Professor Merchant is one of the most approachable professors I have encountered at UCLA. Her tests were challenging in that some of the questions expected you to "apply" concepts learned, and even to formulate logical answers to material not necessarily covered during class. She is a very nice lady, always willing to help during office hours. She really takes interest in the students and gives immense hope for a high grade in the course. Even after a midterm with a low score, she motivates you to study by saying, "You can still get your A". I wish other professors would do that as well. Those who do well in her class obviously put in the time and really deserve the grade. The course is not an easy A, but it is not impossibly difficult either.
This was without a doubt one of my favorite classes at UCLA. It was a pretty small class(only 20 students), so it was nice to get to know the professor and the other students. Dr. Merchant is really nice and approachable, and she's always willing to help with the journal articles. This class is all about learning how to read, dissect, and present a journal article. Although it is quite a lot of work(3 assignments, 2 midterms, and 3 presentations), I felt that what I gained from this class was well worth it. It really taught me many useful skills(reading journal articles and searching databases) and it was a nice break from the huge 100+ lectures that biochem majors are used to. I took this class with 2 other biochem classes (154 and 156) and an elective and, though the workload was overwhelming at times, I felt that the things I learned from 161 really helped me with my other classes(especially the research for the lab reports for 154). That being said, I know that some people in the class struggled. It is not the easiest class and the exams can be pretty tough(you basically have to answer questions about a journal article). Reading the assigned journal articles helps a lot. If you don't understand something, you can always go to office hours. Dr. Merchant is really great at explaining the concepts and helping you to understand the articles. If you want a super easy upper-div. biochem class where you don't have to attend lectures, this is not the right class for you; however, if you want a smaller upper-div class where you get to know the professor and your fellow classmates and learn a lot of valuable skills, take this class. I HIGHLY recommend it! Again, it's quite a bit of work, but it's not impossibly hard to get an A. Professor Merchant is AWESOME! It was at 9 AM, and she was able to get coffee and food for us. :)