Review Comment

[APPH 3100] Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

September 22, 2019

Herman, Irving
[APPH 3100] Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

(For the record, I was happy with the grade I got, so this isn't a grade salt review). I love quantum mechanics, but Herman made my life miserable. He assigned problem sets that, even with the power of 12 people (i.e. the entire class) + Google + the TA + Griffiths + Sakurai + MIT OCW Physics 8.04, we were still unable to get the answers. When asking Herman, in the case where he didn't cancel his office minutes (he never gave us a full hour, just 9:30-10 on ONE DAY the day after the homework was assigned...meaning you would have from 2:40 PM Wednesday to 9:30 AM to think of questions) he told us to "think about it." Over email, if you propose a method that is incorrect, rather than giving you hints, he just tells you you're wrong and to "think about it." Oftentimes, we didn't even have office minutes! He cancelled them almost biweekly, meaning we only had the TA to rely on. (Note: the TA was amazing and he is the only reason this class was tolerable. He would have been a better teacher than Herman.) In lecture, Herman assumed we only lived and breathed physics from a young age, sometimes joking that we should've seen these things in kindergarten. I now realize he wasn't joking. Once, when covering Zeeman effect, he said he would "snowjob it" (he says snowjob means hand wave) because we had seen it in Modern Physics. Last time I checked, Modern Physics was not a prerequisite for this class. Is it even a class offered at Columbia? https://vergil.registrar.columbia.edu/#/courses/modern%20physics Nope! Sometimes he was more reasonable and only required that we know Quantum Chemistry and Thermodynamics, both of which were not prerequisites as well. I only say reasonable because this meant that 1 out of 12 students may know enough to teach us how to solve problems. But why does homework even matter? We found an inverse relationship between time spent on the homework and grades. Why? Because the homework was so irrelevant to the exams, which are worth significantly more. But you may ask, we also have these quizzes. Surely the homework would help! If the homework problems came from left field, the quiz questions came from right field. They were incredibly uncorrelated, and incredibly difficult. On our last quiz, I found myself wondering if I was even in the right classroom, because I saw five (out of 5) questions of brand new material that had never been discussed. As someone who loved quantum mechanics, I found Herman to be a terrible professor who constantly made me feel stupid. It was only the TA who made me realize that I was asking legitimate questions that had nontrivial answers. Basically, I realized when Herman said "think about it" it meant "this is a really good question and I will not answer it."

There are some pros to this class though! the TA. That's it. I hope he is recognized for the hard work that he did. I think he may have been one of the best TAs I've ever had at Columbia. He was extremely approachable and wanted to help us, two qualities Herman did not have. (I don't think Herman even knows or name, by the way.) His homeworks were typed up in an ugly format on Microsoft Word (not LaTeX). Even when we finally deciphered the terrible notation, Herman's grammar was so terrible that we often had to treat it like a literature assignment. I felt like I was enrolled in a 3000 level class called "Intro to Quantum Mechanics and Hermanian Grammar." You might as well change the call number from APPH E for applied physics engineering to APCL UN for Applied Contemporary Language.

This class needs serious reassessment. I would have rather sat on Amsterdam Avenue in the rain reading Griffith's Quantum Mechanics by myself every day without any friends, than take this class. But, even that isn't an option, because attendance factors into our grade, so I found myself at every lecture, hoping the class would either drastically change or end.

Note to other students. If you have the option to take this class, drop out. You shouldn't have even considered it. I'm sure NYU or any CUNY school has a better version of this class. In fact, I'm sure that any college in any universe or planet has a better version of this class.

BUT, if you can't avoid it, here's my advice. Go to the TA's office hours - they are PhD students in APAM and will know their stuff. They know quantum is hard and will understand and will help you. Work in groups! Especially if you plan on finishing the homeworks. As for exams, the best advice I can give is to redo the problem sets once you get solutions, and do the problems in Griffiths. Chapter 2 blesses you with about 42 good problems in QM, and the solutions shouldn't be hard to find so you can always check if you're grasping the material. Even though I have a lot of complaints, if you put in the work, you can definitely succeed.

but...thank goodness it is over.

Workload:

Weekly PSETs that were longer than the Mississippi River. (Generally had some reasonable questions from Griffiths) 10+ hrs (9 with a Google master)

Midterm that was super fair, reasonable, and could be done within time

Final that ... we won't know. We never got it back. But we all thought it was fair?

May 14, 2012

Herman, Irving
[APPH 3100] Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I had a pretty small/nonexistent background in Quantum Mechanics coming into this class, but I think Prof. Herman did a very good job teaching this course. The first day he gave us a survey, and I think he was slightly disappointed at the general lack of background among the class, but nonetheless adjusted his syllabus accordingly. He always appeared enthusiastic about the material and imparted much of this enthusiasm into his daily lectures (sometimes interjecting "this is fun!", much the the chagrin of the class who were no doubt still attempting to wrap their minds around his latest hastily scratched down derivation.) He certainly moved quickly, unless he got caught up in something especially tricky, or couldn't read his own handwriting on his notes. At the end of the day though, he managed to squeeze everything he needed into the lectures to make sure you could do the weekly problem sets (perhaps with a bit of inspiration, and a bit of help from the excellent TA.) Make no mistake about it, the problem sets were long and difficult, as you might expect for a 3000-level course in QM, and he began writing them himself to discourage use of the answer key for the book. In effect though, this actually made the problem sets easier since he could teach directly to what would be on the problem sets.

Herman frequently criticized the book for being too elegant. Perhaps. I thought the book, both chapters and problems were quite well-written and insightful, allowing me to gain a more complete understanding of QM and filling in gaps of stuff I didn't quite understand in the lectures. Griffiths is a great author (both in E&M and in Quantum.) Nonetheless, the book problems were often extremely difficult to complete without the answer key. The problems Herman wrote himself were more manageable. The main legitimate criticism and difficulty was that the book often relegated key pieces of information to the problems themselves, requiring insights that I was not capable of producing with any sort of frequency (perhaps some higher physics talents might be able to do so.) Herman tried to supplement the book by going over certain concepts in more detail, and I think he did so effectively.

The test were very manageable, albeit a bit long. The distribution for these was highly bimodal though, with half the class scoring above 70 and the other half scoring below 50. What the tests did well is test your conceptual understanding of QM, and not if you could evaluate random tricky integrals and make unusual or tricky connections. It seemed to me that if you kept up with the work, the curve was quite forgiving, but if you didn't you were crushed.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised with Prof. Herman. He is no doubt an intelligent and capable professor. I had him for Physics of the Human Body as well, and I often had difficulty following him in that class (given I was a freshman.) If you like physics or QM at all, you will enjoy this class. It was my favorite class this semester, and I actually wished we had forayed a bit further into the material (the first time I've ever felt that in a class- we only covered chapters 1-4 in Griffiths, about the first ~250 pages), but I suppose that's what next semester is for. My main remaining gripe with him is that he is not very approachable. The TA, Austin, made up for that almost entirely though.

Workload:

13 (!) problem sets, all lengthy, especially if they're the book problems. However, they're worth 30% so the effort is worth it. 1 Midterm (relatively easy if you did the problem sets in an "honest way", as the Prof. put it.) and 1 Final, a little more difficult than the midterm since it is cumulative.

May 07, 2012

Herman, Irving
[APPH 3100] Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

He told us on the first day that it was the first time he had taught this course and used this text. Boy did it show. Herman is a great administrator, okay scientist (check out the number of citations he has using Google Scholar; pretty low for a Columbia professor; not to say that I have any myself) but worst of all, a mediocre professor. I learned absolutely nothing in this class.

Herman's lectures are all over the board. Literally. He will go on and on about something that is in the text, Griffith's "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics," or attempt to do relatively simple derivation but do nothing except confuse you. If you want the low down read the book. Going to lecture did absolutely nothing for me in this class and I hardly missed one.

The homeworks are difficult, usually encompassing something we haven't covered or done. Most students in the class have seen QM before; I had not. I was far behind the entire time. Just as an example of divide in the class, on the midterm, 4 people essentially failed, 6 got "Bs" (50t fall into the habit of using the solutions manual.

Workload:

13 problem sets worth 30% of your grade. A midterm worth 25% and a final worth 40%.
A note on the problem sets: Actual calculations will be relatively simple but extremely difficult to decipher/figure out. Even the best students in the course were known to take 4-6 hours per problem set. If you don't know your stuff, plan on spending 10 hours per week just doing problem sets; this does not include time for reading. Big time commitment.

May 07, 2012

Herman, Irving
[APPH 3100] Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I thought Herman was a good professor. He moves quickly in lecture but is thorough and answers all questions thrown his way. Goes through proofs extensively but doesn't do a whole lot of problem solving in class, making the problem sets more difficult. He doesn't like the textbook we used and I tend to agree, it skips a lot of material and leaves it to the homework problems. The problem sets are hard and time consuming, and there is one every week no exceptions. He wouldn't give out a practice/past midterm or final, making the type of questions on them kind of a mystery. But they really aren't as bad as the problem sets and lectures would lead you to expect. Pretty much the basic concepts in short problems. Overall a challenging class, not worth taking as a tech elective (whoops) but a good class.

Workload:

Weekly problem set (~5 hours or more) worth 30%, 1 midterm worth 20% and a final.

April 22, 2007

Pedersen, Thomas
[APPH 3100] Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Pedersen isn't a great orator, but he's certainly passionate about physics, even in this class which isn't his particular area of study. He actually teaches instead of just lecturing at the board, and he's got a lot of energy. To boot, he's quite down to earth, and very easy to approach outside of class. A great professor.

Workload:

Weekly problem sets, one midterm (early in the year) and one final (open book).

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E3100: Intro to Quantum Mechanics Irving Herman 2013 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E3100: Intro to Quantum Mechanics Irving Herman 2012 Spring MW / 10:35-11:50 AM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E3100: Intro to Quantum Mechanics Thomas Pedersen 2011 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E3100: Intro to Quantum Mechanics Thomas Pedersen 2010 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E3100: Intro to Quantum Mechanics Thomas Pedersen 2009 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E3100: Intro to Quantum Mechanics Thomas Pedersen 2007 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E3100: Intro to Quantum Mechanics Thomas Pedersen 2005 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1
APAM / APPH APAM APPH E3100: Intro to Quantum Mechanics Thomas Pedersen 2004 Spring MW / 1:10- 2:25 PM 1