professor
Marina Cords

Apr 2020

All the reviews for this class and really old and/or not accurate. Marina Cords is easily one of my favorite professors. She is a fantastic lecturer and clearly cares about the topic at hand. Her powerpoints are well organized and straightforward. She cares a lot about her students and is very helpful if you bother to go to office hours or ask questions in class. She tries to make her lectures as interesting as possible and she can be very very funny sometimes, too. The discussion sections show videos that may be boring but for me that reinforced concepts very clearly and it's super helpful to reference the experiments from the videos on exams. The grading can be a bit hard but if you pay attention to what she says in class and study her material, I had no issue getting at least an A- on every exam. There is also a required zoo visit halfway through the semester and you have to make it up if you can't go with the rest of the class. I found the zoo trip not particularly helpful, but it was really fun and you get to hangout with Cords outside of class. I also had Professor Cords during an interesting time (*cough* Covid-19 *cough*), and she was very understanding of any and all difficulties that students were dealing with.

Jul 2014

After taking this class last semester, I'm surprised by how negative so many of these reviews have been. Marina Cords is a woman dedicated to her field and to this class. I found her lectures to be incredibly straightforward and clearly formatted. She readily made sure that all materials for the class were available online, and uploaded review packets before each test that were really helpful. She likes getting to know her students, so I highly recommend going to her office hours and just chatting with her. It'll probably up your grade in the class, and she might even be able to help you with research opportunities on campus. Yes, there are lots of little assignments and tests/quizzes throughout the course. However, I felt like that kept me on top of the material and also gave me lots of chances to improve my grade. I thought the trip to the zoo with the class was a fantastic learning experience, in which we were able to apply our knowledge of primate behavior to the animals in front of us. My only negative comment about the class would be that sometimes I felt like time spent in discussion sections was wasted on watching outdated scientific videos, although some of them were entertaining and educational. Overall, I would recommend this course to any student interested in animal behavior. Marina Cords is a really smart woman and knows what she's doing when she teaches this material.

Mar 2012

DON'T DO IT. This is probably top 3 worst classes I've taken at Columbia. Unless you want to watch monkey fucking, the lectures are repetitive and dry. The discussion sections have no content and are in no way helpful for the graded parts of the course. In fact, they seem entirely unrelated. This whole class is designed to waste your time. The grading is arbitrary and the assignments are excessively anal. The TAs are bitchy and judgmental and Cords is also unhelpful. I've never gotten back such a condescending e-mail from a professor as when I wrote to her. Do psych instead.

May 2011

Pros: Professor Cords is really, really nice and very approachable. She's a fantastic lecturer and her power points help the discussion stay on track, so long as you make sure that you either write quickly or have a laptop to type your notes on. Study guides for the two midterms and the final are located under "Web Resources," which help a lot with studying for the exams. Also, the Lecture Reviews are really great and help with studying. The videos watched in Discussion were all really interesting, even though I'm not at all interested in monkeys. Cons: The tests for this class are not easy at all or even in the middle, and the grading can be quite harsh. I personally completed all of the readings, completed the study guides, read the lecture reviews, and took great notes, but I still didn't do well on any of the exams. Realistically, the assigned readings aren't required for the tests and most of the material is available if you answer the study guides, read the lecture reviews, and go over your class notes, but remember that all of those equal up to be a LOT of things to memorize. Also, "short answer" isn't really short - prepare to have "Explain more" if you just write a concise sentence. Overall, I'd suggest this to students that have a decent science background already, rather than someone that is maybe a Literature major. I learned a lot about a subject I never would have learned about in detail, so I'm glad I chose this subject, but I wish I had spent less time reading the material and more time creating flash cards to just memorize basic facts.

May 2011

Pretty interesting class if you're taking it because you want to, but I can see how it can be boring if you're just looking for an easy way to fulfill the science requirement. Dr. Cords is very knowledgeable, and the TA was fantastic. Her lectures are very clear and easy to understand, and she always encourages questions, but it's true she's not really all that engaging. The powerpoints are not available online. Instead, you get these lecture reviews that raise more questions than they answer. But if you go to class and take notes from the slides, you're fine. You do not need the textbook EVER. Discussion sections are always movies, so low-stress (could be interesting or boring, depending on your level of interest in the class). In general, this class is a fun way to learn about the lives of animals and fulfill the science requirement without too much stress!

May 2010

This class could have used some improvements...as a student who was really interested in the subject, I expected the class to be much more engaging. Class is basically powerpoint lectures that are generally very dull, and instead of absorbing the material, you spend most of your time frantically copying the powerpoint slide before Professor Cords moves on. Discussion sections were equally as boring, we just watched movies of monkeys every single week. I did learn a lot about primate behavior now that I look back on the class, and some of it was interesting now, but the class was generally boring and not engaging and felt like a waste of time when I was taking it. The readings are useless, I didn't do any of them and did fine on exams. The grading is a bit funny, especially for assignments (I felt like the grader was looking for very specific things in assignments and on exams). So overall, the course wasn't horrible, but it could have been a lot better.

Dec 2008

This course was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about primate behavior just by attending the once a week 2 hr seminars. I was very nervous about presenting for an hour, but Professor Cords helps out a lot with her insightful comments and questions. Professor Cords was very approachable and she always takes the extra step for her students. I loved this course and I recommend anyone interested in primate behavior to take this course!

Dec 2008

Professor Cords' class is a great way to fulfill the science requirement. She doesn't presume any prior knowledge of science and takes the time to explain everything fully. The subject matter is very interesting and gives a great introduction to behavioral biology in general, using our closest relatives as an example. If you pay attention in class and take notes, you'll do fine on the exams. She isn't out to get you as long as you know the material. Readings are not essential. Although she doesn't post the PowerPoints online, she does post very helpful "lecture reviews" that go over the important points from the lectures.

Apr 2007

Boring powerpoint lecture that is not made available to students. Annoying, but easy weekly quizzes. The class is simple, but there is much to memorize, and you need to be incredibly specific on exams. Don't waste money on the text, you will never need it. just take good notes, be able to answer all the questions on your review sheets and you will do well.

May 2005

Altogether, this class was insightful and gave me a different outlook on the complex ways in which non-human primates exist in this world. However, the best analogy I can give is this: Imagine cramming what seems like years worth of information into one semester and being expected to account for every bit of it on the exams. This professor is the strictest grader I've ever had at Columbia. This in the only class that I have ever gotten less than a B on any of the work, and trust me, I am not a slacker when it comes to studying. Yes, the reading is very reasonable, and the lectures are moderately interesting. Yet, the quizzes and the exams are completely harsh and she takes points off for every little bit of info that you may have left out in struggling to answer her questions in her words, word for word. She made a comment during the first class on the decrease in students who sign up for her course and blames it on the Frontiers of Science course that has recently been offered as an alternative option for satisfying the Science Requirement. Yet, I believe that the stringency of her grading and her harsh exam technique may have something to do with the sudden drop in registration. Alas, although this was an interesting course, the Frontiers of Science sounds like the better option. I've heard it's challenging as well, but it's worth 4 points, so the extra work may actually seem worth it.

May 2004

You can get a good idea about the class itself from the other reviews: decent lectures, if you like blue monkeys, all together not a horrible way to get through the science requirement, but go for Human Species if you want a really good course. The problem is that the E3B department is so diverse in terms of grad students that the TAs this semester study elephant genetics (no, I'm not kidding) and fungi or something like that. They know less about monkeys than I do, which is saying something. They tried to help, but when they're reading the stuff along with you, they can't answer any real questions, and are completely unhelpful. I talked to my friend who'd taken the class last year, and she was more helpful. Get a clue E3B: use undergrad TAs, or get a lot more grad students interested in monkey sex. You're doing a disservice to the students otherwise.

Jun 2003

A class where it is definitely possible to get an A if you put in a decent amount of time studying. The lectures are incredibly well organized, but not entirely necessary to go to since you can get pretty thorough class notes on her website. The tests require you to regurgitate information from the lectures. Don't stray too far or (gasp!) put it in your own words because you will probably be counted off. The TAs require very complete questions and love taking off because you neglected to include all possible answers. The readings are pretty worthless because there is usually only one or two questions over the readings on each test. I would recommend checking over your test both before turning it in and after the grades come back. The TAs screwed up calculating my total score on each of the three "midterms" (an error ranging from 3 to 11 points).

May 2003

All in all, I feel as though I learned a lot of information about primates in this class. Marina Cords' lectures were clear, structured, and informative. So were her lectures, although they ranged from interesting to somewhat painful, depending on the topic. Prof. Cords is a super-organized and dedicated teacher, but this is not an easy class because it requires a large amount of attention and memorization. In the long run though, if you are interested in physical anthropology (or even just really like monkeys) this is a rewarding course.

May 2002

Lectures range from the interesting to the insufferable, but are always impeccably organized. Website is useful, and also impeccably organized. She's nice and dedicated, but not inspiring. The final was a nightmare, but must have been greatly curved. Take this class as part of the Anthro sequence if you, like me, cannot add and do not care about electron shells.

May 2002

Oh my God, I have never seen a review so spot-on (and hilariously) accurate as that last one. Bravo. Only thing I disagree on is that the multiple choice is impossible. This is an EASY EASY class, much easier than the first half of the sequence. Study a bit and you're fine. The only challenge is sitting through the horribly boring lectures...and the awful readings...and the monkey porn...without wanting to kill yourself. Everything is on the web, though, so you really don't have to. One more thing to note...if you do decide to go to the lectures, prepare for Prof. Cords to be constantly interrupted by stupid and/or irrelevant and/or ass-clownish questions from lifelong-learner types. (listen, I totally respect the lifelong learner phenomenon, but anyone who would devote their lifelong-learning time and money to monkey sex is seriously ON CRACK.)

Apr 2002

For the love of humanity, run away as fast as you can from this course. I stopped my calc sequence (being one of those "humanities people") to take this. I have regretted it since the first lecture when she offered to define any "big words" or explain any numbers for humanities majors. And it just went down hill from there--lectures are just as dry as the Resource Defense Hypothesis sounds. Most of the time I play MASH in the back with my friends, only looking up to hear Professor Cords imitate one of her beloved blue guenons. Mercifully she posts her lectures online so lecture is not a must. But the discussion groups are, and don't even get me started on the monkey porn...

Apr 2002

This class is VERY worth taking if you want to fulfill your science requirement without doing bio or calc or something else icky to science-phobes. Prof. Cords seems to think her class is THE most difficult thing in the universe (she warns you on the first day, "this is not like the humanities departments. there's no grade inflation here. blah blah...") Of course there's no grade inflation; it's not necessary. The lectures are well organized (alternating between pretty interesting and unbearably boring). If you've taken the first class in the sequence (biological anthropology) and found it difficult, don't worry, b/c Prof Cord's class is much easier and even more interesting. Oh, yes, and the prof puts her notes on the internet for you, too.

Jan 2000

This monkey class is so awful. Be prepared to force feed 10 different theories of monkey sex (not as exciting as it sounds). Recitations are not useful and are required.

Jan 2000

Since 'Anthrop' does end in 'ology' this class can be used toward the science requirement. Though, it's not as easy as it sounds it is still a good choice for the calculator-impaired. The lectures are very well organized. In fact, this is one of those rare classes that doesn't degenerate into academic entropy during the last two weeks. And her primate impersonations are top-notch. The first few weeks are spent memorizing latin genus-species names, which can be tedious and makes for surprisingly hard quizzes. Attendance is taken at the discussion sections, but that's ok because they consist entirely of watching hard core monkey-porn. And the occasional review session. Her lecturing is unexciting but servicable and there's something about those videos that beckons. . .