professor
Ruben Savizky

Apr 2021

Savizky is one of those professors that you're glad you have, but also kinda wish you didn't. He does a good job at presenting the material, but his pedagogy never clicked with me because he teaches things backwards and mumbles a bit. He'll introduce the specifics of a topic, prove equations, and then explain what the topic is actually about. He stays pretty well in the weeds without explaining the big picture. He is extremely smart, and not cocky about it. He seems to have a bottomless well of chemisty knowledge. He will take all the time he needs to answer students questions, and he often stayed an hour after class to do so. Grading is straight forward. My TA's were beyond horrible, so I never went to recitation. I did watch another TA's review sessions, and he (Jack) was amazing. I took a year of gen chem with him, and got B's without any real effort, just watched 3rd party videos on anything that confused me. If I had prepared better for the quizzes, I would have had A's. If you need gen chem, Savizky is your guy. Learn the material ahead of time and treat the lectures like review sessions. If you're ever confused on anything, just ask him, and he'll make sure you understand it.

Apr 2021

Please don't listen to the more negative reviews below me. Professor Savizky is one of the kindest, most hardworking, and best professors I've ever had. I learned so much from him and actually understood the content, because he really takes the time to break down difficult concepts. When the grad strike happened, he took the time to record all our lectures beforehand and then spent our class time holding a recitation session for all of us; most nights he went an hour over time to stick around and answer student questions. He genuinely cares about students and wants you to learn. Make sure to go to office hours because he'll help you with any homework problem or issue you might have! His lectures can be a bit dry but that's what happens when you take chemistry; it's obviously not going to be the most entertaining topic in the world. Personally, I had Roy for 1403 and I regret taking him. I wish I had taken Savizky for both semesters instead of just for 1404. Take Savizky!! He's the best!!

Jan 2021

Savizky was probably the driest, most unbelievably boring lecturer I have ever had. His classes entire consisted of him reading directly off of mediocre PowerPoints in a monotone voice and drawing diagrams in MS Paint. To be honest, the lectures were a complete waste of time for me because they only contained surface-level content and did not prepare students for his assessments. While he says the problem sets from the Zumdahl textbook are optional, they are the only resource (other than maybe recitation or OH) that will help prepare you for his exams. I felt prepared for this class going in, as I had two years of chemistry coursework in high school, but the lectures were so dull and uninspiring that I ultimately struggled and did not do as well as I could have in this class. On the bright side, attendance is optional, so if you are self-motivated and come into Columbia with good study habits, I would recommend not wasting your time with Savizky's lectures, and instead study the book/p-sets and ask questions in recitation. Overall, I would avoid this class as it does very little to foster interest in chemistry and will lull you to sleep if you do choose to attend.

Jan 2021

I took 1403 in fall 2020 online and thought it was ok but kind of confusing. First of all the order in which things are taught is odd and not intuitive at all so I was confused why we're learning some things. Also, the tests are multiple-choice and lots of math and occasionally questions only tangentially pertain to the units we learned (I think Savizky just didn't want to deal with actual grading or writing long tests?). Basically, he's an ok prof and maybe your best option.

Dec 2020

He’s an okay professor. It’s clear he enjoys what he’s teaching and cares for his students (he always answers any questions u may have) and he goes in-depth with his lectures which is good. For me personally, I never read the textbook and mainly focused on his slides, and I did decent in the class. The class isn’t super hard, but it may be if this is your first time learning chem (i took AP chem so I already knew some of the stuff). There is also a lot of content he teaches that wasn’t taught in AP chem either, so this class is definitely not the easiest. However, its workload is really manageable, the only thing I would say is that sometimes he adds questions on his test that require really far critical thinking — like thinking and problems not done in class or CHEM101. But he also provides a lot of practice tests so you can definitely prepare. All in all, he’s an okay professor if you already have some familiarity with chem.

Dec 2020

The course is a little bit difficult but Savizky does a great job explaining things and adapted super well to the online format. The recitations with TAs are super helpful and the exams generally seem fair.

Aug 2020

Completely agree with the review under me! Professor Savizky was incredibly kind, caring professor. I really feel like he wanted me to succeed, and was really accessible and available for help. His lectures are really clear and well organized - if you are debating between him and Beer, go with Savizky. Content was difficult for me, but studying hard really pays off. He also was really accommodating during COVID and adjusted to an online format really well.

Mar 2020

He is the best. Truly. He is so passionate about chemistry, and it makes all the difference in how his enthusiasm is conveyed through teaching. He has both breadth and depth in the foundation of general chemistry, and has a great sense of humor. That humor translates both to lecture and to the exams themselves. He is a very mathy chemist, so you should be prepared to crank out some difficult math questions. Most of the material is fairly straightforward, but he likes to put a tricky question or two in each exam (read: Know Your Math). I did not find it an easy course -- even the most straightforward of concepts require a great deal of time studying, just to practice some of the problems. He is a delight of a professor and goes above and beyond for his students. Go to office hours and establish a relationship with your TA. Ask a ton of questions and don't be afraid to sound dumb. Go to lecture - I am not in the "you can learn it on your own/with his slides" club, but that's just me.

Dec 2019

Savizky is an ok professor. His lectures can sometimes be boring but he does a pretty good job of explaining concepts, though oftentimes it is necessary to learn concepts on your own since the power points can be vague. He always gave old exams as practice for all the midterms and the final exam, and the lowest of the 3 midterms is dropped. You know what to expect during the exams and he and TAs hold review sessions to answer any questions students might have. Homework is online and is of varying length, never too hard. Overall, Savizky's class is not too bad if you understand the homework and do the old exams.

Dec 2019

I took Savizky’s Gen Chem I with only high school Honors Chemistry under my belt, and I thought this was a fair and doable class. Attending lecture may not be the best use of time for everyone; as previous reviews have said, he mostly reiterates what’s already on his slides and occasionally throws in some advanced applications that won’t be tested. However, if you attend his office hours or the review sessions prior to an exam, he will patiently walk you through any problem. In addition to the optional Zumdahl problems, he now assigns weekly Chem101 problem sets which are required and a good indicator of what to expect on his quizzes and exams. Speaking of quizzes, do your best to get Chris as your TA. I had Yufeng, but I heard that Chris’s section usually performed 2-3 points better than the class average since he telegraphed exactly what would be covered on all the exams. The final grade is out of 148 points, and Savizky normalizes the scores from each exam and quiz, which I thought was a fair approach to the curve given how drastically the quizzes seemed to vary in difficulty between recitation sections. If you’ve taken AP Chemistry (or you’re a postbac pre-med with ample time to thoroughly grind all of Savizky’s practice material), you will have a much easier time scoring in the A-range. If not, the Organic Chemistry Tutor and Khan Academy will be your best friends. Regardless, Savizky’s class is a fairly painless way to knock out the chemistry requirement.

Jul 2017

Savizky is a terrific guy. Funny, too. My class was a night class, and it always felt cozy in the dark lecture hall listening to his calm voice. I also appreciated his love of Breaking Bad, and I'm pretty sure he had a Metallica ringtone, which is sick. Those things being said, Sav's class can be tricky at times. His ppts are easy to parse, and all of them are posted before the semester starts (god bless), but his tests are kind of much at times. My advice? Do all of the practice exams, and then do them again. Mind you - I learned a ton! It's definitely doable, I would take it again. Thanx Ruben!! To all my homies who have to take this class: Good luck, my dudes.

Dec 2016

I took General Chemistry I with Professor Savisky in Fall 2016. The lectures in this class are fine, but I didn't find them particularly helpful. Savisky generally just regurgitated all the information that was on the lecture slides, which he posts online. If he did add any additional information, it generally was not all that helpful. He does crack a few jokes though. Essentially, you don't need to attend lectures to get a good grade in this class. Something that I found really helpful in this class was the amount of study material Savisky gave you (practice problems and previous exams). They really helped you get an idea of what the exams would be like and helped prepare you for the quizzes. I found using the solutions manual to check your answers for the practice problems to be a productive way to learn and practice the concepts taught in class. Just studying the practice problems from Zumdahl is sufficient. I didn't study any of the recommended textbooks, and it was fine. The lecture slides can also be a good way to review all the concepts, but I didn't use them as my primary source of information. Online resources (e.g., Khan Academy) were pretty good at explaining complicated topics. The exams can be tricky, but they're quite manageable if you had previously practiced with previous years' exams. I didn't really attend office hours, but Savisky and the TAs hold them quite often, so you could ask them questions from the previous exams and practice problems if you need help or clarification. I think the difficultly of the quizzes varies with each TA. I found the quizzes my TA gave to be particularly easy, especially if you had done each week's practice problems, but they probably were harder in other TAs' recitations. The practice problems are never due for a grade. All in all, this was a fine and fair class. Savisky explains how grades work during the first lecture, and I think his approach towards the curve and normalization is pretty fair.

Aug 2015

I took Prof. Savizky for Gen. Chem II in the Spring semester. The key to success in Savizky's class is knowing how to play the game. I attended all lectures (after reading the chapter) but this is not strictly necessary -- he tends to just read the slides. Importantly, and this cannot be stressed enough, he DOES NOT use Zuhmdahl even though he does not say this explicitly. The recommended textbooks are the basis of the class, including where test questions are taken from. Reading these books and completing their practice problems (esp. Atkins and Hill) is the key to success. My exam grades improved 20% once I started preparing this way (I just wish I had learned sooner than after the first two midterms). To his credit, Savizky is very responsive to email, and quite genuine in his interactions with students. While office hours can be packed, he will meet privately and does take care to build relationships with those who demonstrate commitment. The class may be boring and feel like a game, but he really is a nice guy. TAs are given very poor supervision and the quality of recitation suffers for it.

May 2014

I took gen chem I and II with Savizky in spring 2013 and summer 2014, respectively. He's one of my favorite teachers at Columbia. He's very easy to talk to and friendly, and he gets back to emails very quickly. If you're in an opportunity to start the gen chem sequence in the spring as opposed to the fall, I would highly recommend doing so since you'll end up with Savizky. If you put in the time, you can easily get an A+ both semesters. Definitely buy OWL and do as many problems as you can. More importantly, Savizky prepared us VERY well for organic chemistry, especially spectroscopy! I am currently finishing orgo II and I still encounter basic fundamental principles that Savizky taught us very well.

Aug 2013

I've just completed two semesters of Gen Chem with Savisky. I agree with other reviewers about his low voice and his tendency to mumble, but he is responsive to feedback. The class just needs to remind him from time to time and Savisky will make an effort to speak more clearly. Or just sit closer. I found the audience thinned out quite a bit over the course of the semester so there's plenty of room in the orchestra section. He seems like a nice guy and always stops to take questions. The real problem is that his lectures are out of order with the course textbook. I didn't figure this out until second semester, but his class is really based on Petrucci and not Zumdahl. This is why he skips around so much and will do things like use U instead of E for internal energy. Do yourself a favor and get the "real" textbook for this class. That said, it isn't necessary to go to lecture. He posts his notes online and it's all pretty much straight from the book (Petrucci, that is). Grading seems relatively fair, he's very clear about how the class will be curved and he drops your lowest exam and quiz scores (2 dropped out of 7 in the summer semester). Really get comfortable with your algebra. At least half his exam questions are just long math problems and I found both his finals to be even more "mathy" than the rest of the exams.

May 2013

I just got my grades today, so I guess I want to say something about this class (chem 1403 Spring 2013). Professor Savizky has a really low voice and likes to whisper his lecture fast, which becomes a problem for me. Combined with the bad acoustics of the classroom, sometimes students sitting in the back can't hear him very well. The order of lecture and that of the textbook don't go together very well, and we are constantly jumping around different chapters. I have no problem with jumping, but sometimes the textbook will say something that I have no idea of (i.e. it's the material from a previous chapter that we haven't studied) The lecture slides are not very well organized. I'm often confused about how different ideas are connected. I feel that prof. Savizky likes to introduce a lot of more advanced topics, but didn't explain it thoroughly, so it just leaves us with a lot of confusion. Students are very competitive since it's mostly a pre-med post-bacc class. So don't be surprised by the high average. The exams can be tricky. Overall, the class is OK. BTW, it's also my first chemistry class so I can't compare it with other chem classes.

May 2013

Professor Savizky made everything very simple - recitation quizzes and exams. Nothing else was graded (though homework should be done to prepare for the recitation quizzes). However, since the quizzes and exams were prepare by different people (TA versus Professor), they basically had nothing to do with each other. The exams were relatively easy - multiple choice test bank type questions (though sometimes, the difficulty depended on the luck of the draw). But since he works at Cooper Union and only teaches evening classes, most of the class were post-bac pre-med students and so the average tended to be very high. Recitation quizzes seemed to be relatively harder and very tricky. All quizzes are curved to the save average at the very end, so just try to do better than average. 2 quizzes are dropped and 1 exam is dropped. Homeworks were not turned in or graded. OWL was recommended but your choice whether you actually sign up or not. I never had that great of an experience with OWL in the past so I didn't bother to buy a pass for it. However, from past experience, it can be helpful for some people since it guides you through the steps of the problem and gives immediate feedback on whether you did it right or not (though since it's a computer, it can be annoying in saying you're wrong just because you didn't write the answer in the right format or something). It was also confusing sometimes where we were in the syllabus since the schedule was tentative. It would have been nice to receive an email saying which chapters were covered that week (since the lecture often left out a lot of details and reading was useful). Professor Savizky was very clear during lectures and went over what was he thought was important in detail. However, the slides could have been more detailed and there were a lot of stuff in the book and in the homework that he did not cover. He was also rather soft spoken and monotone. After my recitations, it was clear that there were parts that could have been explained more clearly. Basically, what he covered was good, but there was a lot that he did not cover and that we had to learn through the book and homework problems.

May 2012

This was a fine class. Savizky is nice enough, and cracks a joke every once in a while. This class is really not engaging in any way, and you don't get that much more from showing up to class than not attending. Exams were terribly hard- there were often retractions of grades, regrading, and some questions even the TAs were stuck on. At this point I have no idea what my grade is going to be, and the lack of excitement in this class makes me almost not care at all. I feel truly ambiguous about the whole experience.

May 2011

A very nice professor for Gen Chem 1, keeps the lectures pretty simple and straight forward, makes occasional jokes, and seems like a pretty chill guy on and off the lecture stage. He stricts closely to models and simplification, but I think that is how most intro chem classes would keep it anywhere. Sometimes in lectures he will add much more complex topics and details that you do not need to know, just need to know the general principles/concepts. He is also painfully patient, stopping for every single question regardless of timing. While this is a good quality to have, it was painful for the class because we had a few people that just asked questions every class and every couple slides. The only negative aspect to prof Savizky's teaching was that he did not relate a lot of the material to real world concepts. I wasn't really aware of this, however, until Prof Valentini guest lectured while Prof S was gone, and he spent over an hour on 6 short slides, providing examples and connections that we wouldn't have learned otherwise. The homework is not collected/checked, however, to prepare for the quizzes and tests it is highly highly recommended. The quizzes I think depend on your TA, however, ours was Emma Dell, and her quizzes usually had tricks in each of them that would take off easy points, either from not reading the question closely or not realizing some exception to a rule.

Jun 2010

Professor Savizky's lectures manage to make a fairly interesting subject painfully boring. They are slow, and straight from his slides. I'm not sure if the professor knew this, but all of us had to take a Chem placement exam to get into chemistry. We know what a mole is. Going step by step through how to convert from grams to moles was not a good use of our time. Speaking of ineffective uses of student time -- we spent 4 lectures on naming! Naming molecules is the kind of thing that comes to chem students over time with practice, not something we should be forced to memorize. Testing us on naming conventions is a lousy way to separate students. My friends who took Beer and Valentini for Gen Chem 1 didn't spend time on naming conventions for organic and inorganic molecules. Going through and making us memorize the names of functional groups without giving us an idea of what they're for, how they work, how to use them, is completely useless. it's not even teaching! It's basically just reading a list for an hour. Though I had some problems with Savizky's lectures (see above), it was even worse when he stopped to answer student questions. He should have left questions for section and office hours. Oh, and speaking of office hours, Savizky doesn't hold them. "come ask me questions before class," does not equal office hours, especially since he was frequently not around before class. The midterms were both too easy and too hard. I found the first midterm especially troubling. It contained 19 gimme questions -- questions so easy that one of them was "which atomic number does not go with which atom?" Of the final 6 questions, 4 were hard, but fair, and the other two were completely out of left field. Whether you get a B+ depends on whether you can answer the tough questions, whether you get an A depends on whether you can guess correctly. How is this an effective evaluation method? Why waste our time on the first 19 questions and have a curve based on 6 points? It's not an effective curve when the difference between an A and B comes down not to knowledge, but guessing between two answers, either of which you could argue for if it were an open ended test. The final had a better curve, since Savizky tried to throw in some harder questions. His harder questions basically required math calculations, and if you hadn't memorized the formula, you were screwed, since they involved formulas that he hadn't told us to memorize and that weren't on the formula sheet (and no, I'm not talking PV=nRT level formulas). I did fine in this class (A-) but it was not a fun experience. Not overly painful, since it's really, really easy to get a B+ in the class (there is absolutely no chance you will fail--I know someone who got a 50 on the final and got a B+), but if you have the option of taking Chem 1 first semester, do.

Apr 2009

Professor Savizky is a nice guy and good professor. Even though he's an adjunct at Columbia and has another "real" job at Cooper Union, he makes a ton of time for his students here and is pretty much always in his office before class if you have questions. He answers his emails and posts his grades promptly as well. The exams are hit and miss - they often have tricky questions with "none of the above" and " I, II and III" or "just II and II" as answer choices. The first and thrid exams had pretty decent averages but the second was brutal - most people didn't finish and the average was a 15 out of 25. You do get to drop one though. The quizzes really depend on your TA. There was a marked difference between the two that we had. The course organization was a bit off - quantum mechanics in the first week and the back to this is proton and a neutron after that. So that was a bit strange but if you can roll with things a bit out of order it is fine. Plus his entire semester's power points are online. I didn't do well in the class, but I can honestly say that if Professor Savizky lectures here again you shouldn't hesitate to take him. Besides the exams being tricky, everything else standard. Plus he's a really nice guy who often has interesting little "how it works" type things to say in lecture.