General Chemistry for Life Scientists I
Spring 2020 - FOR CHEM14AE SPRING 2020: From the pandemic to the recent tension affecting our lives and communities, this quarter has been particularly challenging for all of us. While many professors have adjusted their courses and attitudes to fit the obstacles many students are currently facing, few have been as kind and accommodating as Dr. Casey. There is no other class that students are taking in which the instructional team rejoices in class memes, offers office hours on the weekend, struggles with balloons for our education’s sake and understands, uplifts and encourages all of us to succeed. When I look back on how much we’ve learned over the past quarter, we have done an exceptional amount of learning thanks to the dedication of the instructional team. It is sometimes easy to forget, but at the bare core, professors and TAs do not have a specific obligation to care deeply about student wellbeing or pay an extraordinary amount of detail in creating intentional and meaningful coursework, especially for an online pilot class during a turbulent time in our society! However, Dr. Casey and the TAs/LAs have gone above and beyond in purposefully and passionately fulfilling those additional duties this quarter, all while cultivating a positive environment during class. Dr. Casey mentioned some time during the quarter that in the best case scenario, she hoped that all of us would end the class thinking chemistry is fun. Well, after Chem14AE with her, I’m glad to say that chemistry is fun (most of the time)! Although I personally really like the quarter system, this is one of the few times I actually wish we were on the semester system. This class has been my favorite class I have taken at UCLA so far, and I’m actually sad that it is coming to an end so soon. I’ll miss reading everyone’s responses to the opening question, writing sassy responses on the lab worksheets with my team and feeling just a little more happiness in the world when Dr. Casey’s face lights up in fascination from chiweenies, carrots and random chemistry facts. It even gave me the final push to switch my major to something chem-related. What happens in this course truly is the best of UCLA, and why I love going to this school so much. I recommend everyone take this class with her. During a normal quarter, the grade breakdown may be as follows (could change in the future): Surveys 5 points (1%) Homework 50 points (10%) Clicker Questions 40 points (8%) <--you have more than enough opportunities to earn these 40 points Pre-Discussion Quizlet 45 points (9%) <--lowest one is dropped Learn Before Lecture 45 points (9%) <--lowest one is dropped Discussion Worksheets 90 points (18%) <--was made out of 80 points this quarter, there were nine worksheets worth 90 points, you can miss up to 10 points to still get full credit, collaborative with lab group+LA, includes reflections Calibrated Peer Review 30 points (6%) <--was replaced with a group essay this quarter, not too bad, 500-600 words! Quizzes 45 points (9%) <--solitary, timed, closed book/note, lowest quiz is dropped Midterm 50 points (10%) <--collaborative with lab group, open book/note, timed Final Exam 100 points (20%) <--was replaced with a cumulative discussion worksheet this quarter due to academic senate, collaborative with the lab group and class, open book/note, not timed Total 500 points (There are extra credit opportunities provided as well.) This class heavily relies on group work. You'll come to love it and your team. During discussion sections, LAs are placed with teams of four to guide you through the worksheets. This class can be challenging at times if you do not have a strong chemistry foundation, but there is a huge support system and is extremely rewarding. This class covers way more material than the regular Chem14 series but will prepare you for later courses in the series. However, you won't be spending endless hours on weekly assignments, all of which are extremely useful for coming to lecture prepared and doing well in the class. There are less weekly homework assignments than a typical science class because there is an additional hour added to discussions, which might seem terrible on the surface, but you'd rather suffer through the material with help from peers, LAs, TAs and the professor than by yourself late at night. Everything is very intentional and meaningful in this class. You MUST attend lecture. Classes are not recorded. However, you will enjoy coming to class. It's actually fun (even though we were online)! The instructional team does EVERYTHING in its power to try to help you succeed. Don't cut yourself short by not taking advantage of the resources (office hours, study lounges, LA workshops, videos, piazza discussion forum, etc.) they provide. I wish I would have known how amazing this class was going to be (I had zero clue going in), so I could have savored every moment. Good luck!
Fall 2020 - I took this class fall quarter of my freshman year which was online due to covid and I'm currently in 14B with Lavelle. Even though there are already a lot of reviews for Lavelle and this class, I'm gonna try to make this as unbiased as I can. For context: I've taken honors and AP chemistry in high school so going into this class I was already pretty well versed on general chemistry but I'm gonna try to write this with consideration of those who have little to no background in chemistry. Pros: -Lavelle is one of the most caring and compassionate professors I've had so far and I think it's so evident even if you dont like him for other reasons you cant deny that this man truly cares about his students and wants them to succeed. Every email he sends is so heartwarming and filled with smiley faces. He is constantly encouraging students and assisting them on chemistry community in any way that he can. He even filmed all the lectures in the normal lecture hall to give us the sense that we were on campus which was a small effort but one that I think a lot of people appreciated. He also plays music at the beginning of every lecture and jams out. 10/10 Very wholesome. And he gave a lot of bonus points both in 14A and 14B (bonus questions on the midterm and an extra 10 points on the 14A final just to be kind even though he didnt have to because the average was already pretty high) -Sooooo many resources provided by Lavelle. Basically any time of the day you want to get help you can attend an Undergraduate Assistant or TA office hours on zoom for help. Or you can ask on Chemistry Community and your question will be answered by another student relatively quickly. Cons: -The main con I would say is that Lavelle isnt the best lecturer. You can tell that he is very enthusiastic about what he teaches but his delivery isn't the most student friendly in the sense that he doesn't convey information the most clearly. I can say this with confidence because I'll often think back to how I learned it in high school from my AP chem teacher and see that he couldve explained it much better/clearer if he had simply done in so-and-so way instead. He's definitely not the worst lecturer but there have been times where I was confused on what he was saying even though I've learned it before. -He always goes way over time in (virtual/recorded) lectures. Almost every lecture will be around 55 min and at least once or twice a week (out of 3 total lectures per week) they will be over an hour long. I think theyve only been under 50 minutes a few times total each quarter. This is annoying when you consider the fact that the lectures would probably be a lot shorter if they were more concise and straight to the point. -Lack of examples in lectures is another annoying con. I feel like most students learn better by doing and seeing the concepts being applied/in action. Instead we have to do all that by ourselves in the homework and textbook problems which is annoying because for people with little to no chemistry background those problems can seem insanely difficult/confusing to do on your own the first time. When we learned electrochemistry, he barely taught us how to balance redox reactions but then all the homework problems were way more difficult and complex and required concepts he never even mentioned before in class. If I didn't have my notes from AP chemistry then I would not have been able to do them and I feel bad for the students who had to figure it out on their own because of this. Other notes: -The sapling homework and textbook assignments are very reflective of the exam difficulty. The midterms and exams are completely fair and not tricky at all. People just love to exaggerate in the GroupMe and say they are hard but truthfully, they are not. The averages are always 80% or above. TIP: do the textbook problems 2-3 days before the exam because you can always count on seeing AT LEAST one question copied word for word from the textbook. On one midterm prof explicitly stated that 30% of the midterm questions would be from the textbook. -If you've taken AP chemistry in high school and didn't suck at it, you will be totally fine in this class. Itll be mainly review of AP chem. Just put in the time and effort and you will get an A. Near the end of 14A I slacked off a little to focus on my other classes and as a result I scored a little lower than normal on the final but that was expected and all my mistakes were silly ones that I could've corrected if I had just put in a little more time. The point: if you stay on top of things you'll be set. -If you've never taken any chemistry before or only have taken a low level chemistry class in high school, honestly you're probably gonna struggle a little. There were people in my class who have never taken any chemistry before so you definitely wont be the only one but it wont be easy. If I took this class with Lavelle without any background in chem I probably wouldnt have gotten an A. Even though he starts off each new unit with "review" before moving onto the newer concepts, it still doesnt really make up for having previous chemistry knowledge. There are some things that he will simply assume you already know like molarity, how to do dimensional analysis/converting between units, what the numbers on the periodic table mean, basic polyatomics, and much more. That being said I don't know if other "better" professors will go over these things either since they are considered so fundamental to chemistry. -DONT overlook the conceptual concepts in each unit. Even though most of the homework and textbook problems are calculation problems (depending on how math-y the unit was) the exam always has a good amount of conceptual questions which generally shouldnt be an issue if you have a good understanding of the concepts we learn and understand WHY something is happening.
Summer 2020 - I loved Professor Prado. I had her Chem 14A SIS class. She is a clear lecturer, and the textbook she uses is clear and useful. She's the only professor I've had that reaches out to the students before the beginning of the quarter to see if they need any particular accommodations. Overall, the class was great and I recommend Professor Prado if you can get her.
Spring 2020 - One only takes his class because it is a major requirement. If you come in with a prior foundation of chemistry, with work you can get an A in this class. However, the reason I write such a negative review for him is because he is a terrible professor. His lectures are extremely disorganized, and incredibly hard to follow. He is terrible at communicating. He tells you in his syllabus not to send him emails and to ask questions on the discussion forum. But, here is the thing he doesn't respond to them. Even when you ask him about essential things like the timing of the exam or a confusion with gradescope, he replies so rudely. His syllabus and lectures is unclear and full of typos. He simply doesn't care about you. He is very uppish and highly unprofessional. Serious action needs to be taken against professors like him.