absolutely no transparency in the grading of the labs. They will take off points for arbitrary reasons that change every single week. While you may have had points deducted for reason X, someone else in another lab section may have not. Also if you correct reason X they may take off points again next week. It's ridiculous. I went to office hours every single week and spent a good amount of time on each report but they just decided they wanted to take a lot of random points off every time. They also do not let you know what you got on the final and just post a final grade further indicating the absolute lack of transparency in this class. The Chem department at Barnard is really a hot mess. They have no clear grading standards and no consistency in their grading among lab sections. It really depends on who ended up grading your report aka luck which is not how an intro organic lab should be graded. Bottom Line: Do not take this lab class unless you have to. If you're considering being a chem major only do so if you are willing to put up with bs like this.

Dec 2017

Jazz of Chemistry. Awesome awesome awesome, sweetest most knowledgable woman, who is so willing to make class fun. I feel like i genuinely learned a lot and the class was super interesting without being too chem heavy (f you have no chem background, take this course if you nee the req!)

Apr 2017

Although the reviews made me a little scared to take this class, along with the anxiety-ridden experience I had in Gen Chem lab. But this lab has been wonderful, albeit not completely free of anxiety (will chemistry ever be, though?) The class overall has been really engaging, fun, and cool! I love all the experiments. Of course, sometimes you feel lost in lab and are so worried because you got only a spec of product back while everyone else got a gram or more. But don't worry! If you take the time to understand the theory, which isn't too hard to do with office hours EVERY DAY, they don't care that your results weren't perfect. I once got a percent recovery of 0.11% while the average among my friends was probably 20-40% and I didn't lose a single point for that as I explained what I thought happened. Again, if you don't know what happened go to office hours and they will help you brainstorm ideas. I find the grading to be extremely fair and not that difficult at all. If you explain the theory well and include the components listed in the lab manual you are almost guaranteed a 90% or higher. I am currently studying for the final in the class, which they have set us up to succeed on, with the helpful practice questions in the manual and the practice test, along with review sessions and again, office hours every day! As for Dr. Rao herself, she is a pleasant, helpful, smart professor. I never found her to have favorites or be rude as others have suggested. She even answers questions by email if you are in a pinch. She gives an excellent pre-lab lecture. She may be a bit strict in lab, but that is only if you are not following basic safety rules, which are obviously important. My main message: don't be scared. I think a lot of people have an inferiority complex when it comes to the chem sequence but you can do it. Don't give into the culture of "lab is the worst, chemistry is the worst, this is too hard, I just won't try," because it isn't that bad and you have all the support you need to succeed.

Apr 2016

Truthfully, the labs themselves were not very hard because they were more qualitative, unlike the General Chemistry labs, which were more quantitative. That being said, everything else was definitely difficult in the sense that it had to all be a certain way, and somehow that certain way changed with every lab report. I started off with A's on my lab reports, but as the semester progressed, I ended up getting lower and lower grades, even though I worked harder towards the end. Honestly,this lab made my life miserable and required almost as much work as you would give an organic chemistry lecture. This lab was the reason I chose not to purse a chemistry major, and at this point I just want this entire Barnard Chemistry experience to be over.

Dec 2014

Dr Rao is obviously very accomplished and knows her material down pat. I took her freshman seminar CSI to Pumpkin Pie which met once a week for an hour, and it was an absolute waste of my time, which is really disappointing seeing as how I had to write an essay to get into the class. I do not take any chemistry courses, and this class is catered more towards people with a deeper understanding of chemistry than just snippets from high school. I thought this class was going to be interesting because it would explain the everyday aspects of chemistry, such as in art restoration or poisons. The class mostly comprised of her reading aloud snippets from books, playing videos, or writing complicated chemical structures on the blackboard. I have learned absolutely nothing from that class. Dr Rao is also extremely flighty and seems constantly discombobulated. On the plus side, this class has no final or midterm, and only two papers (4 pages) throughout the entire semester, on anything you want. It's also P/F.

Dec 2013

Dr. Rao is a really nice person and she obviously cares about her students; she took all of us to her house in Long Island and cooked us delicious food and it was a fun day! However, this class is so poorly organized that I found it hard to respect her as an instructor. The grading standards were so arbitrary, I spent most of the class never knowing what type of grade I was going to get. She has favorites, so get on her good side, if you're not...you're in for some trouble. I had high expectations for Dr. Rao and this class, but this class definitely did not live up to them. Be prepared for some hellish grading and a lot of craziness. This class was just...well, crazy.

Jul 2013

So, I wrote that review about orgo lab (the one below) and I stand by it. However, after spending more time with Rao, I would like to revise one thing: Dr. Rao sucks. She is childish, passive aggressive, moody, and stubborn in the worst way. I still think she has the potential to be nice, especially if you are one of her favorites (nice in an arbitrarily-gives-you-points-back kind of way), and that she can organize a lab well. She doesn't play nice with other members of the department and is too insular, which in any academic setting seems like a mistake. Orgo lab is still super easy, especially since most people deal with the lab instructors instead of her. Modtech is miserable; it was the first time I was ever unbearably unhappy just standing around in a lab, from the moment I entered it. The work itself is fine.

Apr 2012

Wow. There are some seriously bitter premed chicks writing these reviews. Dr. Rao isn't cuddly but she is funny, nice enough, and straightforward, and even better if you get used to her (I actually like her). Also, your experience in the lab depends largely on your lab instructors. I had Dr. Holtz and Dr. Lee, who are both wonderful, and I know and like Dr. Allen as well (you deeefinitely have to adjust to him before appreciating him). The lab videos were a little frustrating because they were much longer than they needed to be. The actual lab itself was fairly different than BC2001 lab, especially the focus of the grading; Orgo lab was not very quantitative and fairly qualitative, so good observations are necessary for a good grade, even if they are consistently "the solution was clear and colorless" or "the reaction mixture was colorless and clear" or "the solution lacked color and seemed clear" (oftentimes, the solutions were clear and colorless), but pedantry is not necessarily rewarded. I understand complaints about the grading. It is usually unclear (and colorless) where you get points off, but there did seem to be a negative correlation between number of mistakes I made and the grade I was given. The amount of time I spent working for this lab feels inordinate and it probably was. I didn't really keep track of the hours it took me to do each report, but, if I had to guess, I would say 5-6 hours, a few times much more. I went to office hours once; the labs themselves were not very difficult to understand. The prelabs would take 1-3 hours, and generally a shorter amount of time as the semester went on. Hardest part of the lab is the time commitment in addition to the time for Orgo Lecture. The final this year was very easy, but I haven't gotten the grade back yet, sooooooo.....I can't comment on the harshness of the grading. Overall: THIS LAB IS FINE. DR. RAO IS FINE. EVERYONE CALM DOWN.

Feb 2012

This woman is truly the worst professor that I have ever encountered. I got A's and B+'s during the lab, but her attitude is horrible, no thanks to Professor Rao. She refuses to answer the simplest questions and will often go on rants about how she has many students and cannot answer that question for every student. This takes longer than answering the question would have. She does not even feign politeness or kindness and seems to be on a power trip off of controlling grades. You would think that at least she is a good lecturer, but no. She is not good at using the computer/projector in the room and often makes mistakes that she later corrects. I don't understand how she has been able to stay at Barnard for so long. Do not take this class with her - take it at columbia.

May 2011

You should absolutely take the introductory Chemistry sequence at Barnard because the Barnard Chemistry Department is delightful. So many office hours, and such approachable, engaged faculty. Now that you've entered the Barnard Chemistry sequence, the greatest piece of advice I can offer you is to ignore your lab report grades. Think of each returned grade as the results from a lottery. Be happy when you get an A- because you won a completely random lottery, but it's irrational to get upset at the other random grades they throw your way. DO NOT think of your grades as any reflection on your ability as a chemist. That said, read through the grader's comments because, if you got a concept wrong, the comments can be helpful, and if there was something the grader disliked about formatting you can change that. Have a good attitude in lab. It gets very tiring after about 4 pm, but performing experiments is such a great opportunity to interact differently with the material you learn on paper. You do some really cool experiments, actually. Think about what's actually happening in front of you. Also don't watch the videos; that's a compete waste of time. Just click through them to familiarize yourself with basic setups.

May 2009

When we all signed up for the Organic Chemistry Package, we knew we were looking at a semester of grueling work and nonstop stress. But we signed up for it and we were all prepared to face it. However, Organic Lab is more unreasonable and ridiculous than difficult. Outside of the sometimes 6 hours you will spent inside the lab, you would need to spend at least 10 hours doing your lab report to try and get that A. And be it that we're all pre-med's and overly achieving women, we all want that A. We've learned a lot obviously, and we've all worked so hard, but our grade will not show for it. Overall, I had an A- average in my Laboratory reports. However, I ended up with a B. The Final was 25%, and I must've almost failed in order to drop two grades down. Which I refuse to believe and have yet to hear from Rao. We studied for the final, and we worked hard all semester. But sometimes, when you get your lab report back, you would have no idea why you got a certain grade and who would you go to to ask? No one will want to talk to you about grades in this department. No one will tell you what you should do to improve on your next report. All you can do then is work harder and hope that things will get better. It doesn't. The work is not hard, but the grading is harsh. Meena Rao will not want to talk about grades and she will ignore you if you go ask her about your grades. She does want you to learn and we all do, but we'll all end up with a dent in our transcript. The lab work takes away from the wonderful Organic Lecture that is concurrent. The lab final was on the friday of the tuesday of our lecture exam. They wanted us to hand in our labs before the one week due date, knowingly that we had a Lecture Exam that tuesday. I feel nothing but bitterness coming away from that class. If possible, I would recommend that future students not spend so much time on the Lab and concentrate more on the Lecture. The grading from the Lab is very arbitrary. It will not show your aptitude. Mind you, Rao is a wonderful woman. Quite funny and personable. But don't ask about grades. She'll ignore you.

Jan 2009

Rao initially comes off as a very scary woman-- I was petrified of her originally. As you get further in, she does grow on you (and vice versa). She's very intense, but like the rest of the chemistry department at Barnard, she does care about you actually learning the material. She's a good teacher, and very helpful during her office hours. An important tip-- the final exam DOES MATTER. Study for it! I got solid A's on all of my lab reports (even an A+ here and there), but must've screwed up the final, because I wound up getting an A- overall.

Dec 2008

I had the strangest experience in this class. I started out getting A's and A-'s and then I had one "run-in" (this is a stretch, I asked her if I could photocopy a worksheet she said she emailed, but didn't) with her and all of a sudden my grades began to go down incrementally (A- --> B+ --> B --> B-). Honestly, I don't even know how to get on her good side, but if you want to try, I think being passive in every situation and not asking her any questions, is a start. I guess my only advice is to make friends with the other lab instructors, who are infinitely more approachable than Rao. Good luck.

May 2008

Professor Rao has favorites, just as the other lab teachers do. If you aren't one of her favorites, then you're just going to get lower grades than everyone else. I used to do my lab write ups ina group and we'd all have more or less the same answers, yet I always ended up with lower grades...explain that to me. Basically, as hard as you try, if you're not one of her favorites, you're not going to get a good grade. Her lab videos take way too long and you have to get past understanding her accent to actually understand them. Lab lectures were kinda helpful but not the best either.

Sep 2007

This woman is, in my opinion, truly awful. She is mean to everyone and is not very willing to help. One other review says to get on her good side, but I honestly don't think she has one. The labs were hard, but I always got good percent errors, never broke anything, and always came on time. Even after tons of work writing up the reports and having really good results in the lab, I got B-'s at best. The grading seems very subjective and since the chem lab dept seems to hate its students, the grades rarely turn out well. Try to avoid taking this lab! Take it at Columbia.

Aug 2007

Rao is sort of crazy. She can be really mean and a fellow professor of hers (my advisor who is in another department) said he heard her described as a "real piece of work" - and that's just what she is. She's nice to those she likes, but if you are late or forget things or break things she can get pretty nasty fast. GET ON HER GOOD SIDE. Our lab reports were detailed and labs went over time quite often. Try to work as fast as possible without committing errors. Don't be the last to get in line for the RotoVap! Reports are nothing toooo complicated, but feel free to go to office hours where they will almost tell you the answer. They compliment the lecture class well. We also have to watch long videos before each lab period showing the lab we are about to do. These helped take off "demonstration" time from the actual lab period, but sometimes the videos could last over an hour to watch online. She expects everyone to have seen them and not need too much instruction in the procedure. Take really detailed notes from the videos - they help a lot when you have to do the actual lab.

May 2007

She was truly mean and unhelpful. Can crush any love for chemistry out of you. I found that I liked orgo in lecture and hated it in lab. I think it is due to each istructor's attitude towards students. She honestly made lab unbearable. Oh and there is absolutely no standard in grading. I asked her a question about it, and she honestly said that the grading depended on the instructor! the audacity!

May 2007

Rao is both scary and hilarious. She is not very sympathetic to students, but the lab is still run well and lots of help is available from other instructors who do not make you nervous enough to spill your reagents.

May 2006

Professor Rao was on ok instructer. She did not seem very tolerant of her students though and often gave obnoxious answers to questions or would refuse to answer questions at all, saying "I already told you the answer to that" or something to that effect. Her lab demonstrations droned on and could have been shortened and even the recitation could have been made more concise. Also, often, she would not explain the why or how part of the experiment. Anyways, she is bareable but if you have a choice, don't take Orgo lab with Rao (though I heard some of the other instructers were not much better. Dr. Holtz is the best though). Work load consisted of weekly lab reports, graded pretty fairly though points were sometimes taken off for no apparent reason. Supposedly there were grading standards, but these were not explained to us. Also, I heard that Rao said you are allowed to question the grading of one lab only, all other inquiries will be ignored. That's the kind of negative attitude I am trying to get accross.