professor
Jacob Alexander

Apr 2018

-Somehow a senior lecturer -Somehow STILL employed in this school, let alone in academia in general Strap in your seat belts children, because its gonna be a rough ride. General Chemistry lab is one of the worst, most uncomfortable experiences you will have in STEM at Barnard. Absolutely the worst way to begin any track in Chemistry (or STEM in general, because the class is required for many other STEM tracks such as Bio, Biochem, Neuro, etc.), not even because of the coursework itself but because of this man alone. He complicates EVERYTHING. He is not transparent (no grading rubric for the lab report grades, no consistency between graders, not willing to explain why a grade was given, and the list goes on), EXTREMELY passive aggressive (or straight up aggressive), tells you to attend office hours and then doesn't help you AT ALL (you will come out of that room more confused than you've ever been), doesn't know how to structure or organize anything (the archaic black and white notebook system needs to GO), and ultimately just fosters an environment of anxiety, depression, confusion, and isolation. Barnard always tells us to "Be well." Not possible when this man is around. A fair warning to all my fellow STEM homies: DO NOT let the attitude of this man and the environment of the gen chem lab he directs influence your image and ideas of Barnard's Chemistry Department or STEM departments in general. Yes, teachers have their moments, but the thing with Dr. J is that he is ALWAYS in a moment. Again, DO NOT let him discourage you from going forward into Chemistry or STEM in general. If you survive Gen Chem lab, know that you have truly accomplished something great. To the Barnard Chemistry Department: get real already. I have straight up heard him tell people, and I quote, "God forbid you go into Chemistry." Is that the type of sentiment you want to send to students, most of whom are first-years still exploring the possibility of going into Chemistry and have Dr. J as basically their first experience with the Chem department? I think not. For the sanity and well being of your students, and for the well being of your own Department, get rid of him.

Apr 2018

- Passive aggressive, no actually: FULL on aggressive - Speaks negatively about pretty much anything and makes for an uncomfortable environment till the point where you are either on the verge of tears or actually on the verge of tears. Or actually, drowning in tears. - Interacting with him is basically you staring at a robot in hopes of some sort of compassion and humanity. Be warned, you just get roasted. - General chemistry lab was the most frustrating, agonizing, painful, traumatic experience I have had so far. This man is a complete outlier in comparison to the rest of chem department overall. Maybe he is an outlier to the science department in general, or perhaps even the whole school. - If you have any interest in chemistry, do not let general chemistry let you down. Orgo is much, much better. Though the course material for both subjects is difficult, the point is that Dr. J makes things MORE difficult for absolutely no reason. Not to mention, things aren't just difficult with him: they're humiliating, uncomfortable, triggering, etc. - His attitude towards helping students is nonexistent; he is absolutely not transparent, passive aggressive, RIGID, and overall just a MAJOR D U B. I request the Chemistry Department to look into the actions of this man and the consequences he has had on brilliant, hardworking, and competent students who WERE interested in chemistry, but RAN THE OTHER WAY because of this individual. Before I graduate, I would like to see this man go. Barnard deserves better.

Dec 2017

I love Dr. J. He is an incredibly efficient and knowledgeable instructor. His pre-lab lectures are always concise and to the point, meaning that he doesn't bore you with unnecessary content. His eloquence in the lectures demonstrate his extensive knowledge of the topics he teaches. Most people dislike him because he doesn't answer questions in a direct manner. This is true, but he does it to stimulate your own learning and understanding of complex chemical concepts. This for me was very helpful in developing my skills as a chemist. And although he doesn't hand you the answer, he gives you enough hints for you to be able to confidently reach the answer on your own. I always learned more in his pre-lab lectures than in Professor Austin's actual lecture and although Dr. J is harsh, he is still incredibly friendly and approachable. I loved having him as my lab instructor, but I understand that his teaching style isn't for everyone. If you truly love chemistry and are actually interested in the material (instead of just wanting to get an A without learning anything like most pre-med students), then you will learn a lot from Dr. J and will leave the semester with a lot of respect for him as an instructor and as a scientist.

Dec 2016

Dr. J, as he prefers you call him, is a bit of an enigma in the Barnard chemistry department. While a lot of people have a strong aversion to him, I have grown to be "okay" with him. He is the director of the BC2001 gen chem lab, meaning he teaches pre-lab (recitation) and some of the actual lab classes (I had him as one of my instructors). I really appreciated his concision and knowledgeability in pre-lab lectures. He knows what he is trying to say, he says it very well, and he answers questions, albeit in a smart ass way, vey well. He isn't a lovely dovey guy in lab and won't tell you exactly what to do or answer any basic questions that you should already know before entering lab, but he will help you if something goes completely wrong in your experiment and he will answer small questions here and there. His demonstrations of the lab are very concise and make perfect sense, which I couldn't say for the other lab instructor in my class. Most people dislike the guy because of the grading though (he doesn't directly grade your lab reports, but he is in charge of the rubrics the reports are graded off of). I found that the quality of your actual lab report (you record data in your lab and then write the report at home and the report is due at the beginning of recitation the next week) doesn't matter much; the grading is mainly focused on the quality of your data. It can really suck if you aren't good at procedure, but if you try your best it will mostly all even out. There are lab office hours every day which are extremely helpful and I am surprised more people don't attend. This class is hard as hell in some aspects, but it really won't be the worst experience of you college career. I would recommend taking this course over Columbia chem just because of all the resources available to you in the Barnard chem department and the better quality of teaching (they will really help you understand the material if you put in the work to do so, even if you are not a super chem student ((like me)) ).

Dec 2016

I had Prof. Alexander for Gen Chem lab, and he is wonderful! He is passionate and funny and eager to answer any questions his students may have. He is knowledgable and kind. He is a very tough grader, but anyone in this course will learn a lot!

Jun 2014

I've had Dr. J for 3 different classes over the course of three years. He is quite literally perhaps the least efficient professor I've ever met. His lectures are boring and unclear and he has a tendency to ramble because he is obsessed with the sound of his own voice. When comparing him to the rest of the chemistry department at Barnard, it makes no sense why he ends up teaching perhaps one of the most important chemistry classes in the pre-med health track when he is so utterly incompetent. Now if Dr. J was just a poor lecturer or boring or ineffective at communicating class material, that would be one thing. But this man should literally not be allowed to be a professor at such a prestigious competitive school, and in one of the most difficult and competitive departments, when he absolutely biased. Dr. J will give grades to certain students based on his opinion of them, a fact that has been confirmed by MULTIPLE students who have served as his teaching assistants over the years. He is also completely inconsistent with his grading standards, and will adjust them depending on how easy a test was. It seriously felt like he was just withholding good grades, regardless of how well a student performed on an exam. Unless, of course, they were one of the chosen ones. This is absolutely unacceptable, and I, undoubtedly among many others, demand that Barnard reconsider their choice to place such an important thing as a student's future in the hands of this man. If anyone has ever been in his class when he has thrown an actual tantrum - yes, a TANTRUM - when someone's phone goes off, or when he has answered a question in the absolute LEAST helpful way possible, or when he has reprimanded an entire class full of 50 smart, beautiful, bold pre-med women for not doing well on HIS impossible and unfair exam, they will be able to attest to the fact that Dr. J should honestly not be a teacher here any longer. His presence in the chemistry department and at Barnard in general lowers the standard that we, as students, were promised when we chose to attend this school. Frankly, it's insulting that Barnard thinks we deserve to tolerate such a horrible and repulsive little man as our professor. BTW, he is LYING when he says you can only take intermediate gen chem to complete your pre-med requirements. HE'S A LIAR. ASK DEAN STARKS. STEER CLEAR AT ALL COSTS.

May 2014

In no way am I good at chem. I'd gotten grades in the B-range all through Gen Chem I and Orgo I and II, so I went into this class thinking I'd be lucky to get a B/ or B+. Intermediate Gen Chem is a small class (around 50 students?) in comparison to the previous 3 chem courses in the chem pre-med sequence at Barnard, and apparently a lot of people dropped this course and elected to take gen chem II at Columbia because they didn't want to deal with Dr. J. Then again, most of them were probably the grade-grubbing types who didn't want to swallow a possible B... BUT if you're not one of those people and you're not completely hopeless, you should be fine. I can understand why many people would want to avoid Dr. J. His lectures can be a bit difficult to follow (he tends to use "this" or "that" very liberally, without referring to a specific thing and he whizzes through the material at times), his office hours are not very personal AT ALL (imagine 15 very eager pre-meds trying to cram into his tiny office), and he can be condescending. He sent out an e-mail out to the class after a dismal first exam, expressing his disappointment, but it discouraged a lot of us and made us feel terrible. The Sapling problems are also very useless, and are a waste of time. That being said, his exams are very straightforward and that's what I appreciated the most. While you are expected to think up of unique mechanisms on the spot for questions on orgo exams, Dr. J doesn't throw very many curveballs. There are many people who may not finish the 50-minute exams on time (myself included), so make note of things he says can be solved using "shortcuts" he mentions in class. I came into this class expecting no higher than a B, a B+ if I was lucky. I was taking 18 credits and was generally unmotivated for everything, so it's not like I was even putting in much time into this class. Surprisingly, I learned a decent amount (enough to pull myself through MCATS) and got a grade a bit higher than expected. All in all, not as terrible a class as others have made it out to be.

Apr 2014

If I could say one thing I regret about my time at Barnard I would say that I sincerely regret taking Gen Chem I and II at Barnard. Dr J is one of the worst professors I have ever had. Although he probably isn't, the way he acts towards his students and the grades he gives seems to suggest that he does not care about his students at all. Gen chem Lab was one of the worst experiences I have had in college and I came out of that lab crying at least once. Grading on these labs is completely unfair. If you measure .004 g more of a compound than you are supposed to, and your accuracy and precision are off, you are severely penalized. It makes no sense. A lab is supposed to be a time where you learn the background and the concept behind the experiment, not how well you know how to weight sodium chloride on a scale. Grades as low as an F were given out to students and unless you are the very top of the class in the lab it really brings down your confidence as a student. Gen Chem lab severely lowered my overall Gen Chem grade. It was really disappointing and I know that had I taken it at columbia I would have done much better. I could say the exact same for Gen Chem II (intermediate chem) with Dr. J. He would wiz through material, assuming we knew it all and did not explain anything clearly. His jokes do not make up for the fact that he does not know how to teach. He would give us problem sets that were literally impossible to figure out sometimes unless you hired a tutor that happened to be a grader for the problem sets. Otherwise you are screwed. His tests (especially his first test) did not reflect the problem sets or the lecture material. It was just a terrible experience studying for those tests and taking them because the amount of time and effort you put in to studying for these tests did not at all reflect the grade you would get. Dr J has a rule that if you do better on the final than you did on your lowest midterm grade, he would drop that midterm and replace it with the final score. For the final, I studied his notes, and focused on his problem sets and past exams (as most people do while studying for a final). However, his final exam did not reflect his problem sets or his exams at all, rather he focused on the subtle things he had never tested us on before. This basically prevented anyone from actually boosting their grade with the final. The final exam definitely lowered my grade. If you havent taken chem already and need it for some sort of requirement, TAKE IT AT COLUMBIA.

Apr 2012

Dr. J is a great professor for chemistry labs. While at first you might find it frustrating that he does not give you the direct answer when you ask, especially with regard to lab reports, you will learn to interpret what he does tell you as somewhat helpful. However, the reason he does this because he wants to show you that you do have the tools to know the answer yourself. Dr. J wants students to gain confidence in their own ability throughout the course and does not want them to use instructors as a crutch. While they are more than happy to help you, they choose to treat you as more of a mature student rather than always giving you the answer. Be prepared for lab. It will make things run much more smoothly and since a large portion of your grade comes from your actual ability to perform an experiment precisely and accurately, be prepared to do that. Also, do not entertain Dr. J with quesitons of grades on reports. He is not interested in hearing you complain about their very tough grading system. I think this is often because students complain because they feel their grade is arbitary but Dr. J and the other instructors feel they try very hard to make sure this is not the case. Overall, he is a very knowlegable and kind professor who cares a lot about the students (he will know your name after week one).

Jan 2012

I'm writing this in response to the review before mine... Which I completely disagree with. I absolutely loved GenChem lab. It was my favorite class this past semester and coming from a high school that did not take science labs very seriously, my confidence and abilities in lab drastically increased. Yes, the labs take a pretty long time and yes there's math involved but they're far from impossible. Office hours are very helpful and the lab manual gives excellent instructions. On to Dr. J. Sure, the man might have a bit of a superiority complex but there's a reason for it. He's brilliant. If you ask him a question in lab, he won't just give you the answer - he makes you think about the chemistry that is happening in front of you and gives you enough information to really figure it out yourself. Basically, if you want someone to coddle you and feed you answers then this isn't for you. However, if you actually care about learning the subject and approach lab optimistically and well prepared it's so so incredibly rewarding. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my lab experience. I think Dr. J is hilarious, intelligent, and awesome and really wonderfully guides you through some difficult experiments.

Dec 2011

I took my Gen Chem final this morning. I don't know how I fared, but personally, I think it was better for me than the midterms. That being said, let me outline the relationship between Gen Chem and Gen Chem Lab: there is none. Or if there is, it is something along the lines of post-violent divorce or something of the sort. Dr. J (as he prefers to be called) - he is quite possibly the worst person I've met in my life. Now, in reading reviews for future chem labs at Barnard, I realize that some of the things he does are reflected in the entire department, but that doesn't make him any more likeable. He usually does the pre-lab lectures, which are rather wonderfully useless. They waste an hour of your time and you get nothing out of them - but sadly, you have to go. He is also who all the other lab people send you to if you ever have a question about a lab writeup you got back, regardless of who they are. The write-ups are hard. There's a ton of math involved and a lot of it is quite confusing. Effort doesn't parallel your grade - in fact, the lab write-ups I spent the longest on (upwards of SIX HOURS) were the ones on which I received the worst grades. Your first write-up will come back with friendly comments and no grade. DON'T BE MISTAKEN. If that lab were actually graded, you're looking at a C. You could do 99% of everything perfectly and still only get a B. The grades are very, very arbitrary and the sole intent of the mysterious graders (you never find out who graded your lab report that week) is to give you misery. You are graded on "accuracy" and "precision" as well as useless other things like on which side of the page's margin you wrote the date (no joke, got a B for that once). On one particularly lovely lab report, I finally managed to get the titrations to the half drop, and the lab instructors were impressed, since everyone else was having huge problems (this was a fluke...) The comments on the precision page read "very good precision" over each of the three sections and "excellent precision" on the third. On the last page of the lab, there was one single comment" Problems with precision. B. Naturally, I asked Dr. J about this, and was told with a satisfied smile, "Well, "very good" is a few steps down from perfect, isn't it?" There were actually two other occasions of this - a C- "you could have gotten anywhere from a D+ to a B+ for these problems, actually" and no grade change, and a B- "I'm not entirely sure what the grader meant with this comment, it's quite cryptic" and no grade change. I'll rest my case there. Just don't bother. You won't enjoy this class, but if you're a pre-med and have to take it, just be ready. The lecture instructor doesn't like the lab people and the lab people (Dr J) doesn't like the lecture instructor (Bruce Bursten for this semester) and each try to one-up each other with harder questions. Bursten is nice and you cannot bring yourself to dislike him, but his tests are horrific. The single lab question on each is written by Dr J - on the final it was something that we looked up when we did it in lab, rather than learn it. But we had to magically remember it for the final. WHOO.