As promised! I thought I’d share my views about the courses I took this past term and the professors I had. I’ll review each course and its professor separately, since I found that even though the two are related, there are also distinct qualities that define a course, or a professor. Here I go!
BIOL 200 – Fundamentals of Cell Biology
This is a tough course. The material itself is pretty straightforward, but the exams test application of knowledge, and data analysis, which is quite difficult. Buying the textbook was optional, since there were online notes provided. After some indecisiveness, I used the textbook (since I got it free) and did pre-readings instead of the reading the online notes. We were supposed to choose one and supplement our knowledge with the other. I made the mistake of forgetting that the online notes existed, until the very end. I would advise, if you’re reading the textbook, that you always browse the online notes, since there are some details that are not in the textbook. Would I only read the online notes? Not necessarily – the textbook is quite clear, and the online notes can be confusing to use. On the other hand, it would be easy to make notes specifically for the learning objectives if you read the online notes. I don’t know which is better, but I think it’s easier to supplement the textbook with the online notes, than the other way around. For practice, there were online questions for every section, but there were annoyingly no answers provided, so I was never inclined to do them.
Prof: Robin Young
Awesome prof! She really loves cell biology, and knows her stuff really well. She mostly uploaded the slides the night before the class. She would always ask us to tell her about what we learned in the previous class, and encouraged us to think of exam-type questions. I really admired how she persevered to keep us interested even though everyone was half-asleep for the 3:30-5pm class.
CHEM 233 – Organic Chemistry for the Biological Sciences
This is a tough course. It is almost as nightmarish as everyone claims it to be. I LOVED organic chemistry before this course, and I came out of it nearly hating O-chem. I think 2 aspects were hard: 1) The number of different mechanisms and their conditions that you need to know, and 2) Having a lousy prof (see below). When you are doing this course though, make sure you buy the Sapling access code and do the exercises. The system isn’t the most user-friendly, but the assignments are worth the same as a midterm, and it really helps boost your mark. Also, make cue cards for the mechanisms/conditions of reactions. I debated the whole term about the practicality of these, and never made them until the week before the exam. It helped A LOT. The textbook we had was amazing, so if you have the Klein textbook, use it! Other than that, try to be in a good prof’s class 🙂 As for the exams, time was an issue for both midterms. The first midterm went horribly because we didn’t expect such a long exam. You need to know your stuff REALLY well.
Prof: Steve Withers
I usually like to sugar-coat things and sound polite, but I’m going to be blunt about this one: Horrible Professor. I didn’t find his lectures helpful; more often than not, I would be more confused than if I had just self-taught myself the material from the textbook. He would say something and write something else, and usually confuse not only us, but also himself. He’s fluent in the material, but can’t communicate it effectively. The majority of his power point slides had mechanism diagrams copied from the textbook and he would upload his slides in pdf format, with the slides super teeny-tiny. The result: mechanisms that were too tiny to read. Overall, I would recommend avoiding his class for CHEM 233.
CHEM 235 – Organic Chemistry Laboratory
You’ll probably only take this course if you need to, along with CHEM 233. But don’t worry, it’s a really easy lab. The setup was such that we didn’t have to do any post-lab write-ups until our 7th lab experiment. The experiments themselves were pretty cool, and I really liked how I could actually troubleshoot problems and confidently make my own decisions by the end. Aside from the course itself, having a really good TA makes or breaks this lab.
CHEM 211 – Analytical Chemistry
Decent course. I think the only reason you would do this course would be if you are in chemistry, or majoring in Physiology or Pharmocology. The material wasn’t too intense, but I didn’t do fantastically on the exams. I should have paid more attention to the learning objectives, and made summary notes of the lecture notes. I think I also would have done better if I had really understood the concepts, rather than memorizing how to do different kinds of questions. Make sure you always do the problem sets and practice exams (you’ll never be able to complain about a lack of practice questions, that’s for sure).
Horrendous lab! The labs were hard to understand and post-lab write-ups would take hours. Luckily I was fluent in using Excel, or it would have taken even longer. I had a horrible TA, which I think contributed some to the lab experience. The lab director himself (Dr. Stoodley) is really nice though, so if you ever have a problem with your mark, you should go talk to him.
Prof: Anka Lekhi
Another awesome prof! I was a little worried when I found out she was teaching, because I hadn’t liked her for CHEM 121 at all. Completely opposite to my expectations, she turned out to be a great prof for 2nd year chemistry. Her lecture notes were really thorough, and she went through lots of examples in class. She empathized that everyone hated attending class at 8 a.m. and would always try to get us to give her our answers to the examples even though she knew no one would answer. Despite little quirks (which every prof has), I was very impressed with this course, prof-wise.
STAT 200 – Elementary Statistics for Applications
A really easy course. I don’t know why someone would take this course unless it’s a requirement for their degree, but I do know that it won’t be too large a burden to take on. My prof recommended that we buy the textbook, even though he had his own lecture notes (see below). I did buy the textbook (and used it!), and I was glad I did. My prof’s lectures were a regurgitation of his lecture notes, so it was good to have my textbook as an alternate reference. On the flip side, the lecture notes were helpful if the textbook was confusing. There were 4 homework assignments, which were relatively easy. Labs were every week – a pain to go to, but a really easy part of the course. As for the exams, the midterms was section-specific, but the final was common for all sections.
Prof: Lang Wu
Good prof. He loves statistics, and even though he is very knowledgeable, he recognizes that this is a beginner’s stats course, and makes everything super easy and babyish. He had his own lecture notes, which turned out to be identical to what he teaches in class. He was a little hard to understand and he would spend half the class reviewing what we learnt in the previous class, but we got through all the material and had time to review before the midterm and the final. He would make summary notes for us for the review sessions, which helped to consolidate and organize all the material. Overall, he’s a good prof and also a friendly person to ask questions to about the course material.
PSYC 314 – Health Psychology
This is a hard course. I registered in it hoping for a GPA booster, but ended up with the complete opposite. I think there are 2 reasons why the course was so hard. Firstly, I found the material really boring and common sense. We learnt about health behaviours, social support, death and dying, and patients in a health care setting. I found it trivial to learn that exercise is good and smoking is harmful and that people are less stressed if they have more social support. Secondly, because I found the material so boring, I couldn’t push myself to read 40-page chapters about it. And you would expect that the exams would be easy, right? Wrong. If you didn’t remember details from the textbook or lecture notes and only relied on common sense, you wouldn’t do very well. I wouldn’t recommend taking this course as an elective/GPA booster.
Prof: Christiane Hoppmann
I didn’t really like this prof. She really loves health psychology and always had cool videos and example case studies to share, but there was something about her that didn’t make lectures satisfying. What that something is, I still haven’t figured out. She definitely isn’t the best public speaker (stutters a lot) and can get very opinionated about topics which she can relate to, since she has two children of her own. Also, I didn’t like how she wouldn’t connect the course material to specific sections of the textbook. It wasn’t too difficult to find the appropriate chapters, but I always felt like the lectures and the textbook were 2 separate entities. At first I thought this is how 3rd year courses are, but I don’t think this is entirely possible.
Note: The above reviews are only my opinions; in no way did I intend to be rude or offend anyone.