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EDIT: This review became the #1 review of all time of Prof. Nakamoto within just a few hours of it being posted, really makes you think...
I'm just going to post my instructor feedback as my review below:
Never before in my entire four years of college and year of COVID online learning have I encountered such an incompetently designed course, led by TAs and an instructor who could absolutely not care less about their students' well-being and/or actual learning of the material...
I hope there is some internal mechanism by which this class can be audited and investigated by the administration, otherwise I have thoroughly lost all faith in UCLA as an institution of learning.
Prof. Nakamoto, you need to stop giving your TAs so much power in this class and be more involved yourself. Ryan is very clearly narcissistic and has mental problems which he projects onto his students, I genuinely never thought school or a class could give somebody post traumatic stress until I experienced this class. He needs to be fired, and he's lucky nobody has sued him yet for emotional distress, there are genuinely many people who wish horrible things upon him for the way he treats people. Rebekah is nicer but is just patently bad at what she does. Victor is the only good educator out of the lot of you, but his hands are tied because of how bad this course was designed.
Any inkling of criticism brought up about the course design was shot down and spit on. This happened early on in the course and led to everybody being literally afraid of the instructor and TAs and put everyone in survival mode. This should be considered absolutely unacceptable.
Genuinely, what makes you think the way you run journal club is any good whatsoever? I can honestly tell you not a single person understood anywhere near what you intended from it. The GLAD worksheets were genuinely good and helpful, and you literally stopped doing them after week 2. Throw out journal club as a whole and just do GLADs the whole quarter and people will ACTUALLY LEARN.
The way we had to take our midterms was disgusting. We had to write out our answers on paper, and keep a webcam pointed down at our hands to prove we weren't cheating. On top of that, the questions for the exam were on our screens, so if we had a laptop (which is most of us), we had to keep awkwardly bending down and looking up at our screen, which was pointed down at our hands. Way to show lack of trust in your students to the point where you put everybody in an uncomfortable position. None of my other classes during the pandemic made us do anything as stupid as that.
Midterm 1 was fine, but the way you handled midterm 2 is honestly disgusting. You didn't say a peep about the material that would be on it other than "study journal club 2", great, so if journal club was bad we all just get double penalized on the exam for not knowing it. There was no "second chance" to learn it because the TAs literally didn't care to help us, not to mention we DIDN'T GET OUR GRADES BACK YET.
On the topic of grading: What the heck makes you think it's okay to just not give us back all but 2 assignments by the end of week 9? OH OKAY SO "we're very busy running this class" well then stop wasting everybody's time doing stupid things like grading journal club presentations and do actually useful things with your time please.
I understand that you need to have the two papers, but the lab time usage is such a waste right now. These stupid 5-minute one on one sessions are an absolute waste of time. We aren't allowed to have more than an outline (Ryan literally refused to comment on my work if it was more developed than he cared to read) so all the feedback we get is just generic. We'd be better off getting more detailed explanations of the lab itself.
I honestly doubt anything will happen with this, because this school suffers from being bogged down by bureaucracy. But I had to put this in here to give it a shot.
All-in-all, this class was an absolute dumpster fire and I hope everybody responsible faces serious repercussions because none of this was okay in any way, shape, or form.
To whoever is reading this:
-If you are either the professor or one of the TAs, you are probably thinking "this kid is just mad that he's not doing well, this class is perfect, its a rite of passage, I took this myself and did it- blah blah blah." If you are thinking this, I want you to know that you lack all form of critical thinking and self-reflection skills and I hope you are not/don't go into science.
-If you are somebody who has the power to investigate what might be going on, PLEASE do so. This course needs to be rebuilt from the ground-up for COVID, the way it's being run now is horrendous and causes anybody who takes it to 1. Regret literally every life choice that led them to this point and 2. Not learn a damn thing because they have more cortisol in their blood and PVCs/day than they are comfortable being aware of. I've only ever gotten one B in my academic career until now and will be lucky if I pass this class. I'm telling you, if you interview some of the students for more details, you will be absolutely shocked and disgusted with what you find.
-Stacie, nobody needed a "social hour" because we were plenty social with each other sharing how much we despised this class.
-Yes, I am in therapy, partially because of this class...
If I knew a class like this is required for a Biochemistry degree, I would have changed my major in the first place. Here are 7 reasons why CHEM 154 taught by Nakamoto is absolute rubbish (not necessarily difficult):
1. No Resource/No Back-up: When you take this class you have nothing to refer to. There are no supplementary textbooks or notes. Lectures are not Bruincasted either. Nakamoto has a 50-minute office hour per week which she rather spends talking sh!! about MCAT than her own material. Lecture slides are in a 13$ course-reader and are not legible at all. Lab protocols are useless and outdated as TAs will change it significantly.
2. Grading: She will screw you. She tells you it's ok to miss a lab or two due to interviews or exam conflicts but you are a fool to believe it.
3. Lab Reports: Nothing makes sense about this. I ended up with less than 50% on some of them while I never had lower than 85% on any report from CHEM 153L. Yes; I read the instructions carefully. Yes; I went to TA OHs, and yes; I spent a crazy amount of time drafting texts and figures.
4. Lectures: Let me draw your attention to the lecture when the first lab report was due (11:00 - 11:50 AM). She did not start talking until 11:07. Then she played a music video on PCR from Youtube until 11:12. Then she spent a good 5 minutes asking people seating at the 2 back rows to move to the front of a fully-packed lecture hall. Only then, she decided to talk about primer design which none of my friends and I understood. She ended the class 6 minutes early at 11:44.
5. TAs are just as bad. I know a poor girl who had to file a motion against her TA due to unfair treatment. My advice: stay away from Rebeka.
6. Journal Clubs: Believe it or not Nakamoto, your class is not the only place where students read papers and articles, but you made it the most painful one. Plus, why not stick to cooking? I'm sure can start a decent business with that.
7. The Only Option: I wish I could say stay away and don't take this class or take it with someone else but I know you are graduating and I'M SO SORRY FOR YOU to have to go through this.
This class is ass. Nakamoto refuses to update the lab manual and has the TAs write the instructions on the board instead. Her 2020 slides are the same as they were in 2004, and nothing has changed for this class. Midterms are really easy (don't really need to study), but lab reports are just bad. Read the review below mine. It's pretty accurate. Nakamoto, if you're reading this, please get better at teaching. Your class is a shame on the world class education that UCLA boasts, and there is nothing useful to be learned from this class.
At the beginning of the quarter, when faced with many questions from students on how to write the first lab report, the answer given by the TA to most questions would be "you can figure that out yourself." I get that we're supposed to be more independent in this class because this is a Capstone course that makes sure students have the skills necessary to do well in grad school or their jobs. However, the way the class was set up made sure that I learned absolutely NOTHING that would actually prepare me for my future in science.
Firstly, their method of 'teaching' us how to write a good research paper is to give absolutely no direction on how to write one, leading to the class average of the first report to be a whopping 60%. We were never given a rubric, or requirements for each section, or any direction whatsoever other than a few 15-minute talks by the TA's. The only feedback we were allowed to get were on our OUTLINES for each section that we had to write in 4 hours before lab ended. The feedback was absolutely useless as well. How is my feedback supposed to translate to my paper when it's about my outline? And how do you expect 5 minutes of bullshit feedback to be useful in any way?
Secondly, there are only TWO reports for this class. That meant that I only had one chance to show 'improvement' and fix my mistakes from the first report. It was also massively helpful that we received our report 1 grades and feedback ONE WEEK before report 2 was due. Fucking incredible. How I am supposed to do well on the second report I will never know.
So, tell me reader, how are students expected to learn how to write a good research paper when 1) We weren't taught how to, and 2) were punished for not knowing how to, and then 3) were not allowed sufficient time to actually learn and improve on our trash papers.
Pros of this class, you ask? I guess the exams were pretty easy. The GLAD's were a good learning opportunity - shame they only bothered to do about 4 of them.
TLDR: Capstone course does the exact opposite of what it was meant to do thanks to horrible TA's and a professor who refuses to change the format of the course. What a surprise, eh?
I never post reviews on here, but I feel like this class is insanely unfair and something needs to be done to change it. Almost all the reviews about winter 2020 are accurate and it's heartbreaking to pour hours into a class just to get a seemingly random grade. I did significantly above average on all the exams and did decently above average on the papers and still received a B. The lectures are unhelpful and I feel like office hours give students a sense of false hope. This is especially true for the lab reports as every time I walked out of office hours I thought I knew what I needed to do only to get abysmal grades on my reports (and yes, these grades were still sadly above my discussion section average). This hurt even more because the class wasn't curved, so it seemed nearly impossible to succeed. Her "rubrics" have no detail at all which makes the nitpicky style of grading very unreasonable. I likely would have failed if I didn't attend every office hours to beg the TAs for more guidance. The TAs insinuated that they were given different, more detailed rubrics than we were, but they refused to provide them to the class and basically told us to try to guess what the professor wanted from us. After the graded reports were returned to us, we had to sit through another 4-hour lab class where everyone was clearly sad and unmotivated by their results. What makes me most upset is that smart people, who know so much about biochemistry, are being driven out of their major because of this class. And this is a class we take as seniors! Professor Nakamoto should be helping people learn more about what they're passionate about, but instead, her course is structured to make people feel bad about themselves and their work. I really do believe that grades in this class are so random. Putting weeks into a lab report just to fail it for no reason is unacceptable. I'm a hardworking student and have excelled in most of my biochemistry courses, but this one was basically impossible to succeed in. Please consider giving clearer guidelines for what is expected from students or have someone else teach the course. Professor Nakamoto might just be the worst professor I've had in my four years at UCLA.
Worst class I've taken at UCLA without a doubt. The workload is ridiculous but the actual amount of lab skills you learn from this class is pathetic. Nakamoto is a super slow lecturer who takes ages to get to talking about information that's actually new and relevant. She is also not good at teaching: the most complicated thing you learn how to do in this course is design primers. This process is kind of long and involved, but it's also straightforward enough that you could probably write a simple program to do it for you without much issue. However, the way she teaches you how to design primers is incredibly tedious and unnecessarily confusing because for some reason she refuses to describe the process with simple diagrams and instead starts writing out the entire DNA sequence every time she does a sample problem. Not only is this boring to watch but it's unnecessary detail that ends up confusing people.
The actual lab reports are total bullshit. She intentionally gives minimal instruction on lab reports and then tells TAs to grade for very specific nitpicky details. If you aren't a mind reader, going to "optional" TA office hours where they talk about the requirements for the report is not optional. The TAs will actually give a ton of info about how the report should be written ONLY in office hours and they will never tell the people who didn't come to office hours what they're missing. As for report grading, point assignment is extremely arbitrary, small mistakes will cost you tons of points, and you will not be able to ask TAs what you lost x amounts of points on and why because their policy is to never discuss grades with students. This basically means they can give you whatever grade they want and you will have to take it.
In order to lose the fewest points possible on the lab reports, you will need to write your report in such a way that there is absolutely nothing that the TAs can possibly object to. Adhere religiously to formatting guidelines and know which names need to be italicized. Citations must be done properly because the TAs will go over your citation list. Most importantly, be as redundant as possible. Read over every section of your report and ask yourself if you can make it more redundant. Every time you mention a figure, repeat the information in the figure caption. You will be resummarizing your experiment in almost every single section of the lab report. Describe all of the procedures you did no matter how banal (PCR).
The result of this atrocious grading scheme is that you will be doing countless hours of busywork in this class. Maybe the professor wants students to learn that this is what applying for grants and writing papers is like. But if you were writing an actual paper you'd have a year and several rounds of editing by fellow professionals to help you, while in this class the professor is apparently obsessed with keeping grades low and making the process as miserable as possible.
As for the midterms, they are fine. You probably won't need to study for them, the only one that you really need practice for is the primer design midterm.
She is the WORST professor I know. Even worse than Tienson!! You learn almost nothing from this class, BUT this sadistic woman would torture you through the process.
Oh wow, not sure where to begin with this class, but suffice it to say that this was probably one of the more difficult/painful classes in the biochem major. I think a decent amount of ink has been spilled in other reviews about the class, so I'll try to provide some tips:
1) Start your lab reports early, but not too early. The lab reports for the class take a long time, but fortunately the class is structured such that you submit drafts of different parts of the reports over various lab periods, so you're not cramming during the last minute. Definitely get a head start and ask questions - whether that be to TAs, your fellow classmates, etc. The reality is that you might do a section of the report wrong the first time around for the draft, and that's ok; the reality is that a lot of this class requires you to be flexible, which unfortunately means that you might have to make major modifications for your drafts before submitting them for actual grading.
2) Journal club is not too bad, just make sure to really understand your assigned portion. Know your portion inside and out, and even understand other parts of the paper, because the TAs might ask you questions during your presentation about the connections between different things in the paper. Definitely ask around if you need help in this regard.
3) Exams are alright - not sure if it'll change in future quarters, but the first exam focused primarily on cloning (you'll have a good amount of practice on this in lab, so hopefully it won't be too bad). The second exam is more literature-based though, in that you're primarily analyzing different figures in a part of a paper and asked to answer questions based off lecture/lab knowledge.
Overall, expect to put in a lot of work in this course, but don't stress out too much if you don't do super great.
Most annoying class of the biochemistry major. Material is great but the way Nakamoto structures the class is not. Journal clubs and exams are fine, but the lab reports are still a crapshoot because she deliberately doesn't tell you exactly what she wants to see for full credit. I had a mental breakdown while writing the first lab report. I had spent a week creating my figures and formatting everything only to learn that Nakamoto's guidelines were meant to be interpreted differently from mine and that I would have to redo my figures and my text analysis. Primer design was the only thing Nakamoto actually taught us during the quarter. For the rest of the quarter we mostly learned from papers and JoVe videos. I feel like Nakamoto didn't really do anything and that most of the class was just run by the TAs. Still, I am glad I took this class online; lab sections often ended earlier and we did receive a lightened workload.
This class is a HEADACHE, but Nakamoto is NOT the sadist some of these other reviews make her out to be. She is a nice woman and a decent lecturer who wants her students to succeed. That said, the course is still profoundly unorganized.
- Lectures are now Bruincasted. This was not known to us until week ten since Nakamoto was afraid that people would not show up to class.
- The TAs this quarter were great.
- Midterms are VERY easy. You can definitely get away with only studying the night before.
- Nakamoto brings baked goods to the journal club presentations.
... and some negatives:
- Lab reports suck omega ass. I pulled an all-nighter for both reports and did not get above a 75%.
- Zero grades were inputted into Bruin learn.
- No digital versions of ANY course materials are made available to students.
- You MUST use a physical iClicker for attendance.
- The equipment in the lab rooms is old and shit.
- Start lab reports early. I did not do this.
- When you get your score back for the first report, discuss the feedback you received with your TAs; It is important to know what your individuals TA's expectations are. They cannot divulge the rubric, but they will likely give you some helpful tips.
- Make sure you understand the journal club papers for both fielding questions during your presentation and for MT2. TAKE NOTES while your peers are presenting on sections that you did not cover.
- If you end up doing worse than you'd hoped on an assignment, try not to sweat it. The averages on all major assignments (i.e., lab reports) tend to be low, and there are a good amount of opportunities to recoup points.
- Dispute any grading decision you don't agree with. Nakamoto is generous with giving points back.