These are the comments from the Departmental Course Evaluations From Fall 2005. These comments are unedited -- this is exactly what the students wrote when asked 3 questions: Which aspect of this course did you like best? Which aspect did you like least? How would you improve this course?

Q #1: Which aspect of this course did you like best?
When we discussed the molecular biology of real diseases and read contemporary articles on course topics from the New York Times
The subject matter was very interesting and the professor is good at teaching it.
The Ridley and Dawkins readings were very interesting. I also enjoyed when we could apply biological principles to real-life examples like lactose intolerance and the various chromosomal disorders. The recitation problems also helped us figure out some of the concepts from class.
ALl of it
I found the material covered ot be very interesting and I enjoyed the course.
Everything This was one of the most stimulating classes I ve taken at columbia. It s a great idea to make real science available to non-scientists.
I liked the course in general. The material discussed was always interesting and well-presented and it was always relevant to current issues in science and medicine. I felt that the instructor handled every ambiguity and hard concept really well and presented it in a clear understandable manner. Overall I felt the lectures were always worthwhile to attend and I got a lot out of them.
flexibility of the teacher with the material understanding and enthusiasm for the subject.
The focus on biology through evolution was new to me and very interesting.
Overall the methodology was effective despite mention in part 2 below. I really have been given an introduction to genetics microbiology and evolution. Reading Dawkins was wonderful and I plan to continue to read him when I have time. While this is not my field whatsoever it has inspired me with conceptual models based on the coursework that I hope to use in other fields of study and research. The professor was excellent she really cares about her work and the students. That makes a difference. Despite it being difficult for me I was also comfortable to be in class and class was essential to grasp the material.
The Chemistry section which I never would have guessed
Since the material covered in thei course is pretty much in the news each day I found the information extremely helpful in understanding at least some of the principles involved.
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The readings both required and supplemental.
the subject material gave the scientific explanation of interesting subject material that would otherwise be left to academic majors in that particular field usually only available in more advanced courses.
this course is not about memorizing but understandig facts as professor herself says. we were requested to apply the things we learned and challenged to think as biologists. it is a novel approach for me but i believe that that it is also among the best ones.
I liked how Dr. M presented the material. I love biology but im not a science major so this was a perfect course for me.
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I love Mowshowitz. She is fabulous. An excellent award worthy teacher. She helped me in office hours and is humorous and enthusiastic about Bio. She s awesome
The lectures
The specific examples used to illustrate points. Not only were they effective teaching tools but they were also interesting and provided trivia for general conversation outside of class.
Q #2: Which aspect of this course did you like least?
I felt that the mini-exams were for the most part rather unfair. The kinds of questions they included were much much more challenging than any of the problem sets we were assigned for homework. It was also frustrating that each test began with a single question assumption and only dealt with that one subject so that if you didn t understand the premise of the first part you would do poorly on the entire test.
My original recitation section so I switched.
I felt that some of the concepts could have been explained a bit more clearly especially towards the end with DNA replication. Also when I was studying for the mini-exams and looking over the ones from last year when I got to the exam--all the ones from last year seemed about ten times easier than the ones this year. But maybe that s just my perception.
Long quizzes in such a short amount of time...
I think that perhaps a biology textbook should be required as a supplement to maybe get a better understanding of more difficult concepts.
heavy load of homework- but then it s hard to learn without it
I liked recitation the least maybe because I already knew the basic concepts taught in this course from high school to me recitation was not always very illuminating or necessary. It was of course worthwhile to go but I sometimes felt that the TA was confusing my classmates who had not covered the material before.
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Some of the basic bio was a little simple.
Making sure I was ready for the mini-exams. There was always a lingering fear that the language in the test would confuse me especially with only 20 minutes to do it. Although we were given extra time if we needed it for those of us who did not have class immediately following. The format on test did however force us to think conceptually so I understand the methodology. It was just hard I guess. But the course was great.
Meiosis Mitosis stuff...I m not good with diagrams.
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The dumbed-down aspects.
I can honestly say that each lecture brought with it a new inspiration on that topic the material was presented in such a way that built upon the previous lecture.
sometimes i had a feeling that i knew more than my grade in the mini exames showed. i understood everythnig but i never got more that 37 points. however the knowledge i got is more important so i do not mind.
Nothing that I can think of.
the science
The quizes were so tricky. Even when I knew the material sometimes I missed the question. They are easy to misinterpret.
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As a history major I am unused to homework assignments.
Q #3: How would you improve this course?
I think the format of the mini-exams should be reconsidered as per my comment above and I also think the instructor should assign more textbook background reading... often merely explaining such complicated concepts in class on the chalkboard is not enough to produce a clear understanding of the material and its nuances.
More emphasis on the bigger picture less on the molecular level. Becomes too nit-picky and mathematical.
No suggestions except maybe another term.
The mini-exams as they stand are kind of stressful I think students need to be given more time without feeling like they will always need to stay after class to finish.
Longer time for quizzes I would enjoy a second semester of this course.
Add a biology textbook and more time for the mini-exams. 25 miuntes is not enough and it was strssful when I had a class right after.
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I think this course is really well-prepared and good already. The only thing I can think of would be little tours of the relevant sections of Mudd Building as our instructor kept referring to discoveries made in Columbia and research conducted in this field I would be interested to see where and how this happened with someone who is well-versed in this field not just by myself.
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More of the diagrams drawn in class on the board should have been printed out in advance. Students who either have been out of school for over ten years or have a week background in science would be better off if they could give their total attention to the professor without having to draw complex diagrams of chemistry and genetics examples while trying to understand the lecture simultaneously. The professor did in fact do this but it would have been great if it was done all the time. If that is not too much to ask. At least for the first two months. I only mentioned mixed feelings about the course being intellectual because I don t always find this work intellectual in the sense that much of is not conceptual meaning it does not seemingly require critical thinking or even intuition. It s very objective things are either right or wrong. Intellectualism I believe is often satisfied through a deliberation of possibilities due a range of plausible or possible explanations. But the professor did add an intellectual dimension where possible for example with readings by Dawkins Asimov and articles concerning the controversial nature of genetics.
Per Dr. M s comment I d add a second half to it. I would definitely take part II of this course. Actually if it is offered next year I will take it for my final science requirement.
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Go into greater detail about some things maybe separate recitation sections for people who have different levels of scientific background.
I feel that a class-led research project that was geared towards the material covered would be great. although most of the class was not in a scientific field it would really benefit the student s knowledge. the research could be compiled and perhaps published in a source available to other students. Maybe even the perspective of such research could inspire a new theory or support disclaim another I think it would really exciting. Just as a note it is because of this course that I have considered changeing my major or perhaps add biochem as a concentration. It sounds crazy but this course is a real eye- opener
i would add second semester. it would give us the chance to know more about the things we did not have time to talk about during this semester. there are a lot of things that i am willing to know more about after taking this couse.
I like going over the supplementary articles in class like the ones from NY times etc. It makes it worthwhile to be able to talk about current science events.
by making it easier
Some of the Chem section is a bit complex for a non scientist. I might omit a bit more of the chem and molecular bio. I did WAY more work for this course than others... I m not a Bio major. It is a bit demanding. I get a headache thinking about what the Bio majors go through.
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it was a good course
make homework optional perhaps have relevant homework assignments count as potential extra credit for each of the mini-exams.