professor
Terry Plank

Dec 2020

If you're interested in earth science, this is a must-take class at Columbia. Mostly earth science/EEE majors take this course but you'll find many students of other creeds here. The prereq is one foundational EESC class, but if you're confident you can take it without. Terry is really as amazing as everybody says - she is such an exciting and clear lecturer and really cares about the class. The assigned reading is relevant and will really put you on the top if you do it. But what's most important is taking notes during the lectures. The slides don't stand alone. If you pay attention in class and take good notes, you will probably do great on the exams. The psets are very reasonable and there aren't very many. You'll come out of Terry's class with a broad understanding of how the planet you live on came to be this way. And by the way - if you need to fulfill a science requirement or just want to branch out, this is a great way to do that painlessly while still learning a ton.

Jan 2018

I loved this class. Terry Plank is incredibly helpful, cool, and is actually fantastic at teaching. Take this class if you are at all interested in earth science, chemistry, or space. Terry's lectures were extremely engaging and everything in the homeworks and exams were in her lectures, so come to class and take good notes! Unlike a normal intro to geochemistry class, Terry teaches everything as a chronological story, tracing atoms from the bang bang to star/planet formation and then through the geological history of Earth. I hadn't studied earth science since middle school, but the material was fascinating! I can't recommend this class enough. You should take it, even just to get to know Terry and hear all about her research adventures. Her excitement for the material is contagious, and you will leave class knowing and caring way more about earth science than you ever thought you would.

Dec 2017

Terry Plank is an amazing professor. Anyone vaguely interested in earth sciences and geochemistry should take her class! Her class is divided up into three sections roughly, planetary synthesis and the early solar system, the formation and differentiation of the solid earth, and the effect of life systems on the earth. It's really cool how you can understand the conditions that make up our Earth at the end of the class! She is an excellent lecturer and is often very patient with anyone who has questions. Plus she's a MacArthur Genius Grant Winner! So she's brilliant. You don't need to be hardcore earth science major to take this class although previous experience definitely does help. There are four problem sets and 2 in class exams. Though a great lecturer and a very nice lady, her assignments should not be taken lightly. Definitely dedicate a reasonable amount of time to her class. Often times she brings vegetables to give to her class from her farm share. So just really providing in more ways than 1.

Nov 2017

Terry Plank is my hero. This woman is the reason I chose my major. Her lectures are honestly inspiring and so brilliant. She's hilarious and super down to earth (even though she's literally a MacArthur genius). Her Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet course is the highlight of my week. The problem sets are definitely difficult but extremely rewarding. Her lectures are very engaging and provide all of the material necessary to do well on the tests/psets. She definitely values being able to apply knowledge more than rote memorization, so it's worth it to go to office hours and work through the concepts. On the whole would 10/10 recommend this class to anyone interested in chemistry or earth science.

Dec 2013

If you like Earth Science, TAKE. THIS. CLASS. One question on the final was "trace an atom of Iron from the big bang to your body.” And you can do it by the end of the class! How cool is that? Terry is an incredible lecturer. I don't think her TedTalk is up on YouTube yet, but she practiced it on us and it was only slightly more inspiring and engaging than her typical lecture format. She does a great job presenting science as a story: a chronological story of where molecules came from and how they came together to make the Earth and Solar System as we know it (starting with the Big Bang and ending with how copper mines work), and a story of trial and error by scientists. It's really a joy to have her as a professor, whether you have an intense academic interest in the material or just have a layman's fascination. I took Solid Earth before this class and Climate concurrently. I think this is a great way to do things. From the very start, Terry throws around names of minerals and rocks and geological time periods without always explaining what they are. While you don’t need to know much about them to get what she’s saying, the Geochemistry material will be a lot more meaningful if you have a working familiarity with the geology and everything will be easier to remember if you aren’t learning the mineralogy/petrology vocabulary at the same time. We don’t cover climate topics until the last third or so of the semester. By that point, if you’re co-enrolled in Climate, some of it is a nice review of what you’ve been doing in that class. Terry is a lot less comprehensive in going over things like Milankovitch oscillations than the Climate course is, so I’m sure those parts of the Geochemistry material would be a lot tougher without some Climate background. In terms of Chemistry, if you never really got GenChem, this class is going to be a lot tougher for you. If you want to spend a couple weeks reviewing over the summer or something, practice balancing equations, equilibrium constants, energy of reactions, “mass balance” (mixing two solutions and figuring out the concentrations in the end solution), and alpha/beta/gamma decay. It’s nothing beyond GenChem, but deeply understanding the chemistry will make it much easier for you to focus on geological applications. Orgo is a very small topic in this class and you only need a very cursory understanding (Carbons bond together, they make chains sometimes and rings sometimes). Terry does quickly review all of these topics in class but, if you have trouble with all of them, that is going to add up.

Jan 2013

I cannot believe no one has written a review of Prof. Plank before. In short, she is my hero. She is nice, SUPER-approachable, down to earth (literally), and, despite the fact that she is a MACARTHUR GENIUS, extremely humble. This class is also extremely interesting and enjoyable, though definitely not easy. The subject matter is presented as a story, taking you from the formation of the elements in the stars, to the sun, the earth, the crust, the continent, the oceans, all the way to how the elements behave in river chemistry. Despite the storybook format, the topics can be quite technical, and will draw pretty heavily on your Gen Chem knowledge. Her tests ask you to draw on very specific details, so beware--they're pretty tough. Her lectures go fast, and they make complete sense when she explains them, but when you go back, her notes by themselves don't make much sense. TAKE NOTES LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT. If you're a DEES major or if you've taken Chemistry and want to learn something fascinating from the coolest person on earth, then take this class. Prof. Plank deserves a gold nugget.