He was VERY straight forward and his exams were pretty easy as long as you stay caught up with his lectures and the problem sets. The problem set homework were hard at times, but most of the TAs just look for completion, so it's all good. His midterms were based heavily on the practice midterms as well. The first midterm had an avg of 80. Second avg of 62 (he made the second one a lot harder, but still doable). The final was also like the practice exam. He's pretty boring (i fell asleep every class, basically) but he puts up his lecture notes online and barely deviates from it. He's VERY considerate of his students and sets aside a lot of office hours for them. Decently funny at times, but I wouldn't really know cuz i slept a lot :< MUCH better than scerri or lavelle.
Fall 2020 - I took this class during the COVID-19 pandemic in an online format. - As you will see from other reviews, regardless of the difficulty of this class, Professor Gelbart is the reason to take this class. He is extremely responsive to questions, flexible about his office hour times, and truly cares about student learning. During the pandemic learning format, he was willing to drop quizzes entirely from the grading scale and give more points to the homework sections of the grades, and allow us to choose between 1 and 2 midterms as a class. You will not have a professor who is more willing to work with you for the normal CHEM 20A route. - CHEM 20AH as a class itself is quite difficult and definitely brings more to the table than other classes. If you are not well versed in math (up to at least multivariable calculus) and physics (you need to understand vectors and energy), do NOT take this class. While certain classes are listed as corequisites, if you have not taken the relevant math/physics classes, you will have a very hard time. The material is extremely calculation focused, and much time is spent proving concepts numerically that would otherwise just be expected to be memorized in CHEM 20A. - The textbook is quite helpful in helping to understand certain parts of the lecture that weren't as clear, but is certainly not mandatory. Homework takes about 3-6 hours per week, depending on how you feel about the material and math. This does not include studying time and supplemental practice, which you should do a lot of. Discussions are optional but highly recommended; Derek was an excellent TA who covered everything Gelbart didn't get to in lectures. Lectures themselves are also posted on CCLE, including notes, which are very helpful as well. - The midterm and final were both available for 24 hours, though once it started you only had 3 hours to do it. Both time limits felt quite generous, though a tip is to be VERY careful on steps requiring lots of simplification and algebra, as if you have to redo those it will eat up your time. Quizzes were completely dropped and optional due to the pandemic, which was very accomodating. The homework and practice problems provided were extremely similar to the tests, i.e. tests were very fair and of a reasonable difficulty. - Overall, there is practically no reason not to take this class if you need it for a major requirement, unless you are not well-versed in the mentioned math/physics concepts. Even if you're not in the honors college, I would recommend taking CHEM 20AH with Gelbart. If you are in the honors college, well, you found the class to take for your credits! If you look at the grade distribution, despite the difficulty of the class, Gelbart is extremely generous in grading/curving. You'll be much less stressed in this class than others.
Spring 2018 - Gelbart is a phenomenal human and teacher. I took this class primarily for the instructor since so many people were raving about him and what they say is all true. Gelbart has this higher level of consciousness in what it means to be a scientist that I learned so much about the importance of fundamental science, not just statistical thermodynamics. The class itself turned out to be a lot of fun too. Although the class sounds intimidating, Gelbart made it fun and interacting with him is great. If you don't attend office hours to talk to him then you are completely blowing your opportunity with this man. I personally found the class itself a bit easy but that's because I was taking some math intensive classes already so I was well versed in all the calculus you had to do on the exams. His tests were basically just math and the most challenging parts were some of the limits you had to evaluate. The exams ramped up in difficulty where the final was fairly challenging, so make sure to understand all the mathematical steps you have to do when deriving things. He cares more about understanding the derivation than application of the subject. This subject can get insanely difficult if he asked us to solve a brand new problem but he's fair and everything on the tests are very similar to the problem sets. The problem sets do take time if you legitimately do them but if you want full credit it on it you can completely BS it since they only look for completion, but that means your test scores might not be that great. He has a very slow teaching style and its very auditory so things might get a bit boring at times but he uploads really great lecture notes so it isn't a concern.