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Grade distributions are collected using data from the UCLA Registrar’s Office.
Grade distributions are collected using data from the UCLA Registrar’s Office.
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TLDR: loved the class, would take it again, and it is WAY easier than any other chemistry class BUT the tests are unfair and there's no way to study for them since it's mostly on random stuff he mentions once (but its almost impossible to get anything below an A- so TAKE THIS CLASS!!!)
okay so here's the breakdown
Lab Projects: 20%
Independent Project: 10%
Class is curved so an A- is an 88%, B- is 75% etc.
One textbook called Stuff Matters, pretty easy to read midterm and final will have one or two random questions about the book
The lab projects are done in lab groups of 2 or 3 people and are basically just tik toks about what y'all did in lab that week then the independent project is the same thing but you pick the experiment you want to do. They're super fun and easy to bs.
Attendance is MANDATORY!! You have to attend 90% of lectures so basically you can miss 2, there is a sign in sheet that goes around the class but tbh there were a few times that I signed in then left and I was fine. I'm not gonna lie the lectures feel like they drag on and weren't always the most interesting but you learn about things that you encounter in day to day life so that was cool. Plus they were bruincasted but only audio! My favorite topics were nuclear weapons, drugs, and radiation!
THE TESTS: you're allowed to have a cheat sheet of a regular sized piece of paper, one side is for the midterm then the backside is for the final. The issue is that most of the questions on the reviews and practice tests (which are what I would put on my cheat sheet) were rarely questions on the actual test. I studied like crazy for the final and still got a D on it. BUT its so easy to get 100% in every other part of the class and the class is curved so even if you fail the tests you will still most likely get an A!!!
Alex is a great professor. His lectures are extremely interesting and lets you appreciate the application of chemistry in the real world on a qualitative scale. I truly believe that his class helped me understand the impacts of science in policy making and the most pressing environmental problems. The labs were pretty decent too, led fully by the TA you get to perform light experiments on the topic discussed in class and instead of doing a lab write up you make a TikTok documenting your work. Homework was extremely manageable: some mildly interesting reading and debunking fake science on TikTok. I will say that the tests were rather detailed so make sure to take accurate notes (he allows you to use a cheat sheet so those notes better be good). Overall Alex is very generous with his grading and is much more focused on you learning the material than making sure a certain grade distribution is followed. Would recommend anyone wanting to take a lab GE.
This class isn't easy. You definitely need to study a lot since the tests are based on things he says during lectures. There are some topics on the exam that were on the slides, but they did not frequently show up on exams. The midterm was pretty straightforward since he gave us some pretty helpful resources (review sheet and past midterm), but the final was much harder. I was lucky to get an A even after doing poorly on the final. Some of the questions seemed like they were rarely discussed during the lecture or not even discussed at all. That being said, I'm so relieved that the lectures were recorded. Without the lecture recordings, I would've suffered hard. However, I think that Alex does a good job of balancing everything in terms of grading and difficulty. For example, an A- is 88% in this class which is typically a B+ in other classes.
In terms of the content, this class was SUPER interesting. There's no math--you just learn about the material world and its significance in world issues. This isn't JUST a chemistry class. It talks about how the material world intersects with psychology, economics, history, etc. Alex also made lectures engaging and interactive by doing some cool experiments and making jokes along the way. He seems like a cool guy with interesting thoughts about the material world--he even gave us donuts and coffee during our final!
For lab, we did some pretty cool experiments and the lab reports weren't written reports. They were tik-toks we had to upload every week instead! My TA Zaira was super helpful during lab when we needed help or clarification. It was her first year as a TA, and she did very well.
Also, there was one book we had to read for this class called Stuff Matters. I found it to be an overall interesting book. As a psych major, I can say I learned something useful in this class. I would definitely recommend it to other psych majors looking to fulfill their physical science GE and pre-major requirement over Chem 17 (more difficult I heard and only fulfills your pre-major requirement) and Physics 10. If you're a psych major, ask your counselor about this class!
Professor Spokoyny makes chemistry really interesting. His lectures are often engaging and at the end of each one he gives a memorable demonstration that really locks in the material taught. The lectures are two hours, so they can be hard to stay focussed in, especially since they are just slides. It is vital that you pay attention and take notes. All of the tests are based on things he says in class, not on the slides. This makes it difficult to study if you have missed a significant amount of lectures. Overall great GE.
I believe Alex is a phenomenal teacher who wants to help impart his passion for the course content onto the students, but I don't believe he was effective in doing that. Despite the fact that he does cool experiments during class and puts effort into making the content digestible, lot of people I talked to in the course were not that engaged in the material. I think it is due to the fact that the course was too lecture-heavy and there was not enough room for discussion to unpack these topics. It was their first year doing a lab for this course and it was way less interesting than the lectures. I wish that Alex could be a little bit more interactive with the students and share a dialogue with the students, rather than just default to his scripted lecture jokes. His prefernce for select subject matters and bias on science's relationship with market capitalism is also a hindrance on direct learning of the material world. The class should be more aptly named, "Alex's Thoughts on the Material World." That being said, he is always open to a chat during Office Hours and is in general a pretty relaxed guy. It's really fun as a humanities major to actually learn science in a 1 on 1 conversation from someone who is so heavily involved in the science world (he runs a lab developing neutron-based cancer treatments and therapies). It's not a bad class in the slightest, you will learn a lot from it, and you won't have to worry too much about your grade, but I was let-down given all the hype that is on this BruinWalk page. Shout-out to the TA, Qiao Qiao Wang, she's really chill and has good energy.
One of my favorite classes I have ever taken. The information you learn in this class is useful no matter which major you are. It is not difficult to understand and it changes the way you view the world. If you are at all interested in product design, economics, or anything to do with materials, this class is perfect. I cannot recommend this more as an easy GE that is interesting.
Probably one of the most unique classes I took at UCLA as an Econ major. I loved Prof. Alex's teaching style - he's a super chill guy, very funny, made use of cool demonstrations and media to supplement the material, and the book for the class was an interesting read. His slides don't have that much writing on them, but as long as you attend class you should be fine, the exams are easy and he clearly emphasizes what to focus on for the exams, as well as reviewing the previous lecture's main points at the start of the next class. He also brought in a guest lecturer who was an expert in his field (Explosives) for a very engaging lecture.
I really enjoyed taking this course with Alex! Alex is an engaging lecturer and the course is super relatable to our everyday life! Also, the cheatsheet makes exams easy - memorization is not required.
Since enrolling in this course as a freshman in Fall Quarter, it's still one of my favorite classes I've taken to date.
In terms of workload, there is not much required work outside of class -- we had one midterm, one final, a Wikipedia project, and an outside reading (not a textbook, though it was said the final would test some knowledge from the book). I found the book, Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik, to be very interesting and digestible for people of all majors; I've even recommended it to a couple of friends. The Wikipedia project was a group assignment, where you researched a prominent scientist who didn't have a Wikipedia page yet and wrote/designed one for them. For instance, our assigned scientist, Tehshik Yoon, is still active in his research and has a life story and accomplishments that would only be found on UW-Madison and publication websites without Wikipedia.
Professor Spokoyny (prefers to be called Alex) allowed us full-page cheat sheets for both the midterm and the final. Thus, even though the class covers a wide variety of topics and examples that may be hard to recall in full, the cheat sheets can be used as a reference to jog one's memory. The material itself (pun unintended) is very understandable, and Alex presents it in an engaging way when he lectures (full disclosure: I am a STEM major, though I hadn't taken any classes at UCLA yet). He uses a lot of real-world examples, often delving into historical events and analyzing society as a whole in order to convey a concept. We also had some cool demos in class every week that we could play around with. I remember his tests being very doable if one pays attention in lecture (attendance counts, by the way) and the averages being quite high. He's more invested in making sure you understand the course material than in making the tests difficult.
Lastly, Alex and his TA were very open to helping the students and spending extra time with us to make sure we understood the material and were on track with our assignment. The office hours setting was very casual, and you could ask about anything you wanted to, really. This class is smaller than many GE's; when I took it there were around 30 students. It made it much easier to interact with the professor and TA, to ask questions, and to be engaged during lecture.
Overall, I think this is a great class to consider if you have extra units to fulfill or need a physical science GE. It's very laid-back, but you do need to pay attention in lectures and do some practice problems to exceed on the tests. The material is delivered so that it's understandable for students of all majors, and the professor is very open to helping you through it. I'd say the topics were pretty engaging, ranging from empty space to food storage methods to colors. If you get the chance to, I'd say take it!
This was one of my favorite classes at UCLA. Professor Spokoyny (Prefers to be called Alex) was super nice and extremely knowledgeable. The class material itself was very interesting and very important to know. There was one midterm, one final, and a twitter assignment. Class is fairly easy if you pay attention. He even prints out the slides for you! Attendance is also taken so make sure to go to class. I would highly recommend this class!