Fall 2015 - LS 1 with Alfaro, Lloyd-Smith and Yeh is a really great class. It's easy if you want it to be. It's very interesting if you're willing to make an effort. The labs are not too great, but I guess that depends on your TA. The class was really easy for me and I got an A. Other people tell me that the class was really hard for them but they're the types of people who shop online during lecture. Go to lecture. There's in-class participation that counts towards your grade, plus they're super interesting. You don't really need to do the readings, but they're interesting. Alfaro is the only one who asks questions based on the readings in tests, the other two professors do not. That being said, Alfaro's section was probably the hardest, and it wasn't even that hard. Bottom line: If you like science and you're at least slightly competent, take this class. It's great. I've got the textbook and the mini textbook thing for Lloyd-smith's section. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need them.
Alfaro taught the macroevolution part of my LS1 class. He's very fair, very concerned about student understanding and their perception of the fairness of the class (he throws out quiz questions that he thinks might have been too difficult, and puts funny extra credit questions on the exam). He wasn't a very interesting lecturer but he tried to be good, and honestly not very many professors do. He holds extra office hours before exams, and tries to learn as many names as he can. So take Alfaro,and go to his office hours.
COURSE TAKEN: LS 1 Fall 2015 Grading Scheme: *Midterm 1 - 200 points *Midterm 2 - 200 points *Final - 200 points Demonstrations - 180 points Participation - 120 points Total - 900 points *The better grade, either Midterm 1 or the section on the final, or Midterm 2 or the section on the final, will be the score that is counted Professor Alfaro: Alfaro isn't really that effective of a professor. His voice can be annoying and he tries to be funny, and he doesn't really go over concepts well. A lot of lecture time was spent on in-class participation, which weren't that helpful and would've better be spent going over concepts more in-depthly. His lecture slides were very disorganized. He would upload them before lecture and he'd never finish all of the slides he was hoping to cover. I recommend just paying attention in class and filling in the blanks with what he says. TA Jeffrey Lee: He's pretty nice and a bit awkward, but a cool TA. Demos were kind of pointless, but he made them not totally horrible. In regards to his effectiveness in helping teach class concepts, I'm not sure, but he made demo concepts clear enough. Midterm 1 Grade: 159/200 | 29/35 The first midterm took everybody by surprise. It is comprised of 50 multiple choice questions. He put very tricky questions on the midterm and I felt like he didn't prepare us well enough to do well on it. However, I did a little better on his portion of the final, which was 35 multiple choice questions, so that replaced my midterm score. I was a little pissed to find that he used a lot of the same questions he gave on the midterm. So I recommend going to your TA after midterm grades are up to go over the answer key. Midterm 2 Grade: 192/192 | 0/33 I was really confident going into the second midterm, I was very sure of almost all of my answers and left knowing I did nearly perfect. Lloyd-Smith is a really great professor and he prepared us well to take his midterm. He is also really fair with grading as he took out some questions some students said were confusingly worded. I didn't bother looking at his section on the final, 35 multiple choice again, since I got a 100% on the midterm. But I heard from a friend that the questions were harder. I recommend just paying good attention in lecture and writing good notes. In studying, I found that I understood the concepts well enough through lecture that I didn't need to go over them too much later on. Final Grade: 42/50 Yeh is very soft-spoken, so I recommend sitting closer to the front, though she tries her best to keep the microphone loud enough. The final was 50 multiple choice questions, but there was no way to replace this score, so you only got one shot. Yen's lectures were a bit boring, as she's a bit monotone and goes quite slow, but the content was easier to grasp I feel. The questions on the final were fair I think. Demonstrations Grade: 193/200 In demo you'd have in-class assignments to be turned in at the end of the class, and then take-home assignments, which include worksheets, short papers, etcetera. They were all a little bs, but they're easy to do. You may get knocked off a few points for small things, but overall, they're fine. Participation Grade: 42/43 There were five participations each section, so fifteen total, and you were allowed to miss two of them. Alfaro had all in-class ones, Lloyd-Smith and Yeh both had a mix. The latter two were better with keeping in-class participations shorter. But their outside participations were longer than the in-class ones, especially Lloyd-Smith's, which was a bit annoying. But they're not graded intensely, so as long as you do them basically, you'll get credit. There was also a participation grade for demos, but I barely participated, if at all, and I only got one less point. Overall Grade: A- Overall I think this is a decent crop of professors to take LS 1 with, if only for Lloyd-Smith. The course material isn't too difficult, and the exams were kind of stupid but doable. I was expecting an A, but I guess I'll be content with an A-.
Winter 2018 - This class involved coding with R, which is challenging for some. The TA also had a hands off approach where by the end of the quarter he would barely answer questions so you would have to figure out the code on your own. It was frustrating at times but it worked pretty well. You basically get full credit for doing the labs regardless how well they are, as long as you put in effort. The class itself was intermediate to me. I thought I wasn't doing too well the whole time but I ended up getting an A which surprised me. This was probably because the class itself is confusing and the coding is challenging, but the tests are pretty straightforward and they dont grade hard. Also Prof Alfaro tries to make his class fun and he's pretty chill. It felt like a graduate class to me (there were grad students taking it too, so I would recommend the class if you want to learn coding and macroevolution, but be ready to put in work and submit a 2 page lab report once a week.
Winter 2020 - The professor is not very helpful and honestly I feel like the TA was a lot more helpful and more clearly prepared for class. This is also the second time I take a class with this professor and I receive a no record on my transcript, surely that must signify something about a professors concern for their students or lack thereof. Overall the class is interesting so it receives my approval in that aspect.
Since this class is about practical computing, you'll need to have a laptop that you can bring to class every lecture. Laptops will not be provided for you, so don't take this class if you don't have one. Professor Alfaro uses a Macbook Pro, so if you're using a Windows laptop, you'll have a bit more trouble trying to follow what he's teaching. You'll also have to figure out the equivalent programs to the ones he uses on your own sometimes. I'm technologically illiterate, so I did not have a fun time with this class, but some people in my class were like that too, so I didn't feel too left out. The class met twice a week with no discussion, so it wasn't too time intensive with regards to class length. The professor went over the material in lecture very, very quickly, and I ended up getting lost so many times. He would often type out a command, and as I tried to copy down what he had just typed, he pressed enter, the output would push the command up, beyond view, and he wouldn't scroll back up. Because of this, I had a lot of difficulty trying to take good notes during class. He would provide the lecture slides on the class website, which didn't include everything he went over in lecture. Unfortunately, they were very elementary and often did not include some commands vital for the homework. A lot of the time, I'd end up getting stuck trying to carry out a command because I never would have gathered from the lecture slides that the problem with the command I was using was the lack of a \ or a ~. If you're an undergraduate taking this class, the best thing for you to do is make some friends that can discuss the homework with you (though some may be equally clueless), especially with the graduate students, many of whom already have some background in computing and are required to submit a more detailed final project than the ones the undergraduates submit. As a pointer, Daniweb and the Python SubReddit (reddit.com/r/Python) were really helpful to me for some homework and the final project, since I still didn't know how to use many functions. These sites are good resources if you're stuck on the homework. I ended up with an A for the class, but I have absolutely no idea how I got it. Perhaps that was because I turned in all the assignments on time and followed the instructions he gave and because I was able to submit a passable final project. Whether my conjecture is true or not, I don't know, because he only graded 2 assignments out of the many we had and seemingly arbitrarily gave us a final grade at the end of the quarter. I wouldn't say I had a great experience with this class, because I spent most of the quarter stressing about the uncertainty of what my grade was and my lack of knowledge of the subject. However, I know more about basic Python than I did when I came into that class, so if you're looking for a 4 credit EEB class that can fit your schedule in which you're trying to learn some very basic computing, this is it.